First step at improvisation VIDEO

[Posting clips of my students lets them know I’m proud of them. Learning music – like learning most things – is a series of little steps, every step significant, and hopefully taken with a sense of pleasure and adventure.]

Joel is a teenager who wants to learn how to improvise and “fill in” over chords. As well as learning to read music, he wants to be able to play songs with just lyrics and chord changes from the internet.

In his work book, chords are written above the sheet music. So we look at a song, note the chord changes, play them out, and play the scales and accidentals in those keys.

The conversation generally goes: “We start off in the key of F, then we move to B flat… then… finally end up on F again.”

So after doing this regularly we get an idea of how a basic song is shaped.

As a first step to adding notes which are not written in his music, I suggest Joel plays arpeggio runs in his left hand while maintaining the melody in his right.

In House of the Rising Sun, Joel plays it twice; first time as it is written in his work book, and the second time with his own additions. Even with basic arpeggios going in his left hand, and some added notes in the right hand at the end, he’s already playing many more notes than are written down in his book.

I think it’s a big deal to realise that you can play more than what is written down, and that your own creation can sound appropriate and really nice!

Now Joel can embellish on every new piece he learns in his work book, whether it is classical or modern. However I also want him to learn what is actually written, because being able to play accurately is important too.

I’d just like to say, it really knocks me out when I set a goal with a student, then I come back the following week and see just how much work they have done in that week – willingly and with enthusiasm! You’re a joy to teach, Joel. Well done, guy.


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