An piano improvisation technique that many piano stylists, including jazz pianists, utilize is "pattern playing"... the number of patterns that you can learn and apply is unlimited. For starters I would like to use Exercise #1 from Hanon's The Virtuoso Pianist as our example here...
Utilizing the C Major scale, the exercise begins like this:
C E F G A
C is played with the thumb [or 1],
E played with the index finger [or 2] (notice, we skipped the D) ,
F with the middle finger [or 3],
G with the ring finger [or 4],
A with the pinkie finger [or 5]
From that point the pattern descends (same fingers for each note above)...
At this point the thumb [or 1] is conveniently ready to play D...
The sequence continues, using the same fingers above...
F (notice, we skipped the E)
At this point the thumb [or 1] is conveniently ready to play E...
The sequence continues...
An illustration of this Hanon exercise can be found here
There you will see it illustrated for both hands, starting in bass clef.
Written by Charles-Louis Hanon, these exercises were written for the purpose of training the pianist in speed, precision, agility, and strength of all of the fingers and wrist flexibilit; although Hanon wasn't likely to have jazz piano improvisation on his mind, these exercises serve us well for acquainting ourselves with patterns that can be used for the purpose of piano improvisation. For example, play exercise one with your right hand while playing a Cmaj6 chord with your left and listen to the result. Since the exercise consists of only notes in the C Major scale, we know this pattern works fine over a C Major chord. It works over others as well... but for now, we are simply introducing the concept of "pattern playing"...
I encourage you to go ahead and have fun playing Exercise #1 with your right hand over a left hand Cmaj, Cmaj6, Cmaj7, or Cmaj9 for now and listen to your results!
Until next time, remember...
PLAY WITH PASSION!
Dave Longo offers online personal coaching on the topic of piano improvisation, playing by ear, and much more. For details, simply visit here. He is also the creator of the very popular piano chord program ProProach.
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