Category: Piano Improvisation
Learning To Improvise On Piano: When Is The Right Time?
“I want to learn how to improvise on piano.”
Walk into almost any local music studio that offers piano lessons, make that request, and have fun with the reaction you’re likely to be faced with. By mentioning the word “improvise,” you’ve just automatically disqualified the majority of prospective teachers you’ll meet. It’s just fact: piano teachers can’t teach what they aren’t aware of how to do.
A popular response to such a request goes something like this: “You’re not ready for that. That’s down the road a bit.”
If you’re willing to accept a prospective piano teacher’s remark like that, just be warned: that road is likely to be a very long one. You see, just by presenting this desire of yours to the average teacher, you’ve scared them a little. It’s not something he or she has experience with. Just hearing the word “improvise” might cause that teacher to inwardly cringe. It’s unfortunate that the lack of know-how on behalf of a teacher can lead to that kind of deviation and misrepresentation.
A teacher with his or her integrity in tact will be honest with you. If that person is being truthful with you, the response you get might be, “I never learned to improvise and I don’t know the first thing about teaching someone how to do that. I recommend you find someone who is qualified.” But are you likely to hear that? Unfortunately, the ego gets in the way too much of the time, even to the point of misleading a student or parent into thinking that improvisation is for “the more advanced.”
The truth is that a person’s journey learning to improvise on piano can start from Day 1. That’s right. If your teacher has an approach that is conducive to your learning to play piano creatively, your first lessons will be used to set you on the right path. Your learning to improvise will be part of the agenda if: 1) It is something you are interested in doing; 2) Your teacher has what it takes to guide you properly.
Yes, when it comes to how most traditional piano teachers function, the paradigm is: learn to read what the page of music dictates and play it (and perhaps memorize it).
There is certainly nothing wrong with learning to read music. Actually, it should be part of a well-balanced plan. Learning to read music opens the door to a whole world of music available for you to enjoy. That said, if the student’s piano education is limited to that, it’s a shame that student won’t be introduced to his or her creative ability simply because the teacher “doesn’t know how.”
Learning to improvise on piano includes many different aspects of creativity, including being able to play a variety of chord structures, voicings, rhythmic variations, melodic embellishments, and more. Wouldn’t you like to learn (or have your child learn) how to have fun at the piano in a creative fashion? Well, going to a teacher to do that who hasn’t a clue about playing creatively would be a little like going to a dentist for a new set of contact lenses.
Considering that you’ll be making a healthy investment of both your time and money, it makes sense to learn the facts about what you are getting yourself into. Asking questions of a prospective teacher will lead you to a greater understanding in advance. You’ll be better informed so that you can make a sound decision. Once you establish a connection with a piano teacher whose talent, skills, and personality are in line with your reaching specific goals, the benefits can truly be priceless.
Did you know that the very thought of piano improvisation scares people, including many of the successful traditional piano teachers out there who have been primarily focused on learning and teaching people to read and interpret written music? Unfortunately, although these teachers have their positive traits, such teachers are not able to share something they don’t possess.
When it come to learning piano improvisation, nothing can replace the experience of obtaining the guidance of a piano instructor who knows about it, does it, loves it, and can teach it. When you’ve got the right coach, learning to improvise on piano can serve as a nice addition to a well balanced diet of “musical nutrition.” Sure it’s one thing to be able to prop up a piece of sheet music on the piano stand and play what’s you see. It’s quite another to be able to do that as well as play your own interpretation of you see, adding freshness to the music as you perform it with a creative flair.
Learning piano improvisation includes becoming familiar with a variety of strategies and techniques, in addition to understanding theory that can make everything more comprehensible. Learning from a piano teacher who has extensive experience in both performing in an improvisational fashion and coaching people along this avenue is a necessity if you truly want to discover your personal creative, musical potential.
So many people endure years and years of piano training without ever getting a glimpse of what they are capable of in the area of improvisation. A main reason for this is because there are fewer teachers who have such a background and, again, what one doesn’t have cannot be shared with others. Because this is true, it has become a misconception that learning to improvise is only for a select few of for more advanced students. Actually, an instructor who is competent along this avenue can nurture creativity in even the earliest beginner as long as the student is interested.
People have different reasons for getting hooked up with piano lessons and having a teacher whose methods are in line with those specific reasons is of utmost importance. That is why it is recommended that you ask questions of a prospective teacher prior to getting started. Some of the areas of focus that an experienced teacher will be able to demonstrate may include:
Reading Traditional Music
Sight Reading Improvement
Psychology of Practicing
Modern Chord Theory
Reading Lead Sheets
Exploration of a Variety of Styles
It is true that, with some self-initiative, one can learn much about piano improvisation on his or her own and there are learning tools available to help along with that. Of course, combining such efforts with taking advantage of the guidance of a professional will prove to be of ultimate value.
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