An aspect of piano improvisation I have tons of fun with is experimenting with piano fills and runs.
Firstly, let's consider why we use them, okay? So, why do we?
In considering the answer to this, I want you reemphasize a point that I make often... improvisation is much like speaking... you want to express what is in you.
With that in mind, let me ask you this... whenever you have had the opportunity to listen to a good speaker - one who heldt your interest - what was it about him or her that grabbed and kept your attention?
Chances are pretty good that one quality this person possessed was the ability to make a point, pause, take a breath... in other words, he or she knew how to pace the program. You likely noticed that the person made eye contact and, while doing so, didn't speak. This, in it's own right, commanded attention.
In addition, the person very likely had an ability to keep your attention by using some comic relief, so as to balance his or her act so that you wouldn't be bored. Diverting your attention to something off the beaten path probably kept you from snoring to the end of the speech. True or true? Yep...
It's the same way with music. The "beaten path" could be thought of as the melody of a song that you are so used to hearing because of your familiarity with the piece. The "comic relief" or "eye contact" could be kind of equated to the piano improvisation fills that you use during your performance.
There is such a thing as "talking (or playing) too much" - to the point where your embellishments outperform the main point...
Reflecting back, for just a moment, on that speaker who won you over... did he or she say extra words just for the sake of filling gaps in the performance (speech)? Probably not... on the contrary, pauses (space) was put to good use by making room for the eye contact. Okay, are you getting the idea?
In other words, diversion was used as a compliment. Here it is in a nutshell: don't play to just play. Let everything have its purpose. Does this mean you have to over think everything you are about to play before you do? Of course not. The improvisation process, like the speaking process, comes more and more naturally over time.
Hey, it's kind of like when you learned to tell a joke for the first time. It felt new, different, even a little awkward, perhaps, but you did it. The next time was easier, right?
Remember, too, that you don't need to know a lot to sound good - it's how you use what you know. An effective speaker, as you probably already know, doesn't necessarily have a huge vocabulary, but it's how that vocabulary is presented that counts.
In other words, appreciate where you're at and what you know and learn to use it wisely. Don't be like the little kid who tries to step into his father's shoes, wishing he could fill them - he looks just fine in his own little Stride Rites (if only he knew it).
On the flip side of the coin, we probably all have experienced listening to someone use an extraordinary vocabulary who didn't impress us favorably. In your playing, you don't want to be like that "talker" who flaunts a lot of big fancy words just to show what he or she knows. We all know the result, right? Borrrrrrrrredommmm, right?
Together, we're going to explore this avenue in depth. Yes, you're going to get really, really good at using diversion as a compliment. We're going to have a ball with piano improvisation. We're going to explore how to create one piano fill after another, as well as piano runs, so stay tuned...
Be sure to sign up for the lessons below, because the Free Easy Piano Lessons library is growing and growing. Save that page and refresh it often. We're going to have a party with piano fills, an important part of this amazing journey of piano improvisation!
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