Piano Improv Essentials: Be Free To Play Without Sheet Music - In a Band, Worship or as a Soloist! | Rob Pember | Skillshare

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Piano Improv Essentials: Be Free To Play Without Sheet Music - In a Band, Worship or as a Soloist!

teacher avatar Rob Pember, Multi-Instrumentalist and Music Educator

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Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (25m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Session 1 - Beginning Improvisation

    • 3. Session2 - Repeating Motifs

    • 4. Session 3 - The Left Hand

    • 5. Session 4 - Dynamics Part 1

    • 6. Session 5 - Dynamics Part 2 (Example)

    • 7. Session 6 - The Importance Of Listening

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About This Class

Building on my "Piano Made Simple" course, Piano Improv Essentials is designed to give you tools and ideas so you can improvise on piano - being free to play without having to rely on sheet music.

I have many years experience playing in bands (including church worship bands) where it's more about knowing the key of the song, the chords and "playing by ear". Although I previously relied on reading music, by using a combination of music theory and listening, I've learnt how to adapt and thrive in such situations. Learning how to improvise also opens creative doors of songwriting and composition.

This course covers:

- How identifying the key of the song narrows down note choice

- The concept of "Question and Answer" to develop melodic phrases

- Using the root or 5th note of the key to strengthen a melody and make it sound more sophisticated

- Use of repeating motifs to build drama as the chords change

- The left hand approach I often use when improvising

- Dynamics including how to mimic a band when playing solo

- The importance of listening, especially when playing with other musicians

Whether you are a beginner or experienced, you should be able to take away something to apply to you own playing.

Meet Your Teacher

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Rob Pember

Multi-Instrumentalist and Music Educator


Hi, my name's Rob and I'm a multi-instrumentalist, music enthusiast and educator.

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1. Introduction: Hi, My name's Rob. I'm welcome to Piano Improv Ascent. This course is designed to give you the tools and ideas so you can improvise on the piano, being free to play without having to rely on she. I have many years experience playing in bands, including church worship bands, where it's more about knowing the key of the song chords playing by, although in previously relied on reading music by using a combination of music theory and listening, I've learned how to adapt and thrive in such situations. Learning how to improvise also opens up creative doors of songwriting and composition. This course covers topics such as how to narrow down no choice, the concept of question and answer to develop melodic phrases using the route or fifth note of the key to strengthen the melody and make some more sophisticated dynamics, including how to mimic a band when playing solo. On the importance of listening, which is especially important when playing off the musicians. Whether you are a beginner or experienced, you should be able to take away something to applied your own place. Thank you for watching, and I do hope that will sign up 2. Session 1 - Beginning Improvisation: when improvising. The first thing to know is what key were in as this will determine what notes we can safely play on what notes we should avoid. For instance, if we're in the key of G, there's just one shop F shop and therefore just one black note. And if I play the G major scale, it's G Hey Bay, See de okay f shelled back to G. Therefore, even if I don't know what courts the band playing, if I know that we're in the key of G, I can play around. The scale on the notes weren't sound completely out of place. It's actually it's a safety net. It work necessary. Sandler Most melodic improvisation. But at least I can get by. So let's say for it, since the cords of G, d. E Minor C and I just play around the G major scale, it might sound something like this. The next step is to develop melody, which gives your listeners something to latch onto. One way of going about this is using the idea of question and answer where you play a phrase that sounds like a question, and then the next phrase tries to answer that first phrase, for instance, I could play as a question, and then the next phrase is answering the 1st 1 So the first phrase it goes up almost like a question, and then the next phrase comes down. I'm resolves it. If I pay using the courts of G D Minor, See, like before, it might sound something like this on the last phrase. The second answer. I actually make it slightly different than the first, but I made it go down. So the phrase the question phrases are going up almost like when we ask a question, our voices go up in pitch, and then the answer phrases they come down, which gives a sense of resolution. A major advantage of keyboard instruments is being able to play multiple notes. So one of the things I like to do is add in either the root note or the fifth note to the key. Underneath the melody line I'm playing, which helps to make it sounds stronger and more sophisticated, the root and the fifth in the key work well, because they work with any of the courts, so they're not going to clash in the key of G, The ruminant is G on. The fifth note is dig so fun playing the G major scale. The written G's one a Z T is free Sears for years five. So that's how we work it out. And in fact, in the resource is section. There's a chart off the notes and chords in each key, and you'll see that there's a column for the fifth month in HK, so that will help to identify which now you need to play. If I play the melody from before the question and answer amenity and then add in over a Jeanniot or a denote underneath, you'll see how it makes the melody sounds stronger. So our first play without say and then adding the night something. Hopefully, you heard the difference. And to give you another example, I'll play Amazing Grace using the same method. And this time I'll just be playing at denote on my thumb that their fifth meant underneath the whole time, and you'll see that my hand doesn't really have to move much. My my fingers have the dexterity to be able. Teoh play the melody line Lost My thumb just covers the extra nose in terms of incorporating melodies into your improvisations. I'd highly recommend starting by taking melodies that you already know how to play on the piano building on them. So play the melody with your fingers and use your thumb to play either the root note or the fifth underneath to give it that stronger, more sophisticated sound. And also just take parts of it may be repeated phrase. Or try and use the idea of question and answer to come up with your own ideas. What you're trying to do is take the theme the ideas off the Merete on and do something different with, um, also, people have the idea that improvisation is completely made up on the spot and not practiced . But that isn't the reality. Like practice. I practice playing around with, like ideas Andi scales and hearing manatees and playing them on developing my ability to play by ear. And in the moment I may face something different to what I've practiced. But I'm using ideas and tools that I've already got my disposal 3. Session2 - Repeating Motifs: repeating motifs or a great technique with improvisation, and they allow you to play a small part on let the cords change the color and the sound of the music. So if I just play a very simple motif, are going Teoh play the fifth with my film were in the key of G, and I'm just going to play a descending run of Sikh B A with my fingers. So and then, if I adding chords so I'm gonna play G d E minor. See, you'll hear. How is the chord change? Even though what I'm playing in my right hand is the same, it has a different feel, a different color. It's quite good to play root fifth and octave. So if I play J d octave t and then do the same, I'm gonna play the rightness. Just keep playing that game, play same chords again, and I could play up on. The reason why this works is because the roots and the fifth they don't clash with any of the courts. So it's a very simple way, very easy way of creating something that's quite dramatic without making it overly complicated. 4. Session 3 - The Left Hand: in your session. I'm going to focus on the left hand. And usually when I'm improvising, what I'll do is I'll play Bass notes that imply the cords that are being played. So I'm not playing the full courts necessarily, but rather the route notes and sometimes the fifth of the chord. So if the core progression is G D. U minus c, well, I usually play eyes arxiv g with a d in it. They don't play octaves a day with a because A is the 5th 3 minor artists of A with B. Yes, that is to fix. And then first the C chord or play like to see with a G in the middle because that is the fifth. And the advantage of playing three notes is that I can either play them together like this . I could break them up. Then, if I had the right hand, I could actually play each of the notes from the bottom note to the top, but from my left hand to my right hand. So that kind of working together, okay, and by doing this kind of thing, it's actually creating more rhythmic interest. It's making sound more complex than it really is, and it makes it more interesting for the listener. I could, of course, play full chords with my left hand in step, and this is especially in the case. If you've got a bass player who's covering the base notes, I don't need to play those low notes. I can play for over up so I could play G The mourner see here, and that would free up my right hand to play a single note or even multiple note melody line. I could be more dexterous, liken, move around more rather than holding down over the brutal fifth it with my thumb as I've shown you previously. So if I was playing chords in my left hand, I could do something like this. The challenge with this approach is learning lots of courts and getting them under your fingers, and I totally recommend doing it. It does take a long time, but if you could learn them in both hands and then different inversions of cords because there are different places to play the courts on the keyboard that will open up lots of possibilities 5. Session 4 - Dynamics Part 1: in this session, we're going to look at the subject of dynamics, and this is how we add expression and light and shapes of the music so it doesn't just stay on one level time. The first thing playing a keyboard instrument is being aware of how hard you were playing the kings because the lights you play, the quieter they should be. And then as you play harder, the notes are louder but also more intense. Onda tend to be brighter, so if I just play middle C on play really softly. The note is nice and soft, and it is quite hard to write. Press it, but rather it becomes on. Also, it becomes more intense than the changes in the sound. The next thing on a digital keyboard or piano is being aware of the volume control, and I highly recommend that you don't use maximum value. If you set the instrument, it's roughly 75%. That then gives you the flexibility for going a bit louder if you need to, and also you can always reduce it. So why I tend to do is if the band is building to a point where I need that extra bit wrong . You, I can put the volume up, but also, if I'm playing ready softly, I may find that I need to increase the volume to compensate for that. And there may be other times were in plain quite intensely on. Don't want Teoh stick out too much in the mix and therefore reduce the volume. So it's just being aware of it, not relying on the sound engineer to be controlling your volume level. The next thing is to try and keep out of the way of vocals. So in a lot of songs, the vocal line will be somewhere between middle C on the D above the sea, an octave above. So you kind of don't want to really play too loudly and busily in this region of the keyboard. This way you're allowing the vocals to take the priority, and you're in a supportive role. It isn't a case of avoiding this regional together, but just being sensitive not to play something that is going to conflict and get in the way of the vocals and going back to earlier when we talked about question and answer, if their space between the lines of the vocal it may be that you could do a question, aren't so where they sing, and then you play a response. But this really depend on the song, whether it's appropriate if I want to build the song. What I tend to do is go outwards, so we'll play lower octaves in my left hand for the base, and I may go up in my right hand and this is ready to help build. So I'm cutting free that the sand is cutting Froome or by playing higher up. But also I'm getting those thunderous low notes again. If you got a bass guitarist in your band, then you probably don't want to play too low on the piano. But you want to be able to give them space so that the bass notes that they're playing have the space to come free. But there may be times if if the band is really going for it, that it's worth adding in those bass notes. But again, it comes down to two sensitivity and listening Andi playing something that fits and that's sympathetic. What we absolutely don't want to do is play all the time and get in the way of what other people are playing. So if you have a guitarist playing a guitar instrumental, then try and plague play simple stuff that's going to support what they're playing, and other times you may be playing the part that's most prominent on the guitarist is in a support role to achieve a delicate sound. I tend to play high on the keyboard but also play the notes very softly. Something like this, and the important thing is to play notes softly, because if I was to play the notes heart, then it wouldn't have that delicate field. This may be suitable for when you want to really cut through the mix when the band is going for it. But if you're aiming for that delicate sound and playing in the background than the first approach of plain and that's softly is farm or appropriate 6. Session 5 - Dynamics Part 2 (Example): - So in this example, I started off by playing quite quietly, allowing space for vocals or another instrument. And then as the sun began to build a building to say, a chorus or bridge, I started to play repeating notes, particularly in my left hand, so that this would follow what a drummer would be doing. Pass through the snap on the floor, Tom to really build up the intensity and the volume. And then later on, I'm as the song meant quiet and more delicate. I played higher up and then came back down again, um, and built it up. So what we're looking at is the idea of verses and choruses, a bridge, maybe a quiet section on building back up to the end. If you listen to a lot of contemporary music, listen to bands. You're here. This happened with the dynamics on. I really suggest listening to drummers and watching videos of what they do. So you mimic the ideas on the piano because if you are the only instrument, then effectively you are the band. So you can replicate some of the ideas and the feel that a band would create by changes in dynamics 7. Session 6 - The Importance Of Listening: in this session, I'm going to talk about the importance of listening, especially when we're playing with others. Listening to what is going on is absolutely critical. Our rollers, musicians is add something meaningful to the music and music is a language. So if we just play constantly, it's like someone speaking without leaving space and without listening to others, as I've previously mentioned, knowing what key or in will help to narrow down the notes available to you and trying to pick out the melody as this will help to strengthen the song and complement the soul. If there's an instrumental that leads into the bridge of a sold try, picking out the melody from the bridge as this helps to lead into where the music is going next, field and groove is incredibly important. So listen to drummers, listen to bassists, try and play something that is in line with the rhythm off the music. Also, leaving space is so incredibly important because there are times when we play a support role. So there's another instrumentalist or a singer and they are taking the limelight on. Our role is to just back them up and there will be other times. Where for it, say, for instance, a guitarist is playing River on That gives us the opportunity to play something melodic. Also, stay out to the bassists way. I've seen this a lot with people. Players were used to playing on our own, and so we're used to playing the low notes on playing in a band environment. It's again allowing space. And so if we try and avoid the ready low notes than that gives room for the base to breathe on. Also, it frees up our left hand because actually, we don't need to play those basements. We can play chords and lifetimes, for instance. In some ways it gives us more freedom than when we're playing on our own. But it is a case of listening to what is going on.