Black Cat Strut: A Cool Improvisation for All Ages
Improvising can be a little scary
It’s even scarier when both hands are required!
Here’s an accessible improvisation that offers tasks for both hands. While the left hand stays pretty simple it still sounds black-cat cool. With the suggested tips, the right hand will get the opportunity to strut its stuff.
By the way, inspiration for this pattern occurred when Bradley Sowash casually mentioned the opening two chords during an online group improv lesson. Check out his line up of courses here.
Yeah, but improvising doesn't always sound so good.
Black Cat Strut is guaranteed to sound pleasing to anyone at any level because both hands play something appealing and it's in minor!
You (try it yourself!) and your students will have even more opportunity to sound like a pro as I've created a chart in iReal Pro that provides an instant backup band. It's included in the free download. (To download the chart you need to tap on the link on the device that has iReal Pro installed. Let me know if you have any trouble.)
This looks too hard for beginners.
Black Cat Strut is suited for anyone at any level because both hands play separately--at least at the first level. In fact, there's no need to play hands together at all and that's the beauty of this jumpstart.
When introducing the pattern, divide and conquer each part by playing one hand yourself, while your student plays the other.
Better yet, divide and conquer in a group lesson. Ask one or more to play the left hand part and assign others to create right hand patterns. You'll have all kinds of cool cats improvising together!
Check out this video that shows snippets of improvisers of all levels and ages strutting their chops.
How do you teach this?
All of my students learned the pattern by ear. I provided no visuals for them and repeatedly modeled snippets for them to echo.
I gave them step by step instructions, adding more ideas as they became more confident with the patterns.
If you notice in the video, fingering is a personal choice for the sake of building a safety net for young improvisers. If given too many things to think about, students might give up.
The beauty of this simple yet sophisticated jumpstart is that you can continue to build on it for those who are comfortable with improvising.
The instruction steps are included in the free download below. I highly recommend teaching the patterns by ear and/or by rote as much as possible. That way this will become a memorized, back-pocket pattern that players can enjoy for a lifetime.
What does the free PDF download include?
A colorful, black kitty-cat visual of the keys required for the right hand.
The pattern broken down into three skill levels with sequential steps on how to teach them.
Grand staff notation of all parts.
At any level, this exercise is guaranteed to sound purrfect!