Let's apply a simple piano improvisational technique to a melody of a song that you are familiar with. It's your pick - what's your song?
Okay, look for a point in that melody where there is a "resting point." By this, I mean a place in the melody where activity comes to a halt - it could be the end of a phrase (two bar phrase, four bar phrase, etc) where the melody lands on a whole note (or a dotted half, followed by a rest), or even a whole rest... in short, a place you have three or four beats pause.
So, is a few seconds enough time to "break out the paints" and start decorating? You bet it is... ask any youngster!
Okay, as you go to your piano or keyboard, notice what chord is being played at this point.
The next step is to play the melody note (if there is one) first and follow it with other chord tones, using eighth notes. In other words, if your phrase ends on a "B" whole note, play the "B" as the first eighth note and follow up with more eighth notes using the other chord tones.
So, if your chord was Cmaj7, then you have these notes available to use: C E G B
Play different combinations of those notes in eight notes (B-C-B-E-G, B-B-G-B-G, etc)
How many eighth notes? That depends on how much activity you want in that three or four beats of improvisation...
If you use four eighth notes, then that's two beats of "fill." It's okay to not fill every beat with eighths. You'll see, in one of my video examples, I use four eighths followed by a quarter note, allowing for the melody to continue on beat 4. In the other example, I follow four eighths with a half note, since the melody allows for that.
Try different combinations - you're only limited by the time frame you have to play your improvisation within... and your imagination.
Following is the staff notation for what I'm playing in the two examples in the video above:
The purpose of my personal examples is served well if you make it a point to take this technique several steps beyond them.
Please keep this in mind:
The more you experiment on your own, the more freedom you will ultimately experience.
Enjoy making this piano improvisation strategy yours as you gain more and more confidence at those keys!
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