Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Getting Started with Jazz Improvisation on Piano

Upon their first lesson in jazz improvisation, most students are mystified. Then the creative juices kick in. Making the music their own gives the student  an ego boost and inspiration to learn more. This is true of any style of piano music for sure. 

 photo jazz_zps106d2537.jpgBefore I begin teaching improvisation, I assess the new student’s skill level and understanding of chord theory. It is critical that chord theory be integrated into making jazz music right from the beginning. Lessons depend on chord theory. The vast majority of Jazz music is presented with chords in just the treble clef. Listen to the following lesson I teach on improvisation. There is no student present, so I am demonstrating the structure:

Unlike most studies, doing Jazz homework should be an enjoyable exercise. Students simply need to spend time listening to the icons of Jazz piano improvisation. It is so important to have reference points for these players. I provide my students with the names of some of the top Jazz piano players by name, photo and album cover on my website.  Students generally like playing four handed improvisations. I can fill out the low end and give them a tempo. Remember: keeping tempo is important. If a student is out of tempo consistently, I will encourage them to get a metronome. I demonstrate the use of the metronome in the lesson. I provide a bed which is a launch pad for them to experiment with melodies. 

To keep this process fresh, I present the student with two more sets of chords in the key of F and C major scales. Proper fingering and sight reading charts come next. All three elements are then combined so the fun of playing jazz is never lost in exercises.

Rob Wallace is a Grammy-nominated recording artist, entertainer and jazz piano teacher. Learn more about Rob on his website Play Jazz Piano and book a free-trial lesson with Rob on The ZOEN.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Add your comments