Piano Player World

Learn Piano Improvisation

improvisingMany pianists consider improvisation in one of three ways: first, many think of it as just a “different” style of music that is distinct from other styles. Second, other pianists consider improvisation as an unnecessary addendum to their music education.

Finally, yet other performers don’t think about improvisation at all – to them it is a distant, enchanted land where mythical people live happily, but is never a place that can actually be visited or inhabited.

Or worse, such people are simply never, ever, introduce to the concept of improvisation.

Unfortunately, each of these concepts of improvisation on piano is immensely misguided. In fact, learning piano improvisation is one of the most beneficial, wide ranging piano performance skills a student could study. Improvisation means to perform without specific preparation beforehand.

For example, imagine it’s your friend’s birthday party, and even though you have never ever played “Happy Birthday” on the piano in your life, everyone invites you to play as they sing….and you sit down and do it perfectly.

Piano improvisation lessons are based on knowing theory and its application – and since music theory applies to all music, improvisation’s core elements are related to the core elements of all other fields of music. This means that no matter what style of music you prefer, learning improvisation will dramatically improve your understand and ability in that style, as well as a host of others.

The trick to learning piano improvisation is knowing your keys (i.e. scales) and your chords. If you have a melody in your head, but just can’t seem to make it come out of the keys on your piano, then you don’t know your scales.

how to play piano scales

Award Winning Learn & Master Piano 3 Day SALE !!!
Massive $100 OFF
- Grab it Now Before It's Too Late! Click here...

knows your scalesIf you know your scales well enough, then your fingers will seem to “automatically” know which notes should or should not be played at any particular point.

The same is true for chords – even if the right hand is carrying the melody, the left hand should fairly quickly know which chords should or should not be struck at any particular point in the melody. So, the first step to learning improvisation lies in learning piano scales and learning chords backwards and forwards.

You may be thinking that there are many, many, many chords that can be played, and you’d be correct. The more you experience chords, the more you will see how much chords can have in common with one another.

It is this ability – the ability to see commonalities between chords – that serves as one more step in improvisation. For example, if you have a B note in a melody that’s part of the A minor, you then should automatically know all of the chords that fit A minor (that is, chords with no black keys), that have a B in them, like Cmaj7, Em7, G7, and so on.

Finally, don’t feel like you need to improvise everything all at once. Start slow. Being with a familiar melody, like “Happy Birthday” or “Mary had a little lamb” in your right hand. Once you feel like you’ve figured out the melody, start add a few chords here and there in the left hand.

As you feel more comfortable doing this, begin improvising the melody and bass chords at the same time, and eventually come up with completely new, spontaneous melodies that surprise even yourself!

piano improvisation text

piano improvisation course


<< Prev: Lesson 7 - Rockin' It 2

Next: Lesson 9 - How to Play Triplets >>

Related Articles And Lessons: