How I'm Using Improv Ideas at

As you may recall, now has a companion blog called

piano guy color 1_cut out_p

The reason? I, along with my colleague, Bradley Sowash, desired more room to expand ideas for all things creative. On the agenda for this new blog? Improvisation tips and promoting the use of these ideas every week  of 2013, in your teaching and even in your own practice time.

Thought I'd let you know how it's going since I implemented this 2013 resolution.

Week #1: One Note Improv Observations (Click One Note Improv  for instructions)

* Wow, don't think I'll forget this new vamp of C, C7/E, F and G anytime soon. I always began the lesson just playing that over and over and gave students instructions on what to do over my vamping so they began feeling the groove immediately.

* Most students inquired "what?" I only get one note in the right hand? However, what they realized is that they could be incredibly creative rhythmically, like a drummer. I encouraged them to avoid playing on beat one, which was a challenge.

* After vamping some while they improvised, I stopped and showed them the incredibly nifty app iReal b on my iPad and they again played one note above the virtual "band".  By the way, I hook up my iPad to my Clavinova which provides ample speakers. (Click here to learn how). For use of the iPad at home (once the app is purchased), I recommended students placing an ear bud in one ear so they can hear and play "over" the band to keep the beat.

* It was clear, they were wondering where this was all going as one note was quite restricting. Next, I asked them to learn an abridged version of the harmony part for the LH. Most just played C, E, F and G in half notes. Some were shown the "Advanced" version that you'll see Bradley's student playing in the Pentatonic Improv blog.

* Pianists were asked to play the LH along with the iReal b background and again found it quite easy. However, once they were asked to play the LH along with the single note in the RH, oh my, things got tricky. Many adjusted to it and were off on their own creative path again. Others struggled and so I encouraged them to play half notes in the RH to match the half notes in the LH. Eventually, they moved to quarter notes, etc.

* Every student, beginner to advanced, young to the very oldest (88 years old) created with the single note improv.

Week #2: Pentatonic Improvisation (Click Pentatonic Improv for instructions)

* You can only imagine how happy they all were this past week, when students were "allowed" to play FIVE notes! I explained that these were a nickel's worth of notes but worth their weight in gold. In keeping with my philosophy that everything should be introduced first by ear, I played the 5 notes (beginning on C) and they IMG_0289were asked to match them, without looking at my hands. Upon discovery, we then assigned them scale degree

* Faces were beaming when students discovered how good they could sound using those 5 notes. ANY one of them worked above my vamping and the iReal b band. They were asked to play the same LH patterns as the week before and again, this was trickier but they enjoyed the challenge and integrated many of their discovered rhythmical riffs of last week in their nickels worth of notes.

Was this helpful? Have you used any of these tips? How do you use iReal b?

Are you and your students enjoying the magic of the pentatonic scale?

My best advice: JUST DO IT!