The Do’s and Don’ts of Improvising on the Piano

What is Improvisation?

Pianist Improvising on Bay Area Used Piano

Improvisation is the creation of original music in a given moment in time. Successful improvisation requires creativity and a deep intuition that the musician must develop and hone over time.

Essentially, the player chooses notes in real time based on the chords of a particular piece. Piano improvisation is often associated with jazz and blues, but many music genres leverage this technique, including many techniques popularly considered to be more formal and classical. (If you want to polish your improvisational chops, our Bay Area piano store team can recommend great instruments as well as respected local teachers – ask us!)

Keys to Successful Piano Improvisation

  • Start simply. As the saying goes, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.
  • Start with a rhythm. Although you can improvise on any Yamaha piano (or other keyboard), maybe consider using an electronic instrument with built in rhythms and auto-chord features to create a base for your improvisation.
  • Start by playing one note in the chord you’ve selected. Add in other notes of the chord, and vary their order and hold times to create your first improvisation.
  • Listen to great improvisers, and work backwards to figure out what they do and why. Take a classic jazz album and deconstruct one track to figure out exactly what everyone’s doing. You might even want to transcribe their work onto paper, so you can actually see (and reproduce) what they’ve done.
  • Take piano lessons. Lessons will teach you the fingering techniques and music theory you need to develop strong improvisational skills.

What to Avoid with Improvisation

Improvisation is about creating your own music. Copying another musician’s improvisations may be interesting – and a necessary step towards mastery – but you ultimately need to let go of the rope and develop your own skills.

Get Playing Today On Your New Or Used Piano

At Pianos Plus, we have the area’s largest selection of new and used Yamaha pianos in the Bay Area. Ask us about private piano lessons and piano rentals and anything else you need to start your musical adventure.  Call Pianos Plus in Castro Valley at (510) 581-1660 or explore our inventory online.