Beginning Improvisation On The Piano/Keyboard Part I

I wanted to offer some tips that may help other piano players get some basics techniques down on starting with I-IV-V and I-VI-II-V-I chord progressions. The approach will be mainly concentrating on pop/rock, blues and country. The basis will be on the white notes of the keyboard, C-D-E-F-G-A-B, and only the black keys that are related to the chord progressions listed. Some of you here are advanced and this tutorial is basically for beginners or players that want to look at the keyboard an optional way.

I taught in a music store for eight years and helped my students with this approach and the ones that worked on it got results successfully.

If you are in a rock/country band and wondering on what to do when it's your spotlight to shine on that burnin' solo but not sure what direction to take, I will offer some ideas.

If you are playing with guitar players, you will need to play well in their keys, G-D-A-E and B. For piano players who like to play in C-Bb-F, it can be a challenge to solo in the sharp keys. One reason is that doing slides and grace notes in C-F-G on the keyboard is easy because you are pressing the keys down, but in the sharp keys that doesn't work the same way. Modifications have to be made.

So starting with I-IV-V, D-G-A triads diatonic, we'll begin a way to develop an improvised solo. Each chord has 3 chord tones, a root position and 2 inversions. So each chord has 9 possibility starting notes depending on what chord inversion you are starting on. Country and blues solos emphasize thirds and minor thirds. The notes in the D triad in root position are D-F#-A, D-F# a major third, F#-A, a minor third. First inversion D notes are; F#-A-D. F# -A, minor third, A-D, a perfect fourth. Second inversion D notes are; A-D-F#, A-D a perfect fourth, D-F#, a major third. So just these 3 notes in a chord, plus the intervallic position starts to offer unlimited possibilities to build a solo. Then you have the other 2 chords with their notes and inversions. Plus again, each chord has 9 possibilities on a starting point.

Now, the application. You can build a nice basic solo using just the chord tones in the I-IV-V progression by arranging their position. First you need to hear the chord tones in your mind so you can predict the sound. Then as you play each note in the chord progression, you want to start singing internally each interval from one to the other. Starting by playing half notes and quarter notes in 4/4 time, 4 beats per bar, playing each I-IV-V chord in the left hand and playing the chord tones in the right. Then practice with a metronome or if your keyboard has drums, play to the click in different tempos.

As you work on I-IV-V in different keys and jamming on the chord tones with different intervals and rhythms, things will start happening. But you need to hear and internally sing what you are playing before you play rather than just hit random notes and hope they come out sounding good.

This is part one to this tutorial. Part 2 of the improvisation tutorial will focus on the pentatonic 5 note diatonic scale, the b7, octaves, chromatic scale, cool licks, runs,blues scale and transcribing solos from other players.

See what you come up with. This is what helped me learn how to improvise in rock/blues cover bands. Hopefully you will gain something by applying these principals and learning new paths towards improvisation. More later

Katt



Edited by nitekatt2008z (07/23/09 12:34 PM)