For you today I have the notes I took from an incredible piano lesson with pianist Jean Michel Pilc. His improvisational techniques and ideas will truly help free your mind and allow you to play from the heart.
1) Don’t play the piano, play the music. Never think about playing the piano mechanically. Everything you play should be beautifully composed in your head first. Play as if you are listening from the other end of the room where you can’t see the piano keys. The audience doesn’t care what your hands look like, they just care what they hear.
2) Whenever you are playing, make sure you tell a story. Your improvisation should be a story from beginning to end, whether it’s solo piano or a solo with a group.
3) Remember, it stands out more if you add one interesting note to something simple than if you play something crazy fast or something that shows off your technique. That’s part of what made Monk’s playing so amazing.
4) Practicing Technique: Do Hannon exercises except try articulating each hand differently. For example, do the exercise legato in one hand and staccato in the other.
Exercises For Freeing Your Mind:
- Pick a song. Sing the melody. Sing it like Frank or Ella. Then play what you’re singing. Make sure you just think about what you’re singing first.
- Add a bass line. Be able to play the bass line while playing and singing the melody together. Then, be able to play and sing the bass line while playing the melody.
- Practice being able to play the bass line with both hands. It shouldn’t matter what hand you play anything with cause it’s all the same music.
- Keep singing the melody, then, add comping with your right hand. Don’t think of it as comping. Think of it as the horn part of a big band. You should be able to play the bass line with your left hand and play the chords with your right, and do it the other way around. Think of each part, the melody, the bass, and the comping as if it were arranged for a big band. Practice just singing the left hand comping while playing the bass line or the melody. Then, try to sing the bass line or melody while comping with your right hand.
- Now put it all together again. Sing the melody while walking bass and comping. Then, sing the melody while walking a bass line in your right hand and comping with your left.
- Try to sing your comping. Basically, you can try and play all the parts, and sing all the parts. Walk a bass and solo and sing the chords. Walk a bass and play chords and sing a solo. Walk a bass and play chords and sing the melody. Play chords and solo/play the melody and sing the bass!
These exercises are truly incredible, and extremely difficult. They’re also really fun. Give them a try!
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