Improvisation and playing by ear... - How to learn/improve these skills

Technique, methods and advice for learners

Postby celia » Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:53 pm

Hi everyone,
I have been playing piano for many years and did many exams including theory when I was younger...
But improvising and playing by ear were not skills I was taught at all and I am currently looking to improve these skills, particularly as I am now teaching...
I am saving up to take a 10 lesson improv course with the music therapist I met last week. But in the meantime (until business picks up hopefully in the new year) has anyone got any advice on improving these skills?
One thing that has helped a little is learning to play pieces from memory, I did not realise how lacking I was in this skill until I decided I really should learn to do it, I much prefer playing without the music. But I find this really difficult so advice here would also be welcomed...
I have also seen advertised some Hal Leonard "Fake" books which have songs written with just the melody and chord names and you arrange it yourself. Has anyone any experience of these books? Are they any good? I would appreciate comments...
celia
 
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Postby Tranquillo » Fri Dec 05, 2008 11:57 pm

I am not the best at fake book style. I have learnt some improvisation through learning theory and watching others play. The way I have learned improvisation was primarily through playing pieces and discovering triads in the harmony, appegiated chords, intervals, scales and ornamentation in the melody.

I mainly experimented with pieces I had already known playing them with different dynamics, touches and speeds randomly. This isn't really improvisation but it was a start to making up something on the spot.

I wasn't taught a particular order but if I was to look back at my development I would say that I did it this way:

First, I played simple made up tunes in stepwise motion in the right. These were accompanied with chords I, IV and V in the bass, in root position. I mainly played in C major since I didn't have to worry about black keys.

Then I broke up the chord, the triad and sometimes changed it to second or first inversion.

Sometimes I would ornament the melody or repeatingly play the same not playing different chord progressions.

Then I would learn scales (blues, jazz pentatonic, etc) and occasionally through the scale. I would also experiment with different tempos and dynamics.

They are just a few ideas to get you started, I am no expert ... I just learned improvisation through experimenting.
Music is organised sound
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