One of the best piano improvisation tips that I ever had been exposed to was that of “going outside the chord.” I mean, when most of us first learn to improvise, we are encouraged to utilize the actual chord tones of the chord we are playing. By the way, this is good advice. That said, you can add even more dimension to your use of those chord tones when you consider using those “other” notes.
What is being referred to here? Okay, let’s take a look at a Gmin7 chord. In it’s basic root position, this chord is spelled as follows:
G Bb D F
1 3 5 7
When playing a Gmin7 chord, it makes perfect sense that these chord tones are compatible for improvising. You can even come up with some pretty interesting improvisational ideas simply adhering to these chord tones.
If you have limited yourself to improvising in this fashion, then this will be one of the most eye-opening (and ear-opening) piano improvisation tips you’ve stumbled upon yet. It’s pretty easy to grasp, too. When you play the Gmin7 chord above, the notes once again are:
G Bb D F
Let’s consider a chord/scale relationship here. This Gmin7 chord can be thought of as being related to a G Dorian scale (or mode), which looks like this:
G A Bb C D E F G
Notice the chord tones of the Gmin7 highlighted in red above. Now, look at those other tones that are in between those chord tones. What are they? Yes, those “other” notes are A, C, and E. We could even included the top G again and have A, C, E, and G. Question: what chord do those tones spell?
Right! It’s an Amin7…
Now, go ahead and play a Gmin7 chord with your left hand. While doing this, play those Amin7 chord tones one at a time. Come up with some melodic ideas using those Amin7 chord tones. You’re sure to come up with some pretty interesting improvisational ideas!
Okay, now continue to do this and then have your improvisation resolve to the actual chord tones of Gmin7. One example might look like this: Notice that the first four eighth notes are simply those “other” notes… yes, the chord tones from Amin7… and the following four eighth notes consist of only chord tones from Gmin7.
Suggestion: using this as a guideline, create some of your own improvisations over the Gmin7 chord. Feel free to add your own “twist” to the idea you see above. Mix up those chord tones. Your possibilities are endless!
Also, apply this improvisation concept to some other chords. You are just beginning to explore your creative, musical potential!
PLAY WITH PASSION!
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