Tag Archives: embellish melody

Piano Improvisation: Melodic Embellishment

Piano improvisation - embellish melodyMelodic embellishment is the one aspect of piano improvisation that lends itself to your sounding “pro” very quickly, considering how little effort is needed on your part. What you do need is to resolve to have some fun with a few very easy concepts. Impressive results tend to manifest faster than you might expect.

There are many aspects of piano improvisation that can serve as great approaches to effectively embellishing a melody. There is one technique that I particularly like for beginners that is conducive to great sounding melodic embellishments. What is it? Well, it involves the use of the blues scale. It should be pointed out and emphasized here that knowing the blues scale as most people do is one thing. However, using it to create tasteful piano fills is another.

There is the common tendency for beginning piano improvisers to overuse the blues scale and thus sound rather “robotic.” But this will improve with experience and maturity. In addition, this “learning curve” can be reduced dramatically when utilizing the blues scale in a fashion that is proven to be effective right from the beginning. This is a topic that is a favorite of mine so I actually created a video session dedicated to helping learning improvisers and piano stylists to get a handle on this special, easy-to-grasp improvising technique. The title of the session can be rather deceiving since it can lead one to believe that it is dedicated to learning blues piano exclusively. This is far from the truth. The video session actually shows example of how you can tastefully utilize the blues scale to create some very interesting piano embellishments when playing standard songs.

The name of the session is 5 Blues Piano Licks You Just Gotta Know and it can be accessed online instantly. It’s rather amazing how just using a simple strategy in such a subtle way can really make you come across as a player who “stands above the crowd.” The reason is simple: when you play something that sounds as if it was produced in an effortless fashion, the listener picks up on that.

Try A Little Piano Improvisation

Here is a little piano improvisation experiment you can have fun with. You are highly encouraged to take a standard song that you are confident when it comes to playing it. Now, locate the end of a phrase that is inactive. Specifically, I am referring to an area in the melody that includes a note with a duration of at least 3 beats (dotted half note or more). Next, play that entire melodic phrase and, right after you’ve played that note, instead of holding it to its fullest extent (3 beats or more), play a couple of notes from that melody in an effort to “echo” a portion of what’s been played.

Don’t be concerned with your choices. Don’t overthink this. Rather, adopt a very accepting attitude of yourself and your efforts. This is key. You see, when you are confident, your audience knows it. So practice confidence when you are playing alone. You’ll find that, before long, this confidence becomes transferred when you are actually playing for others!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

 

Play Cocktail Piano: What’s It Take?

Play-Cocktail-PianoYou want to play cocktail piano and wonder if you have what it takes.  It’s been a specialty of mine for many years and I am happy to admit that I’ve had a lot of fun on each and every cocktail piano gig that I ever had to privilege of being a part of. I have played on board cruises, have performed for wedding receptions and for special corporate functions, and have served as a soloist for many other situations. As a cocktail pianist, you accept the responsibility of being the sole performer, so it’s all you! Along with this goes the kind of freedom that only a solo gig can provide.

The fact that you want to play cocktail piano means you’re open to learning what it really takes. Well, you’ll be happy to know that even if you’re a novice, you can gain some satisfactory results rather quickly. You’ll want to feel comfortable with playing melodies to a nice variety of standard tunes. Also, you’ll want to gain a familiarity with common 7th chords, including major 7ths, dominant 7ths, minor 7ths, and diminished 7th for starters. There are many types of 7th chords that serve as variations of these and you’ll want to eventually learn them but these basic four are the most prominently used.

As you engage in the art form of cocktail piano, your own curiosity should lead you to being open to learning to improvise to a degree, including incorporating piano fills in your playing and also embellishing those melodies.  In addition, you’ll want to adopt an attitude of playfulness, always being open to having fun with what you are playing and becoming more and more creative. Having an open mind will be conducive to your enjoying yourself and eventually becoming a more competent piano stylist.

Once you become familiar with those basic 7th chords, by the way, you are likely to want to acquire a knowledge of how chord voicings work. Chord voicings are your ticket to adding a whole lot of spice to your playing. It’s one thing to be able to play a Cmaj7 chord in its basic form, for example, but if you can play it in a variety of ways, including using open and closed voicings, your playing will have a lot more dimension to it. In addition, your confidence as a stylist will soar… and this confidence will easily be evident in the eyes (and ears) of your audience.

Above all else, get started! You must begin somewhere, so choose a favorite song, learn that melody well, bring yourself to a point where you can confidently play the chords that accompany that melody, and play, play, play! As you become more and more familiar with that song, you’ll soon become inspired to enhance it with piano fills, embellishments, voicings, and more. Your playing will mature before you know it!

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