Tag Archives: learning to improvise

12 Bar Blues Piano: The Mixolydian Scale

12-Bar-Blues-PianoAs a follow-up to our recent introduction to 12 bar blues piano, let’s take a look at another scale that you will want to be familiar with. We already mentioned one, which is the blues scale. The other scale that you will want to have a handle on when it comes to improvising over those dominant 7th chords is the Mixolydian scale.

Now, we acknowledged that when playing 12 bar blues piano that the key that you are in determines what blues scale you play. In other words, if you are playing the blues in the key of C, then the C blues scale will work well throughout the entire form. This means that the C blues scale will sound good over the C7, F7, and G7. That’s right. You don’t have to play the F blues scale for the F7 or the G blues scale for the G7. This is one of the interesting things about the blues scale. You see, each tone of the C blues scale has a different relationship with each of the other chords. For example, when you play the C, that tone is the 1 of the C7. However, when you play it over the the F7, it becomes the 5. Over the G7, it is the 4. Some of these relationships sound more consonant than others. Some sound dissonant. Since music really involves “tension and release,” this blues scale really serves us well! Explore the other tones of the C blues scale and see how they relate to each of these three chords. Of course, play and listen!

As mentioned above, another scale you will want to become confident playing is the Mixolydian scale. You’ll want to know this scale for each of the 7th chords you are playing, including the:

C Mixolydian scale C7

F Mixolydian scale for F7

G7 Mixolydian scale for G7

To arrive at any of these, simply play the major scale that corresponds to each root and then lower the 7th of the scale one half step. That gives you the Mixolydian scale for each of the 7th chords:

C7 = C  D  E  F  G  A  Bb  C

F7 = F  G  A  Bb  C  D  Eb  F

G7 = G  A  B  C  D  E  F  G

Using this scale in conjunction with that blues scale really adds lots of interest to your soloing. You are highly encouraged to explore your potential creating ideas using all four of these scales, and as you do so, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

 

Piano Improvisation Tips: Chord Tones & Scale Tones

Piano-Improvisation-TipsWhen it comes to playing cocktail piano, of the many piano improvisation tips I could offer, a favorite to promote that is most conducive to getting satisfying results is using chord tones. However, this approach can take on a more mature flair when your mind set is that of combining chord tones with thinking and playing in a linear fashion as well.

Let’s say that you are improvising over the chord changes to a standard song like Jerome Kern’s I’m Old Fashioned (lyrics by Johnny Mercer). The beginning in the key of F would look like this:

/  Fmaj7  Dmin7  /  Gmin7  C7  /

Here we have a I – VI – II – V chord progression. The chord tones for each of these chords are:

Fmaj7 = F  A  C  E

Dmin7 = D  F  A  C

Gmin7 = G  Bb  D  F

C7 = C  E  G  Bb

Consider using these chord tones in an arpeggiated fashion. Mix it up, changing the order from ascending to descending. In addition, start your improvised lines on a chord tone in the middle of the chord and work yourself outward, to the left… to the right… etc.

Perhaps you have already had some experience doing this. If so, you know the possibilities are unlimited, especially when you start using the inversions of these chords as well. One of the most important piano improvisation tips I ever learned was to not take this simple strategy for granted. Remember, it’s one thing to “know” a technique or strategy. It’s quite another to implement it.

In addition, take note that the four chords in this progression are diatonic chords in the key of F Major (Chord Progressions and How They Work #1 offers a good introduction to the diatonic system). This means that their chord tones are all members of the F Major scale. This being the case, the F Major scale serves as a good resource for improvising over these two measures. Play up and down the entire scale over this chord progression. If you play it in eighth notes, one time in either direction, you will fill up one measure. So, if you play in order (in eighth notes)…

F  G  A  Bb  C  D  E  F…

…you will have played through the scale over the chords Fmaj7 and Dmin7. Do this for the next measure as well. Now, while maintaining the duration of these chords, play half of the scale for half a measure and use only chord tones for the other half of one of the measures. Mix it up!

Naturally, you can begin the scale beginning on different tones. You will find that certain chords lend themselves to starting on different notes of the scale. There is a gold mine of discovery just within what was mentioned in that last sentence.

As you come up with your own ideas using this improvisation strategy, your confidence will soar since you will be the one creating. The sky’s the limit here, so have tons of fun with this! 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