How to improvise on piano

Posted by Michele McLaughlin on September 13, 2017

How to Imrpvosie on Piano 

Improvisation is a skill that will make you better at piano.

It is a fantastic way to spark your creativity, strengthen your scale knowledge and chord structures, and compose music in an “on-demand” and “on-the-fly” manner that forces you to step outside of your comfort zone. This is precisely the reason why I started my “Monday Morning Improvisations” series on YouTube. I wanted to grow, and this series was a great way to make that happen.

 

I tend to compose in the keys I’m most comfortable in… C major, D minor, A minor, C minor, Eb Major, etc. Those are the keys and the scales that I know best and use regularly, especially being self-taught, and improvisation forces me to be creative outside of my normal patterns. It requires me to stretch outside what I am most natural in and test my knowledge and my ability. It challenges me and helps me to grow and evolve as a composer.  

 

I love to sit at the piano and explore to see where my hands will take me, and I love watching a melody develop unplanned and unrehearsed. Music created in the moment, without thinking about it, without forcing it to take shape, without molding it into something specific, is some of my favorite music to play. It’s truly an “in the moment” experience at the piano.  This is the time when I am most unclouded and clear in my mind… free from distraction and cluttered thoughts. I like to call it, “losing myself in the music”.

 

How do I improvise? I sit at the piano and pick a key… I might start with something I’m familiar and comfortable with just to warm up, and then later I’ll try keys I’m not as familiar with so that I can strengthen my abilities. I let my hands be the driver, and my ears keep me from losing my place. I clear my mind, and just let the music come to me. I might play around with melodies first, and then I'll bring in the left hand patterns. This tends to be the easiest method for me when I'm creating. Other times I let the left hand be the driver and the melody follows. Sometimes, wrong notes end up being intriguing enough that I might play around with the variations because it’s something different that sounds cool. There’s nothing “wrong” in improvisation, and the creations can be funky and contrasting, which makes it all the more interesting.

 

The idea is to just sit, create, and see what develops. What are you going to improvise today? Need help getting started? Be sure to check out my exclusive video tutorial- just click the button below!         

 

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