Learn to improvise. 2004-2005. Lesson 01: simplify.

This course will be a continuation of the one of 2003/2004. I am not able to improve the explanation I have done there of tones, chords, etc. So look there if something of the basics is not clear (especially the lessons 01, 02 and 03 of course 2003/2004).

George Shearing, entering the USA and saying he could play in the style of all the great jazz pianists there, got as an answer: "Those we have already; can you also play yourself?" A piece of art has to be 'remarkable'. Copyright protects 'the personal stamp of the maker'. Though improvisation may be anything between fiddle with sheet reading and composing, the peculiarity is the personality. An artist knows what I mean. The 'Turk's March' of Mozart is more Mozart than Turk.

Is it possible to learn something in a course then? Because everything you learn is not of your own and damages the originality. Consider, however, findings need a framework to be understandable. The artist determines the balance between predictability and surprise. The clichés forming the background can be learned. Without a reference play sounds as chaos. Besides an improviser may learn tricks to make up for his lack of geniality.

TIP 1: SIMPLIFY. The point is to have a balance in the musical aspects: not only in harmony, melody and rhythm, but also in listening (to tone, acoustics, the course of the song and of every sound, the volume, the sounds of the background), the reaction of the environment, a hidden message, drive, melancholy, freshness, adjustment to other players, etc, etc. As a child I once played in an environment of the Appassionata van Beethoven 'Keep your seats please' and was surprised a lady asked me to continue playing. Apparently the honesty with which I enjoyed my own playing had caused a balance in the essential musical aspects.

TIP 1a: Restrict to one initial key (the first years). You have to know the effect of every note in that key, but also of every note of each temporary key you pass from that initial key. So you have to know the effect of 12 notes of the initial key, plus the notes of say 7 temporary keys. That makes a total of about 100 note effects (during C note eb is jazzy, note ab dramatic, during D7 note b is sad, etc). For improvisation these effect have to be known beforehand as you don't have time, like with composing, to try the notes out. Moreover, these effects depend on the melody. (For me this was the reason to buy a transposable digital piano).

TIP 1b: Restrict the chords to major, minor, seventh and diminished (like in an accordion).

TIP 1c: Restrict these chords to one position (which is easy to grab and to change).

TIP 2: Remove sheet music from the piano. It deviates listening to looking. Create by ear. Search for support what to do in your inside, not in something outside yourself.

TIP 3: Play the chords in the left hand and invent a melody in the right one.

TIP 4: Use a chord scheme (however simple it may be). A melody gives easier the impression to be music then. Even a single note may sound like music then.

TIP 5: 'Sell' your music by means of atmosphere you get from touch, changing of tempo, playing listening, etc. Avoid advisers who try to make you disbelievers of these tips.
EXAMPLES, not to copy, but to show how the tips are meant.
By simplifying on the one side you get space on the other (to invent a melody fast enough to let it be music in stead of exercise).

The chords in the left hand are restricted to the following position:
C = g c e, G7 = g b d f, F = a c f, D7 = a c d f#
  1. chord scheme C G7 C G7 C G7 etc. Mozart style; time 1:30
  2. chord scheme C en G7 Mozart style; 1:18
  3. chord scheme C en G7 Jazzy; time 2:23
  4. chord scheme C en G7 Waltz; time 2:36
  5. chord scheme C en G7 Caribbean style; time 2:14
  6. chord scheme C G7 F Mozart style; time 3:20
  7. chord scheme C G7 F Jazzy; 3:43
  8. chord scheme C G7 F Waltz; time 2:15
  9. chord scheme C G7 F D7; time 1:31
Play according to the analogy of the examples. See to it the music keeps on flowing.
HOMEWORK: Repeat this month thoroughly lessons 01 through 04 of course 2003/2004.
Play melodies with the accompaniment of the chords C, G7 and possibly F. Don't exercise. Make music. Simplify everything until you can play without faltering. It is necessary however you know the chords in the left hand so well (in one position that is) you don't have to think about it.
(C=g c e G7=g b d f), preferably also broken:
(C=g e c e g e c e ... G7=g f d f g f d f ...). It is easier to make a melody if also chord F is known:
(F=a c f), broken (a f c f a f c f ...). The chord scheme may be made instinctive, but if you don't have any idea of yourself you may start with just changing every one chord per measure: (C G7 C G7 C G7...) like in example 1.
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