10 Ways To Improve Your Piano Improv Skills

MusicImprovising on the piano can be an immensely rewarding activity. While it’s true that we need to ‘let go’ and ‘be in the moment’, there are specific ways in which we can prepare ourselves to be in top form, just like athletes do. These piano improv practice tips can go a long way towards helping you improvise at the top of your game. Enjoy!

1. Sing along with your improvised lines. You’ll express your individuality more if you try this, at least while practicing.

2. Learn transcriptions of your favorite solos. Better yet, transcribe them yourself. You may want to sing them first, until they’re memorized. Then gradually write them down. This will help you internalize them better, so they’ll influence your own playing on a deeper level.

3. Improvise solos with your left hand alone. In addition to developing your left hand’s technique, this will focus your ear on really ‘hearing’ the notes, since you won’t be able to rely on the patterns that your right hand can play automatically.

4. Pick an energetic groove (rock, jazz, calypso, lively classical) and improvise a REALLY SIMPLE solo. Have fun with the rhythms. You’ll be in more control of everything, including the shape of the lines.

5. Play very slowly and try to really ‘hear’ every note with your inner ear before you play it. This is especially important when working with challenging chord progressions.

6. Work on some of your favorite music. Sometimes we’re so busy practicing what we ‘think’ we should do, that we lose sight of the music we enjoy the most. You’ll tend to stick with it longer, too!

7. Choose a short melodic phrase, chord voicing, or progression, and try playing it in all 12 keys. You’ll experience the musical content differently as you explore the different shapes on the piano.

8. Play with other musicians. You’ll mutually inspire and learn from each other.

9. Practice a wide variety of music. If you like rock, for instance, play some jazz, folk, or classical-style improvisations. The change of pace will be fun and you’ll learn some new things to apply to your usual style.

10. Go slowly and enjoy every moment (even the challenges!). LOVE what you’re doing. This is how you improve at an exponential rate.

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