Category Archives: Piano Improvisation

Piano Improvisation Tutorial: Pentatonic Scale Solos

Piano-Improvisation-Tutorial-Pentatonic-Scale-SolosIf you have an interest in developing some pentatonic scale solos, as a beginner this is a good choice since you can really come up with some impressive sounds with little effort. Who said it needed to be complex to be good, right? It certainly doesn’t. Actually, when it comes to creating simplistic solos that sound “pro,” the utilization of pentatonic scales is an excellent choice.

Let’s see how to come up with a pentatonic scale:

“Pentatonic” is derived from “penta,” which means “five” in Greek. Therefore, a pentatonic scale is a five note scale. Let’s first take a look at a G Major scale:

G  A  B  C  D  E  F#  G
1   2   3  4  5   6   7    8

Let’s extract the following scale degrees from this major scale:

1, 2, 3, 5, and 6

Thus, this leaves us with the following, which is a G Major pentatonic scale:

G  A  B  D  E

Of course, we can repeat the 1 as we do with the major scale, resulting in:

G  A  B  D  E  G

An  interesting characteristic of the pentatonic scale is the unique flavor we get from simply playing it in either an ascending or descending fashion. However, some of the real magic can happen when using bits and pieces of this scale and creating patterns with it.
Here is one example of a descending pattern that can be used to create some interesting pentatonic scale solos:

G E D   E D B   D B A  BAG etc.

The use of the pentatonic scale is unlimited. The possibilities go way beyond the scope of this particular piano improvisation tutorial since this is simply an introduction. Below is a short video clip excerpted from Sneak Peeks #2, illustrating the G Major pentatonic scale. Of course, you will want to play this scale in other keys as well!

Once you know how to play a major pentatonic scale on a given root, it is very easy to also play a minor pentatonic scale as well. If we take a look at the G Major pentatonic once again and simply begin that scale on the 3rd note of that scale, which is B in this case, we instantly have the B Minor pentatonic scale:

B  D  E  G  A  B

So, you see, both of these pentatonic scales (G Major and B Minor) consist of exactly the same notes. You are highly encouraged to explore and have fun with both of these scales in as many keys as possible. Your confidence when it comes to improvising on piano will undoubtedly increase in a very short amount of time!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Piano Improvisation Technique: Chord Tones

Piano-Improvisation-TechniqueOne piano improvisation technique that you absolutely want to make a regular part of your practice routine is the use of chord tones. Please don’t make the mistake of underestimating the power of this improvisational approach.

If you know the chords to a tune you are playing, then you’re already half there. Of course, knowing what they are and using them to their potential are two different things. Let’s face it: there are people who might say, “Yeah, I know how that works” and there are people who will actually make it work.

Become acquainted with the chord changes to the point where you are not only able to play those chords as the accompaniment to a given melody but you are also able to play them as arpeggios. Let’s take a look at a few measures from a popular jazz standard tune like All The Things You Are by Jerome Kern (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II) in Ab:

/  Fmin7  /  Bbmin7  /  Eb7  / Abmaj7  /

Now let’s consider how this piano improvisation technique can really work for us once we establish what the chord tones are for the chords in these four bars of this great standard. The chord for each of these chords are acknowledged here…

Fmin7: F Ab C Eb
Bbmin7: Bb Db F AbEb7: Eb G Bb Db
Abmaj7: Ab C Eb G

With your right hand, play each of these chords as arpeggios (one chord tone at a time from bottom top). Then reverse this by playing the arpeggios from top to bottom. Play these arpeggios in a rhythmical fashion. One way you can easily approach this is playing each chord tone as an eighth note while both ascending and descending. For example:

If you play the Fmin7 chord as an arpeggio in eighth notes ascending, that completes two beats. Starting at the top of the chord and descending completes the measure with another two beats.

/  F  Ab  C  Eb Eb  C  Ab  F  /

Following this, treat each of the other chords the same way…

Doing this for the entire tune will accomplish a couple of great things:

1) You will learn the chord changes in a way that you didn’t before

2) You will come up with some really great piano improvisational ideas in the process

I will acknowledge here that, at first, you may feel as though this may sound rather “robotic” or redundant. You would be right about this; however, keep in mind the reason you are doing this. You are opening your ears in a way that you really get to hear those chords as arpeggios and doing this will lend itself to your coming up with different ways of playing those chord tones as you create your own improvisations. For example, you can change the order of those chord tones anytime you please. Perhaps you will start the improvisation for one chord on one of the middle chord tones and climb up… then climb down… etc. For Fmin7, this could mean you play Ab  F  Eb C. As you proceed to the next chord, mix it up as well. The combinations are endless!

Your ears will open up in a way they never did before. Also, those improvisations will really begin to take on some interesting shapes!

Have a ball exploring this piano improvisation technique and as you do so, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Piano Improvisation Tutorial: Love Those Half Steps

Piano-Improvisation-TutorialThis piano improvisation tutorial focuses on a very simple technique that you will love to love if the idea of improvising is new to you. It involves using chromaticism, or using half steps.

This is a piano improvisation technique that is so easy to implement, but don’t let its simplicity fool you! By using this easy-to-use strategy over and over again in various areas of those favorite songs of yours, you will very likely not only become confident with it but it’s probable that doing so will lead you to other ideas of your own as well. Now that’s good news!

I’m including this easy piano improvisation tutorial here because it’s my belief that if you are to make one tiny step (another pun intended) toward learning to improvise on piano, this is the one that will open doors for you.

How do you apply this piano improvisation technique? It’s as easy as pie. Simply approach any note in that melody by a half step below. Let’s say you’re playing Bart Howard’s Fly Me To The Moon in the key of C Major. The first melody note is a C (played with an Amin7 chord). Before you play that C, play the B one half step below it and then immediately resolve to that C.

By the way, you can apply this to any of the melody notes in that first measure. You can even use this improvisation technique on every melody note. Now, understand that, by doing so, you may consider the result to be a bit redundant. But that’s okay, because you’re learning to implement the technique. As I always encourage my students, when you learn a new technique or concept, overuse it to the point where you are feeling very, very comfortable with it. Once you do, it’s rather easy to apply the idea less often. By overusing a certain idea, it’s kind of like swinging a baseball bat with the weight on it and then taking the weight off. Swinging becomes a whole lot easier. Thus, you’re more in control!

Let’s say the melody note is normally played for one beat. Well, consider sharing the value of that beat with both the melody note itself and the note that is one half step below. So, you’re playing two eighth notes. This is just an option. As you become more and more acquainted with this concept, you can play the note that is a half step lower for a shorter duration and the melody note for a little longer. If the melody note is normally played for two beats, then the note that is one half step lower can be played for one beat, a half beat, or a duration of your choice, and then the melody note can play for the remainder of the two beats. After a while, you will really get a feel for this!

Have fun with this half step approach to piano improvisation and as your playing becomes more and more tasteful, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Piano Improvisation Tips

Piano-Improvisation-TipsAmong the numerous piano improvisation tips I am able to share with you, if I was asked to share one that stands out above the crowd in terms of effectiveness, it would be this one:

Respect the melody and have fun playing around it.

Sure, there is much benefit when it comes to understanding chord/scale relationships, learning scales, and practicing patterns of all sorts. You are highly encouraged to be open to making all of this a part of your routine. However, if your attention is devoted to taking this approach exclusively, there is a chance that your improvisations can come across as sounding rather “robotic” or “mechanical.”

Remember, we’re playing music. Sounding mechanical is not the goal. At least it isn’t in the eyes of those with good musical sense. Again, practicing scales and patterns certainly has its place during practice time. But when it comes to sounding musical, having  respect for the melody of the tune you are playing is most conducive to your improvisation coming across as coherent, lyrical, and creative. Does this make sense? This is one of the most powerful piano improvisation tips that I have ever learned.

Taking the “mechanical” route when improvising over tunes can lead to those improvisations rather repetitive from one song to another. When you really think about it, what is the first and foremost aspect of a tune that serves as its identity? Most would agree that it’s the melody. Many tunes exist that either share the same chord changes as others or are least close to being similar, but it’s the melody that gives each tune its identity. That being the case, it stands to reason that respecting the individuality of the melody of a given song when improvising will lend itself to that improvisation having its own uniqueness. Remaining cognizant of the melody while improvising over those chord changes is a sign of musical maturity.

During my time in college, a teacher in one of my harmony classes who happened to be a trumpet player shared with the class that he learned to improvise by learning the melody well and then eventually embellishing it, while always keeping it in mind during his improvisations. I had the privilege of hearing this guy play a gig and his playing was totally awesome. His improvisations cooked!

Choose a favorite song of yours and learn that melody well. Sing it or hum it (or whistle it) during the day. Really become acquainted with that melody. Then, when at your instrument, learn to use that melody as your “safety net” as you embellish it a little at a time. For some help in this area, consider taking advantage of this easy-to-follow program which consists of a short video session and guidebook that, once you implement the techniques suggested, will have you feeling more and more confident when it comes to creating solos that are not only coherent, that sound good, and are uniquely you!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com