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Improvisation: Freedom vs. Limitations

When you open a lesson, you might find instructions like this:

Improvise only with quarter notes, improvise only with eighth notes…

I added these limitations, so you can learn to have full control over your improvisation.
I want you to be able to give out a signal to your fingers, telling them “now play this” and your fingers will move to the right place at the right time.

“It’s easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself.”
(Johann Sebastian Bach)

Once you are able to do that, forget everything for a while and let yourself to discover the piano. Let yourself to make mistakes.

“If you aren’t making a mistake, it’s a mistake.”
(Miles Davis)

When you play a ‘wrong note’, don’t panic just continue playing. Have fun. Don’t be critical, but be conscious of what is happening.  Sometimes it is very important to stop and make a little observation:

  • Ok, this note sounded really strange. Hmm, maybe I should avoid it the next time.

  • Ok, this note sounded strange for the first time, but actually I start to like it now.

“You might not feel like playing pretty all the time. Instead, you might want to play something nasty….you might want to play something out of context with the tune. It might be a note that creates so much tension it becomes unpleasant, but you want it to sound that way.”
(George Benson)


Try to find your own sound. This is the most important, this is why you are here. Playing the right notes is not enough.

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