For centuries, people have tried to explain one of the most mysterious skills of humankind: creativity (we can also call it inspiration, intuition etc.).
Some researchers say that you have to be born with it – and that not everyone has this gift. Others consider that it’s a question of practice, determination and experience – and that there are many ways of ‘awakening’ your dormant creativity.
In each of these theories there is a grain of truth – but the entire truth, as always, is a combination of both!
Each day, I keep discovering one thing:
There are no limits to what you can achieve when you’re passionate about something!!!
If you want to learn how to improvise on the piano, be sure of one thing: it all depends on YOU!
The art of piano improvisation is not so difficult! However, before you begin working on your ‘improvising skills’, there are several things you should know:
Being ‘naturally creative’ is fantastic, of course. However, having such a talent doesn’t automatically make you a good improviser! At the same time, you can definitely be a great improviser and ‘awaken’ an amazing creativity even if you were born with less ‘improvising talent’.
The truth is that we are all creative – but most of us simply don’t know about it! That’s why some people seem more creative – while others seem more ‘rational’.
Our modern education is mostly based on ‘rationalization’ and mechanical memorization of facts. In the end – this is an extremely limited approach! One of its main drawbacks is the fact that it develops our rational mind too much and it doesn’t allow our creativity to manifest. This is especially obvious in those people who were always ‘good obedient students’. Rebels, on the other hand, are usually much more creative!
Often, we cannot improvise because we allow our rational mind to get in the way. On the other hand, lack of knowledge can also be a great impediment!
Any imbalance will inevitably affect your creativity, success, happiness and fulfillment. This is one of the main aspects of my holistic approach on life and piano playing.
For being creative, we have to balance all the aspects of our personality: spirit and intellect, body and emotions.
Now let’s narrow our ‘quest’ even more.
We can compare the art of improvisation with speaking: when you speak, you’re not simply reciting a text that you memorized in advance! You use words and phrases that you have learned before – but each time you combine them in a new way! The same can be said about improvisation.
Ideally, for becoming good improvisers, we have to combine and balance knowledge with freedom of expression.
1. First, we have to learn the language – otherwise, how could we express our thoughts? In the end, any form of creativity requires knowing the language (may it be singing, piano playing, painting or dancing). For saying something new, you gotta learn how to speak first!
- Study music theory and harmony;
- Practice pieces by great composers;
- Practice some easy jazz/blues/pop/rock pieces by reading them from scores.
When you study theory and harmony – you’re learning the letters, the words and many great word combinations. You learn different chords progressions and correlations, you begin to ‘find your way’ in any tonality, you create handy playing reflexes that appear only as a result of practice! Learning the rules of harmony is the first step in any ‘improvising’ quest!
Practicing pieces by classical composers is similar to reading great classical books: you’re improving your vocabulary, you learn correct spelling in an enjoyable way, you discover many new ‘advanced’ word combinations and phrases, you widen your horizons and you simply become wiser .
When you sight-read and play modern jazz/pop/rock pieces, you’re in fact adapting your ‘academic’ knowledge to the realities of the present time! After all, I’m sure you don’t want to improvise in polyphonic form! Certainly, your future improvisation will have a modern character, being similar to blues/jazz/pop pieces . So why not learn the needed modern language directly from modern pieces? That’s what I do, by the way!
One more thing: learning never stops. Our entire life is one never-ending learning experience. Even when we’ll be 80 years old, we’ll continue to learn and discover new things.
There is a quote by Mahatma Gandhi that I simply adore:
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
In piano practice terms, it means that you should NEVER stop exploring, practicing and mastering the masterpieces of the pianistic repertoire! The more you practice, the more you read, the more you discover – the better you’ll be able to improvise! It’s guaranteed!
Think of your piano practice as an expedition of exploration: no matter how much you explore – there are still so many new things to discover! It’s a journey, a process, a lifestyle!
2. Express your own thoughts by using the language that you’re (constantly) learning. Allow your imagination to dominate your rational mind! You already know the letters and the words, you have mastered so many word combinations and technical patterns! Now it’s time (even if it’s only for 20 minutes a day) to ‘switch off’ your logic and allow your creativity to manifest. Don’t think – feel! Don’t try to explain – let the words flow!
However, this is not all.
If you want to learn HOW to begin your ‘improvising quest’ (and find out what exactly you can do to ‘awaken your creativity’) – join my Piano Coaching Program at PianoCareerAcademy.com! On the Private Members Forum you’ll have access to the entire article (including the remaining ‘improvising’ tips) – and you’ll also find many other exclusive video and written piano playing tutorials.