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#1508761 - 09/03/10 11:11 PM How to Improvise on Piano  
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eweiss Offline
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Learning how to improvise is confusing for most. The sheer number of choices becomes a burden. Should I play this note? What chord next? Where do I go from here? All valid questions newbies (and oldbies) at improvisation sometimes ask themselves.

The number one reason people have problems creating in the moment is that they won't let up on themselves and just play.

Fortunately, there is a solution. It's really a two-pronged solution because once we do learn how to ease up and just play, we are left with another problem and that is, what game are we playing?

The game of improvisation is a game like any other. We have a few rules, some guidelines, and then the game is played. You see, we must have some kind of structure to play the game of improvisation. Why? Because without it there would be way too many choices and this would prevent most people from even beginning.

Some think working within a set of limitations is uncreative. I thought so too once until I realized that until I learned how to do this by following the examples of others, I couldn't be free to create my own set of limitations.


Play New Age Piano
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#1508765 - 09/03/10 11:21 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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Schoenberg would certainly say that working within limitations is still creative - and that the inverse is simply daunting. What's more, you can't break the rules until you understand them.

#1508881 - 09/04/10 09:08 AM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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I would intermittently mess around during practice sessions (which isn't and wasn't the best thing) but after a while, I got a feeling of what sounded good after this, so that now I can decently impovise classically. This wasn't Jazz improv because I didn't hear much jazz as I grew up - a lot more classical.

#1508906 - 09/04/10 11:08 AM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: DevinKell]  
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Originally Posted by DevinKell
Schoenberg would certainly say that working within limitations is still creative - and that the inverse is simply daunting. What's more, you can't break the rules until you understand them.

I remember reading his book on composition. Pretty cool. And he came up with his own 'rules' for composing serial music. I should probably listen to some of his stuff soon.


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#1508926 - 09/04/10 12:12 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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If you have good hearing, you can just sing the melodies and the chords in your head, then you can translate to the keyboard. People who do not have good hearing will have hard time improvising.

#1508932 - 09/04/10 12:40 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: RonaldSteinway]  
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Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
If you have good hearing, you can just sing the melodies and the chords in your head, then you can translate to the keyboard. People who do not have good hearing will have hard time improvising.

This approach seems one step removed from the first-hand experience of improvisation. The point I always stress to my students is not to think but to feel and play using chords and melody.


Play New Age Piano
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#1508943 - 09/04/10 12:58 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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Originally Posted by eweiss

This approach seems one step removed from the first-hand experience of improvisation. The point I always stress to my students is not to think

Thinking is good...I think.


"Playing the piano is my greatest joy...period."......JP
#1508946 - 09/04/10 01:01 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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Thinking is good. Feeling is better. Why? Because the music that comes out of you is a direct experience with intuition and the right side of the brain.

That's why improvising with limits works so well for newbies. They get to play piano without thinking about which chord, what notes, etc. smile


Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com
#1509037 - 09/04/10 04:18 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted by eweiss
Thinking is good. Feeling is better. Why? Because the music that comes out of you is a direct experience with intuition and the right side of the brain.

That's why improvising with limits works so well for newbies. They get to play piano without thinking about which chord, what notes, etc. smile


If one stops thinking, then how does one continue to observe these "limits"?



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $

#1509040 - 09/04/10 04:21 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: stores]  
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Originally Posted by stores
Originally Posted by eweiss
Thinking is good. Feeling is better. Why? Because the music that comes out of you is a direct experience with intuition and the right side of the brain.

That's why improvising with limits works so well for newbies. They get to play piano without thinking about which chord, what notes, etc. smile


If one stops thinking, then how does one continue to observe these "limits"?

Automatically, like brushing your teeth. I start students off with simple materials. A black key pentatonic improvisation is a good example of this. For instance, in the first lesson I offer students I set up a scenario where they play just 2 chords and can play any note from the minor pentatonic scale. With these 'limits' in place, students can forget about the technical aspects and focus in on self expression.


Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com
#1509046 - 09/04/10 04:29 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted by eweiss
Originally Posted by stores
Originally Posted by eweiss
Thinking is good. Feeling is better. Why? Because the music that comes out of you is a direct experience with intuition and the right side of the brain.

That's why improvising with limits works so well for newbies. They get to play piano without thinking about which chord, what notes, etc. smile


If one stops thinking, then how does one continue to observe these "limits"?

Automatically, like brushing your teeth. I start students off with simple materials. A black key pentatonic improvisation is a good example of this. For instance, in the first lesson I offer students I set up a scenario where they play just 2 chords and can play any note from the minor pentatonic scale. With these 'limits' in place, students can forget about the technical aspects and focus in on self expression.


But, then, said student must think about that pentatonic scale. There can be no such thing as thoughtless playing (though I've heard many pianists whom I would say were thoughtless).



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $

#1509051 - 09/04/10 04:53 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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I love improvising!! but i tend to get carried away and end up smashing loads of octave-scales! and at times i think i'm the only one it sounds good to. much like Sorabji's music


All theory, dear friend, is grey, but the golden tree of life springs ever green.
#1509501 - 09/05/10 03:15 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: stores]  
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Originally Posted by stores
But, then, said student must think about that pentatonic scale. There can be no such thing as thoughtless playing (though I've heard many pianists whom I would say were thoughtless).

Not if they adapt an attiude of exploration. Then there's no need to think. It's like fingerpainting. You have some colors in front of you and the idea is to dive in and have fun. That's how piano improvisation can be. When you're in the moment and improvsing on the piano, there's no time to think. There are choices yes, but they too can come automatically as play becomes the primary focus. smile


Play New Age Piano
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#1509503 - 09/05/10 03:25 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted by eweiss
Originally Posted by stores
But, then, said student must think about that pentatonic scale. There can be no such thing as thoughtless playing (though I've heard many pianists whom I would say were thoughtless).

Not if they adapt an attiude of exploration. Then there's no need to think. It's like fingerpainting. You have some colors in front of you and the idea is to dive in and have fun. That's how piano improvisation can be. When you're in the moment and improvsing on the piano, there's no time to think. There are choices yes, but they too can come automatically as play becomes the primary focus. smile


I understand what you're trying to say, but any time there's a choice to be made thought is required. If you're to place limits (your pentatonic scale) on your improvisation, then at some point thought WILL occur, or more than likely, you'll fall outside of those limitations.



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $

#1509508 - 09/05/10 03:34 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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eweiss, I've heard your improvs, most are quite basic that alternate between 2-3 chords. It floats along with no real tension or release, good for background stuff like you seem to do but not engaging for a listener.

You don't have any real melodies or motifs and honestly there isn't much feeling.

If you want the real deal better learn how to play jazz or some good rock and roll.

#1509513 - 09/05/10 03:43 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: Wizard of Oz]  
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Originally Posted by Wizard of Oz
If you want the real deal better learn how to play jazz or some good rock and roll.

The real deal as in better? Or the real deal as in different?


Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com
#1509516 - 09/05/10 03:45 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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I generally agree with eweiss here. When I improvise, I'm completely in the moment, relying mostly on the feel of the notes beneath my fingers, and intellectual concerns occupy a small percent of my consciousness-- 5% or less.

Maybe we disagree on what "thought" is in this context, but I consider my improvising to be relatively "thoughtless" (although, I hope, still musical).

I recently posted a few samples to the Members' Recordings section; here is one of them.




p.s. Wizard, shame on you for insulting a fellow forum member's work. It only reflects badly on you, imo.


Beethoven op.110, Chopin op.27/2, Liszt Vallée d'Obermann
#1509520 - 09/05/10 03:51 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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Originally Posted by eweiss
Originally Posted by Wizard of Oz
If you want the real deal better learn how to play jazz or some good rock and roll.

The real deal as in better? Or the real deal as in different?



Hey if Yanni is who you like, then that's personal taste. Lots of people buy Kenny G or Lady Gaga's music, doesn't mean it's good.

If you want real improv, watch this guy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnqpOFcBiMM

#1509527 - 09/05/10 03:59 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: beet31425]  
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Originally Posted by beet31425


p.s. Wizard, shame on you for insulting a fellow forum member's work. It only reflects badly on you, imo.



Insulting, nah. I'm just saying what I think of the music. I mean I teach high school students who can improvise better than that.

Everyone here is at different levels and goals. If that type of music is what you like, hey, keep playing.
It doesn't engage or challenge me for the reasons I stated.


#1509530 - 09/05/10 04:02 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: beet31425]  
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Originally Posted by beet31425


p.s. Wizard, shame on you for insulting a fellow forum member's work. It only reflects badly on you, imo.


Beet, your improvs are quite interesting. Keep it up.

Regarding the Wiz, I don't think he was insulting Ed, but rather offered his critique.

"Insulting" would be to sling some mud at Ed, (like some political types do, for example), and attack Ed as a person, and say that he is stupid, brain dead, a moron, a musical criminal, etc. (None of which is true for Ed, I am sure).

Instead, what the Wiz did was examine Ed's music, and critique it relative to his personal taste, relative to other forms of popular music.

From what I understand, Ed's music is primarily New Age, which is soothing and calm, and thus by definition lacks extreme tension and release, etc.

Nothing wrong with that, IMHO.


Piano teacher and Blues and Boogie-Woogie pianist.
#1509538 - 09/05/10 04:25 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: rocket88]  
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Originally Posted by rocket88
I don't think the Wiz was insulting Ed, but rather offering his critique... what the Wiz did was examine Ed's music, and critique it relative to his personal taste.

I don't want to belabor the point too much, but I think saying "honestly there isn't much feeling" and "If you want the real deal better learn how to..." (implying that what eweiss devotes his musical life to isn't the "real deal") go way beyond an impersonal New Age genre critique. Eweiss doesn't seem particularly insulted (or insultable smile ), which is great, but this kind of thing hurts the community in general.

Not that you can't make outrageous statements (I personally happen to like rap and country both way more than New Age), but they shouldn't be about forum members or their playing.

-Jason


Beethoven op.110, Chopin op.27/2, Liszt Vallée d'Obermann
#1509541 - 09/05/10 04:28 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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Wiz, you're always saying put up or shut up. Where's your lovely creative output? As far as 'real improv' goes, you're talking about taste, which is subjective.

I personally don't like most Jazz, but would never put down another's appreciation of it.



Play New Age Piano
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#1509552 - 09/05/10 04:44 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: rocket88]  
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Originally Posted by rocket88
"Insulting" would be to sling some mud at Ed, (like some political types do, for example), and attack Ed as a person, and say that he is stupid, brain dead, a moron, a musical criminal, etc. (None of which is true for Ed, I am sure).

Exactly rocket. In fact, if someone were to sling some mud your way, (like so many on this forum might do) and attack you with comments like imbecile, pinhead, pedant, and fool, none of which is true for you as well, that would really be insulting. smile


Play New Age Piano
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#1509564 - 09/05/10 05:18 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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hey I've posted several of my songs on the jazz threads, go look it up.

I'm not referring about "taste", I'm talking about actual musical content.

There's lots of great classical players who have talent, I just don't like classical. I can differentiate the music even if the genre isn't what I like (except country and rap, which all sounds like...)

One of the "new age" guys, John Tesh has some decent music, although I would consider it more popular/mainstream.

He composed several sports theme songs, like for NBA on NBC, Tour de france, the Olympics.


Now, if you were a beginner I'd say that's good progress. However, for a guy who's offering lessons it's really limited. Any jazz or classical player could teach that in 1 lesson.

I've seen better free tutorials on youtube.


as for beet, I think you're just too sensitive. All I said was the music wasn't challenging. If you ask most of the jazz players here they would say the same thing, albeit with more tact.

#1509569 - 09/05/10 05:26 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: Wizard of Oz]  
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Originally Posted by Wizard of Oz
Now, if you were a beginner I'd say that's good progress. However, for a guy who's offering lessons it's really limited. Any jazz or classical player could teach that in 1 lesson.

You're talking about technique. I don't view technique as the most important thing to teach. As far as being a beginner goes, I actually take that as a compliment and refer to the following ... "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."

I tried to look your music up but can't find it. Can you point me in the right direction? smile


Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com
#1509573 - 09/05/10 05:35 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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I'm not talking about technique at all. I'm talking about is the music engaging, does it have peaks and valleys, suspense, mood altering, does it give you goosebumps and chills.

Technique is a tool to get you to there. Like speaking a new language, if you don't have the vocab and sounds right, expressing yourself in that language will be difficult.

You can tell when someone isn't a native English speaker, or any language if you have native or near-native fluency in that language. Same with music.

As for my music, it's in one of the old jazz threads. I can't remember which post but you can look through all my archives if you want to find it. I just don't have the time nor inclination to do that.

#1509631 - 09/05/10 06:56 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: Wizard of Oz]  
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Originally Posted by Wizard of Oz
As for my music, it's in one of the old jazz threads. I can't remember which post but you can look through all my archives if you want to find it. I just don't have the time nor inclination to do that.


[Linked Image]

How convenient.


Play New Age Piano
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#1509771 - 09/05/10 11:24 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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Hey man if you're too lazy to look through a few hundred posts then that's your problem. Nice self-portrait btw!! Where's the halo oh holy one.

#1509775 - 09/05/10 11:30 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: Wizard of Oz]  
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Originally Posted by Wizard of Oz
Hey man if you're too lazy to look through a few hundred posts then that's your problem. Nice self-portrait btw!! Where's the halo oh holy one.

Put up or shut up. Isn't that what you say to everyone you disagree with? No worries. Just upload something new for all to see and hear.

You are very quick to criticise another's playing and slow to respond with something original of your own. But I guess that's to be expected from someone who hides behind an anonymous icon.


Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com
#1509782 - 09/05/10 11:42 PM Re: How to Improvise on Piano [Re: eweiss]  
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Hey I got no problems uploading something. My old stuff is out there, if you couldn't be bothered to find it then you should be blaming yourself. Just how lazy are you?

I got no recording device at the moment, buy me a Zoom 4 and I'll send you a personal album full of improvs.

As for your online lessons, how'd you manage to write a 342 page book and do over 100 lessons?

The stuff you play, I teach kids that in 2 or 3 hours tops. Looks like an infomercial scam to me.


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