Welcome to the KeyboardImprov Q&A

Instead than putting up a bunch of generic questions like many websites do, I thought it would be more interesting (and helpful for you) to post some of the real questions I get asked,along with my actual answers. Some of these are about studying with me either via KeyboardImprov or Skype, and some are specific questions about learning piano improv.

I grew up playing classical music and now want to play rock and pop songs. I know some chords can’t seem to be able to apply them to songs. Can you help me?

Yes, definitely! I’d suggest that you start with my Flowing Water course. It starts out extremely easy and you’ll become comfortable improvising in a just a few days. At that point, you can continue with the Flowing Water lessons while you also go through my Chords, Chords, Chords! series to get all the basic chords under your fingers. This will give you enough fluency so you can start my Rock and Blues Basics and Classic Songs lessons when you’re ready. I’m looking forward to helping you with this!

Is it OK to use a keyboard for your lessons? I don’t have an acoustic piano.

Yes, you can use either a piano or electronic keyboard to learn improvisation. You do want to make sure your keyboard can use a sustain pedal, though. Also, it’s best for the keyboard to have “touch sensitivity” so you can play loud and soft, and maybe “weighted action” so it feels more like an acoustic piano. But definitely a sustain pedal and the ability to play loudly and softly.

I’m studying with a local piano teacher but also want to sign up for your video course. Is this OK?

This can be a wonderful combination as long as you realize that there are different ways of looking at music. What kind of music are you playing with your local teacher? If it’s all classical and written music, there won’t be any conflict in also learning to improvise. If you’re also working on rock or jazz with the teacher, be sure to let me know if I present the material in any way that seems different than what you’re already learning. Teachers often say the same thing in different ways, or emphasize opposite sides of the same coin. I’ll try to clear it up in a way that gives you the “best of both worlds.”

If I sign up, can I cancel my membership at any time?

Yes, absolutely. There’s an “unsubscribe” button on the site, or you can simply email me and I’ll take care of it; no worries.

I’ve been playing jazz for years and know a lot of standards like “Autumn Leaves” and “Take The ‘A’ Train.” But I still can’t sit down, look at a leadsheet and just play the way I’d like to. At this point I’m pretty frustrated. Can you help me?

Your situation is actually pretty common and I see this all the time. You’re probably pretty musically talented and it’s not your fault. The problem is that jazz is usually taught in a way that’s overloaded with so much theory that you have to struggle every time you play a tune just to remember everything you think you “should” play. I would have you start with my Flowing Water lessons at the same time you work with my intermediate-level jazz lessons. This way you’ll enjoy a new ease of improvising which you’ll quickly be able to apply to the jazz chord progressions you already know. You can then alternate between the Intermediate Jazz and Jazz Ballads courses, depending on your particular interests. You may also enjoy my Art of Keith Jarrett lessons too!

How will I know when it’s time to move on to the next lesson in your course? Is it enough to learn what you show on the videos, or do I have to learn the sheet music as well?

The lessons in most of the videos take you very step-by-step and they have sheet music as written examples. Since the main goal is to be able to improvise fluently, it’s not always necessary to learn the written music perfectly, but to use it as a guide to help you assimilate the improv techniques on each video. Some of my students find that learning the written music note-for-note helps, while others just need it as a reminder of what’s on the video.

I’m always available to help you with this, too. If you want, you can email me audio files of your playing, or send me a link to an unlisted Youtube video of you playing the lesson of you’re not sure. I also make myself available for about 2 hours each week for quick 10-min check-ins via Skype for all of my video course students who are interested.

I just came across your website Keyboardimprov.com and am interested to know more about it. I have been playing keyboard piano for 7 years now. I play for bands and also do composing and a bit of arranging. However, I feel myself stuck when it comes to play advanced chords. I know all of scales and chords but not really playing the complicated ones. I want to improve my playing by reaching to the next level. Would your online course help me in achieving my goal?

Yes, I know exactly what you mean about being a little stuck at this place. There are a few steps to getting fluent at using advanced chord voicings. First, it’s good to simply learn a few of them and begin using them on some songs and while improvising. You’ll learn the theory behind them and also start developing muscle memory, so your hands instantly go to them without having to think too much. Then you can start creating them on the spot, according to the mood of the song and the sounds you hear with your inner ear. You’ll also be able to explore them with your composing and arranging. I would love to help you with this! It’s a pretty exciting time for any pianist, and yes, my video course has lots of lessons about this. I’d also enjoy helping you learn some of your favorite songs with more advanced chords, even if I don’t have lessons already created for them.

I accompany a high school chorus. I’m fine when the written accompaniments sound good, but want to improve on some of the pop stuff. Is there something in your course that teaches this?

Having played for choirs for years, I can relate to this! Yes, I’d love to help you learn to do this and I have a lot of lessons you can learn from. I’d start you with my Solo Piano and Accompaniment course and also recommend specific lessons for pop accompaniment in my Classic Rock, Pop, and Country Songs. There are also lessons for this in Rock and Blues Basics and Flowing Water. After you sign up, send me an audio of you playing a few of these arrangements if you like and I can help you with these pieces specifically. This is a very “do-able” goal for you and it gets a lot easier once you’ve learned a few songs this way!

Who can benefit from KeyboardImprov.com?

Anyone who has some piano/keyboard experience and wants to add an exciting dimension to their playing. I have lessons for beginners as well as players at the intermediate early/advanced levels. In addition, traditional piano teachers will find fun material with which they can enhance their teaching methods.

Do I need to be able to read music?

No, you do not have to be able to read music in order to learn improvisation. My videos feature overhead views of the keyboard so that the material can be learned visually, and by ear. However, even a rudimentary ability to read music will help the student to learn faster, and be able to more comprehensively understand the pdf files that accompany each video.

How long can I continue with KeyboardImprov.com?

This depends, of course, on your individual level of experience and the pace in which you learn. If you are a beginning improvisor, my current offering of lessons can take up to 3-5 years to completely learn and assimilate into your playing. When you also factor in the lessons that are added on a weekly basis, you can enjoy years of fun, creatively challenging instruction. The great thing is that I welcome suggestions for new areas of study. If you email me your requests, I’ll do my best to include your interests in future lessons.

Can students of all ages use KeyboardImprov.com?

Students from ages 5-95 and older can learn and enjoy the techniques I teach. Young children, however, will need an older person to help them understand and apply the given instructions.

I’m a classical musician who wants to learn improvisation, but I’m not interested in pop or jazz. Is there something for me on your website?

Yes, in addition to the Classical Piano Improv series, lessons such as “Fingerpainting” at the Piano, “Sketching” at the Piano, and Picasso Improv can be played entirely in a classical style. Also, the “Flowing Water” lessons will give you plenty to work with as well. In addition, I have a series of “Pachelbel’s Canon Improv” lessons as well as instruction in church organ improvisation. The great composers all improvised and so can you!

I have a question about the musical instruction given in a specific lesson. Can you help me?

Yes. Just email me your question and I will do our best to clarify it for you. Or you can submit your question on video or audio for a Weekly Personal Video Lesson. I’ll respond with a video lesson created just for you!

How do the Personal Video Lessons work?

This is one of the most exciting parts of KeyboardImprov.com! As often as once per week, you can send me a 5-8 minute video (or audio) of yourself and I will send you a personalized video response to you, giving you individual instruction, guidance, and practice suggestions. You can ask musical questions, show how you’re doing with the lessons, or just ask for overall guidance. Be sure to let me know which lessons or musical techniques you’ve been working on, and demonstrate them on your piano or keyboard.

Just post your video to Dropbox and email me the link. If you’d prefer to send an audio file instead, just attach it to an email and I will gladly give it a listen. You will receive your Personal Video Response within 1-2 days, depending on how many I receive at the same time. This is a great way for you to receive personal instruction and guidance to help you in your musical pursuits!

Does it matter if I practice on a piano or a keyboard?

The lessons can be practiced on either a piano or a keyboard. The main difference between the two instruments is in how the sound is produced. On a piano, the sound is produced acoustically with a hammer striking a string, whereas the sound on a keyboard is electronic. Some people prefer one or the other while many musicians enjoy playing them both.

How many lessons will keyboardimprov.com eventually contain?

I are currently adding 1-2 lessons weekly. My plan is to keep the site growing until it features over 500 lessons, from many musical genres and at all levels of instruction.

How do I cancel my paid membership?

Log in to your KeyboardImprov.com account and click the Unsubscribe button on the right side. Then follow the instructions provided.