How to Teach Your Students to Improvise

Bradley Sowash was recently interviewed by Andrea Dow of TeachPianoToday.comBelow is a repost of his blog at EyeEarRevolution.comthe-teach-piano-today-podcast-200x200 that features a link to the podcast. The dynamic interview is definitely worth your time as Bradley gives away his "trade secrets" and shows that yes, he is an expert improviser and an expert teacher of improvisation. Many of his answers include lists, mantras and tips you won't want to miss. One of his lists is featured in his latest blog post linked below.

Hearing Bradley talk and reading his posts at are helpful, but immersing yourself in his systematic teaching style is priceless--I should know as I've been his apprentice and business partner for the past year. In fact, there's still time to register for the 88 Creative Keys Camp in Ohio and Denver to learn more. Bradley and I would love to see you there!

Bradley's Post at


Inspiration and How To Tips


After hearing my presentations about improvisation at a couple of conferences, my friend and fellow piano teacher, Gilya, suggested I consider offering “less cheerleading and more content.”  Her wise comment helped me solidify advocacy into a two-pronged strategy for integrating improvisation into music lessons.

d7b39192fff3207c9937fdce14cf289aAs an advocate for musical creativity, half of my job is to encourage (okay, prod) the uninitiated to “dive in” by closing the music books now and then. The other half is offering teaching tips to those who have already taken the “off page” plunge. You’ll find plenty of both by digging deeper into this blog, my “That’s Jazz” books, and by attending my professional development events on this topic.  And now, thanks to Andrea and Trevor at Teach Piano Today, you have a new way to check out my ideas on this topic.



Grab some headphones and listen in for “hands-free” professional development while you drive or do dishes this Memorial Day weekend by clicking here.  Scroll to the bottom for the “play” button after reading Trevor’s delightful introduction.


Steps To Introducing A New Creative Concept


Lest I only “cheerlead” with this post (thanks again Gilya), here are some details on one of the points Andrea and I discuss in that podcast.  To get a student to try out a new improvisation idea, follow these steps.

  1. Be specific

Show your student how to play a level-appropriate left-hand accompaniment on a chord progression or ostinato bassline. If you need ideas, you can always use the bass clef part of a tune they have already learned. Next, ask your student to improvise a right-hand part within specifically limited parameters. For example, you could limit it to creatively using just one note, mixing up the melody, or playing around with the pentatonic scale.  Hold them to it. Initially, they mustn’t stray from the limitations.

  1. continue reading, click here.