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Improvising Blues Piano #2468716
10/10/15 09:53 PM
10/10/15 09:53 PM
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MH1963 Offline OP
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Thanks to the many folks who recommended this book. I like it a lot.

Although I would consider myself an intermediate classical music player, and a good sight reader, I find this style mind-bogglingly difficult. Even the very first pieces. I have no problem at all with the notes, but the syncopated rhythms are really hard for me. I'm trying the foot tapping thing but it's crazy, I have to really work at not tapping on the off beats as well as the beats.

1) any suggestions on exercises I could do to get used to these new rhythmic patterns?

2) should I practice playing blues scales, same as I practice major / minor scales for classical work?


MH1963

'63 Mason & Hamlin Model A
[Linked Image]

Working on: Chopin - Mazurka 7 No. 2 / The Prayer - Coates Arrangement / Einaudi - Nefeli
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Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2468721
10/10/15 10:08 PM
10/10/15 10:08 PM
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I'd say watch this tape more than once then also use your ears to help you with the syncopation rather than just counting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wi0cLdJCgTA


Rerun

"Seat of the pants piano player" DMD


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Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2468729
10/10/15 10:34 PM
10/10/15 10:34 PM
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Middle of nowhere, Australia
AndrewJCW Offline
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It's tough, but same as any rhythm pattern - take it very slow and simple and gradually build the complexity and speed. I would say blues scales are just as important as scales in classical, probably even more so because they're the basis of improvisation. You should know the blues scales in the common keys back the front, inside out and upside down - swung, straight, fast, slow, triplets and quarters.

For specific exercises if you can play 2 octave scales in triplets and swung 8ths over left hand patterns I think you're on you're way. Here's a video on my youtube of my beginner attempts with these concepts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay5mIS1JHhE

Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2468756
10/11/15 01:04 AM
10/11/15 01:04 AM
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Counting isn't rhythmic language, rhythmic languages are konnakol, takadimi , scat.

http://www.takadimi.net/documents/Takadimi%20short%20guide%20for%20Web.pdf

http://www.takadimi.net/documents/TakadimiArticle.pdf

For example C.C. Rider:

http://www.8notes.com/scores/12948.asp



Quarters you can say so :

||: tut tat tut tat: || ,

eighths - thus:

||: tuka taka tuka taka: ||


Quarter pause You can pronounce M and eighth pause - N .

If a note is longer, it can be connected as ta - a or ka - a ( in quarters or eighths rhythm ).

Thus the prosody of the first four bars (including upbeat) looks like this:

[Linked Image]

And of course, each written pair of eighths sitting on rhythm of triplets: taka = ta'ka = ta (ta) ka.


For " Beginners Blues " by T. Richards:

|| Ta - a - a kata | - a - a- a- a | Ta -a taka tuta | - a-a-a-a | etc


- Equivalent

Last edited by Nahum; 10/11/15 02:44 AM.
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Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2468796
10/11/15 04:35 AM
10/11/15 04:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Oongawa
I'm trying the foot tapping thing but it's crazy, I have to really work at not tapping on the off beats as well as the beats.

No need to struggle with that, just tap all four beats.

Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2468798
10/11/15 04:37 AM
10/11/15 04:37 AM
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Wow, that's just so much more confusing than simply counting. I have no idea why people would invent such a system.


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Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: Qazsedcft] #2468800
10/11/15 04:46 AM
10/11/15 04:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Wow, that's just so much more confusing than simply counting. I have no idea why people would invent such a system.

Some teachers put more work into justifying their existence than actual constructive guidance. The idea is to impress their paymasters.

Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2468817
10/11/15 06:50 AM
10/11/15 06:50 AM
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Getting rhythm is easier in practical instruction than trying to decipher the black and white. I made progress feeding the printed notes into a drum machine. Once I heard the rhythm it was easy to duplicate it - though I was a poor reader; it's relatively recently I've improved.

Another thing is to cycle regular counting with only the on-beat notes and gradually introducing the off beat notes every two or four cycles.

This is all facilitated by learning to count. It's not just reciting the numbers, it's getting the accents and weights in. If you don't count regularly (with the right accents) I'd suggest counting first, gradually adding the playing.
___________________

I found practising scales made my improvisation very scalar and boring. I always prefer to play material in the key, three or four songs, than to work with the scale itself. That way I transferred licks and fills instead of scalar passages and it was easier to think an appropriate idea and play that than to just play one ascending or descending note after another, so to speak. I don't know how universal that might be and it's not my strongest suit.

Working with arpeggios as well also helps or trying what Brian Lucas does, not just straight scales but working through them in thirds and fourths etc, rather than the next note all the time. This helps reinforce the notes of the scale rather than a fingering system. It seems very practical to me.



Richard
Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2468830
10/11/15 08:07 AM
10/11/15 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Oongawa
Thanks to the many folks who recommended this book. I like it a lot.

Although I would consider myself an intermediate classical music player, and a good sight reader, I find this style mind-bogglingly difficult. Even the very first pieces. I have no problem at all with the notes, but the syncopated rhythms are really hard for me. I'm trying the foot tapping thing but it's crazy, I have to really work at not tapping on the off beats as well as the beats.

1) any suggestions on exercises I could do to get used to these new rhythmic patterns?

2) should I practice playing blues scales, same as I practice major / minor scales for classical work?


This is great you want to expand your musical vocabulary to include some blues. To add to the mix...

1. Keep solid time - period!
2. Learn basic 12 bar blues progression
3. Simple walking bass line in the 12 bar progression, keeping perfect time. Count out the beats so you know where you are in the progression. It takes time to internalize the progression. Count out loud when keeping the steady left hand beat
4. Learn the framework of simple 7th chords, simple riffs, licks, cliches for the right and add them to the solid 12 bar beat in the left.
5. It might be a good idea to do this in one key signature to start before getting too deeply involved in doing this with more key signatures - you will get there.

You can make all of his more complicated later, but building good habits with keeping the 12 bar progression in time with the left hand at the onset will make a huge difference later on.

Glen



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Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2468918
10/11/15 12:31 PM
10/11/15 12:31 PM
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Use your foot to help count and guide you. When tapping your foot, do it just as forcefully upwards as you do downwards and really focus on the upbeat. Play the off beat note when your foot reached it's highest. (As others said you may need to take this very slowly at first).

If taken slowly and following the above advice it should be much easier and faster to get it.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Btw- I just received my Improvising Blues Piano from Tim Richards myself about 4 weeks ago after seeing glowing recommendations in these forums for the last 4 years. It is AWESOME! Exactly what I was looking for. I am on about page 50, but then had to put it aside for a while. I hope to get back to it soon.

The reason I didn't get it for so long was because I was disappointed in some other books I tried. I hope I don't offend anyone here but here are my thoughts on 3 books here-

1. Fast Forward Boogie Woogie Piano
-Overall it was not very helpful. I want to say it completely sucked but there are maybe a couple pages worth reading here and there. It's just not authentic and too demo-ish sounding. They don't even show you some of the best or most common left hand boogie patterns.

2. Jazz, Rags, and Blues by Martha Mier
-I forget exactly which level I had, it was some intermediate level. I know others have recommended these but I thought it was completely useless for "learning" Blues. It seems like these are just plain pieces straight out of a method book with a few blue notes thrown in to try to seem bluesy.

3. Improvising Blues Piano by Tim Richards
-Awesome! I am learning something on EVERY page and everything seems VERY authentic. I wish I had tried this book earlier. However it may be too challenging for beginners after the first couple of chapters. The first 40-50 pages have been fairly easy for me so far, except for 1 piece that had triplet pattern in the right hand with an added grace note on the 4th beat, while doing a kind of Blueberry Hill base line in the left hand. It was driving me crazy. I took my own advice above and almost have it now.

Have fun!

Last edited by blueston; 10/11/15 12:32 PM. Reason: mispelled improvising
Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: Qazsedcft] #2468988
10/11/15 04:20 PM
10/11/15 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Wow, that's just so much more confusing than simply counting. I have no idea why people would invent such a system.

"A simple counting" for the syncopation - this is what makes newcomers every year on various websites asking the same questions - like the OP, collecting thousands of entries of interested silent majority.
And the majority of answers to the question as count aloud with feet trample are leading on the way, where are the very old rake ,on which beginners have necessary to step , and even accompanied by a "teacher"(BBT) who does not really understand too much .
Today, I teach rhythmic education only by such way, which converts the different rhythmic patterns in words,  which are memorized, then identified on sheets , are implemented aloud, and then transferred on the instrument.
Is why I use an auxiliary rhythmic instrument the melodica .
Student who before lessons with me had a zero rhythm (in her repertoire syncopation simply didn't exist! ):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fr8-AL9XOOY



Books for work on the rhythm, especially syncopation:

http://www.amazon.com/Modern-Reading-Text-For Instruments/dp/0769233775

http://www.amazon.com/Melodic-Rhythms-Guitar-William-Leavitt/dp/0634013327

https://www.tutti.co.uk/sheet-music/rhythm-for-all-MUST-OT-9074

http://www.bobstoloffmusic.com/rhythmania





Last edited by Nahum; 10/11/15 04:24 PM.
Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2469071
10/11/15 09:18 PM
10/11/15 09:18 PM
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MH1963 Offline OP
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I can do the left hand pretty well, it just falls apart when I try to add the right hand. I'm working on the foot tapping, and it's slowly improving, I think the 'forceful on the up' helps. It's just that when the syncopation falls apart, I end up wanting to tap on every note, not on each beat. Of course, this is completely useless and annoying as heck, but hard to overcome.

So far I've only gotten to about page 18. I've bee working steadily (daily) for a couple of weeks. I don't want to move forward till I can get the syncopation down.

I'll check out the links above. I know it will eventually come together. I have a good teacher, but her focus is classical, and working non-classical just isn't all that productive with her.

So much for the old saw about "people who can play classical can play anything." So. Not. True.


MH1963

'63 Mason & Hamlin Model A
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Working on: Chopin - Mazurka 7 No. 2 / The Prayer - Coates Arrangement / Einaudi - Nefeli
Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2469093
10/11/15 10:28 PM
10/11/15 10:28 PM
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Richmond, BC, Canada
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Charles Cohen Offline
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Originally Posted by Oongawa
I can do the left hand pretty well, it just falls apart when I try to add the right hand. . . .
So far I've only gotten to about page 18. I've bee working steadily (daily) for a couple of weeks. I don't want to move forward till I can get the syncopation down.
. . .
So much for the old saw about "people who can play classical can play anything." So. Not. True.


Yes indeed!

I'm working through Richards' book, and have some ideas:

You need to be able to play the left-hand part of each piece "in your sleep", before adding the right hand. I think Tim suggests that. Just practice the left hand, by itself, until your fingers know the notes and the rhythm. _Then_ start playing the right hand against it. You can't put the walls up, until the foundation is secure -- and the left hand _is_ the foundation.

If you've only done classical work, your ear training may be deficient. Particularly rhythmic ear training --

. . . "Write down this rhythm: {clapping }."

I assume you've understood the "swing convention" and "triplet feel" that's used in blues and jazz, in which the _written duration_ for notes doesn't match the _played duration_. It's explained in the book, more than once. If you don't get that convention right, the sheet music doesn't make any sense at all when you try to play it.

It would be a temptation for a classically-trained teacher to use classical techniques -- in particular, score-reading -- for teaching jazz and blues. But the more "ear" you add, the easier you'll find the music.

Tim suggests that you need "intermediate" playing skills to tackle that book. If you're working on the first Bach Invention, IMHO you're at the beginning of "intermediate". So you may just be running into the wall of what you're capable of, right now.

Take it easy and keep playing -- the skills will come.

Last edited by Charles Cohen; 10/11/15 10:29 PM.

. Charles
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Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2469094
10/11/15 10:31 PM
10/11/15 10:31 PM
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I've enjoyed working through this book.

http://www.amazon.com/Beginning-Blues-Keyboard-Complete-Method/dp/0882849387

I've found it to have a very good balance between understanding the theory behind what's going on and providing examples for practising it. It also is about as beginner friendly as you can get for a 'genre method book', quite suitable for someone working through Alfred's One.

I'm going to pick up the Tim Richards book in my next amazon order, I see it recommended about every other thread.

edit: Sorry wrong thread! But I'll leave it here because it's kinda applicable anyway. smile

Last edited by AndrewJCW; 10/11/15 10:33 PM.
Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2469178
10/12/15 07:03 AM
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To master the syncopation - in blues, jazz, fusion, it does not matter - we need to understand to some certain extent the psychology of mastering rhythm process .
People like dance, also swing; however, very few will agree to dance bop. Why is that? Traditional swing music always built on repeating rhythmic patterns - riffs, which are easy to catch ( and to dance) ; while in bop patterns changes every two seconds. In this case, the memory of the first pattern is superimposed to the next, that newcomers inevitably leads to a distortion of rhythm. This is quite normal. You just have to select from a short fragment of music in length only one bar one bar - if there is a single syncope, or even half bar - if there are more than one.
Next step: a fragment transformed into a riff that is repeated tens of times. I recommend to start with a repeated rhythm pronunciation , and then transferred to the instrument.
Result: many times repeated riff calms the rhythm , like mantra, calming the soul.

Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2469877
10/13/15 09:50 PM
10/13/15 09:50 PM
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In the past couple of days I just go a hold of a copy of Improvising Blues Piano and it's clearly a fantastic book! I had a look around on youtube and found this playlist of Mr Richards himself going through examples in the book. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5mg37A0R8bSyF1IVojJfIH48akvsmvq7

One thing I've done over the past few weeks to try and get the jazz/blues feel is play scales, exercises and songs with the metronome only on beats two and four - that is how someone would click along to a swing song. It sounds simple but it's actually quite difficult if you haven't done it before. The other thing then is to accent the off beats within the meter, eg play a scale and emphasise the non chord tones in the scale, one AND two AND three AND four... if you can swing this over a metronome only playing 2+4 I think it really gets you working on that swing feel with just a simple exercise.

Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: AndrewJCW] #2469884
10/13/15 10:06 PM
10/13/15 10:06 PM
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Originally Posted by AndrewJCW

One thing I've done over the past few weeks to try and get the jazz/blues feel is play scales, exercises and songs with the metronome only on beats two and four - that is how someone would click along to a swing song.


This is excellent advice. It is a powerful thing, and following this advice will help you play the groove better and more naturally.

IF you play Blues or Rock that is Blues based, and people in the audience clap, they should be clapping on beats 2 and 4. (but some don't).

Those who don't typically cannot keep up with the clapping, and fade away, only after basically harming the groove for everyone. (This includes people who clap on 1-2-3-4, or on 1 and 3, or even worse, not on any beat at all. frown

There is a popular T-shirt people wear to Blues festivals etc. that says "Friends don't let friends clap on 1 & 3" .....2 & 4 is that important. Here is a link to the shirt:

http://www.bonanza.com/listings/Fri...a=1&gclid=CIX2nOzvwMgCFU6PHwodvbQAHQ


Piano teacher and Blues and Boogie-Woogie pianist.
Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: rocket88] #2469994
10/14/15 08:05 AM
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Quote
IF you play Blues or Rock that is Blues based, and people in the audience clap, they should be clapping on beats 2 and 4. (but some don't).
If they are brought up on the eastern rhythms.


Exercises for beginners: first count out loud with metronome click on 2 and 4 so :
one Two three FOUR , then
one - Metronome - three - Metronome. When you will be getting, you can say just
one - Metronome - ( silence )- Metronome; and in the end just feel the first beat without saying .

Quote
Here is a link to the shirt:
Thanks , it's funny!

Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: rocket88] #2470059
10/14/15 11:52 AM
10/14/15 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by rocket88


There is a popular T-shirt people wear to Blues festivals etc. that says [i]"Friends don't let friends clap on 1 & 3" ...


... band members either ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tJYN-eG1zk


Rerun

"Seat of the pants piano player" DMD


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Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: Rerun] #2470072
10/14/15 12:18 PM
10/14/15 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Rerun
Originally Posted by rocket88


There is a popular T-shirt people wear to Blues festivals etc. that says [i]"Friends don't let friends clap on 1 & 3" ...


... band members either ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tJYN-eG1zk


Also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yD3iaURppQw smile


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Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: TrevorM] #2470080
10/14/15 12:37 PM
10/14/15 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by TrevorM
Originally Posted by Rerun
Originally Posted by rocket88


There is a popular T-shirt people wear to Blues festivals etc. that says [i]"Friends don't let friends clap on 1 & 3" ...


... band members either ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tJYN-eG1zk


Also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yD3iaURppQw smile


Now, THAT was impressive! thumb


Bert
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Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: newbert] #2470103
10/14/15 02:11 PM
10/14/15 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by newbert

Also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yD3iaURppQw smile

Now, THAT was impressive! thumb


Changes a beat like the glove ...

Last edited by Nahum; 10/14/15 02:12 PM.
Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2470247
10/14/15 08:35 PM
10/14/15 08:35 PM
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MH1963 Offline OP
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That's really interesting about clapping on 2 & 4. I never realized that!

I had my lesson today and took my 'IBP' book. She really only wants to focus on classical, but she did help me get this rhythm thing figured out. So, I'll have my work cut out for me this week.


MH1963

'63 Mason & Hamlin Model A
[Linked Image]

Working on: Chopin - Mazurka 7 No. 2 / The Prayer - Coates Arrangement / Einaudi - Nefeli
Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2470291
10/14/15 11:26 PM
10/14/15 11:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Oongawa
. . .
I had my lesson today and took my 'IBP' book. She really only wants to focus on classical, but she did help me get this rhythm thing figured out. So, I'll have my work cut out for me this week.


Good teacher!


. Charles
---------------------------
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Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2504837
01/28/16 06:20 AM
01/28/16 06:20 AM
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London, UK
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fabius Offline
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I've been working through Improvising Blues Piano for a while now, although my "daily" practice is often very far from that. I'm not having a problem with learning each piece and - for the first time in my life - eventually being able to play a few without the sheet music. A great feeling!

However, I would love to be able to improvise and I just can't work out how, which sounds kind of silly. "Just try it!" you might say. But when I learned piano as a kid I wasn't taught anything about chords and keys and all that stuff, and I struggle to really feel what any of it means. I'm fine sight-reading and, through brute-force repetition, getting better at playing something from the sheet music. But I just cannot work out how to improvise. Even though I'm a fair way into the book, I can't make much of even the earliest improvisation exercises - it's just me hitting random notes without much idea why and, of course, it sounds awful.

Others have suggested practicing scales... any suggestions for how best I can internalise whatever it is that might help me make a better improvisational sound?

Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2504839
01/28/16 06:40 AM
01/28/16 06:40 AM
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Belgium
johan d Offline
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Belgium
I think ear training & interval recognition is the key:

Dave Frank's post on ear training:
https://youtu.be/ZzegfvnMFHs

Last edited by johan d; 01/28/16 08:21 AM.
Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: fabius] #2504849
01/28/16 07:56 AM
01/28/16 07:56 AM
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Israel
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Nahum Online content
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Originally Posted by fabius

However, I would love to be able to improvise and I just can't work out how, which sounds kind of silly.
I can't make much of even the earliest improvisation exercises - it's just me hitting random notes without much idea why and, of course, it sounds awful.

This problem I have observed repeatedly among classical pianists, which begin to study jazz or blues improvising .This is a white spot in textbooks, behind which lies a different psychology performer understanding the meaning of what he is doing. Part of what you have been taught to be thrown out the window, and the window lock up tight!The right notes , incorrect notes , smart notes ,silly notes - the notions that need to be removed from the lexicon, even be required for it some effort.Even the simplest interval in melody wears in itself its fundamental characteristics: rhythm, intonation and   process  tension - relaxation.
This is the meaning of what makes a novice on the first steps of improvisation.


Last edited by Nahum; 01/28/16 07:59 AM.
Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2504876
01/28/16 10:36 AM
01/28/16 10:36 AM
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Warsaw, Poland
Qazsedcft Offline
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I have the same problem with improvisation but working through that book I see some progress already. Start by playing just the notes suggested in the solo boxes in random order and use the rhythmic ideas from the pieces. After some time you will get the feel of it and then you can start adding more passing notes or varying rhythm but at the beginning it's better to restrict your freedom as much as possible. The assignments at the end of each piece are also very good for trying out different variations.


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Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2504885
01/28/16 11:13 AM
01/28/16 11:13 AM
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Chicago
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jjo Offline
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Here's a suggestion. First, forget for a moment about improving in time, or with any rhythm; that's trying to do too much.
Take a piece you're comfortable with. Don't play the first bar. Just, in your head, imagine a melody for that first bar. Then, try to find those notes at the keyboard. Eventually, try to imagine longer phrases. Again, don't worry about rhythm. This is what improvising is about. You don't construct phrases by intellectual process; you just hear stuff in your head. Playing scales is ultimately about hearing different sounds you can use, but ultimately, you've got to let your head develop melodies that you play. It is the challenge and the joy of improvisation.

Re: Improvising Blues Piano [Re: MH1963] #2505163
01/29/16 08:07 AM
01/29/16 08:07 AM
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Posts: 16
London, UK
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fabius Offline
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London, UK
Thanks folks, all very useful!

johan d: I'll give some ear-training a try. I'm sure it's very useful, and I know that I have no ability in it, although I don't actually understand how it helps with improvisation. I mean, what is it that links being able to identify notes by ear with being able to improvise? I'm not saying it doesn't help, I just don't understand!

Qazsedcft: Yeah, it could be that I just need to do it, and stop worrying that it sounds terrible to start with. It won't get better unless I keep doing it! It just felt like I was missing something.

jjo: I'm not sure the "imagine a melody" bit helps me. There's the melody of the piece itself and then... what? I'm not a composer. If I could think of a good melody on the spot then I could (slowly) find the notes for it. But I can't, and that's what I'm struggling with, I think.

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