Yesterday I got a surprising reminder of the nature of musical influence. I was sitting down at my piano to play live on Twitter via Meerkat, when I noticed that my book of Bach’s Preludes and Fugues was still on my piano. So even though I was going to play some jazz, I mentioned to the audience that I practiced Bach a lot and suggested they do the same. Then I began my first song, the jazz standard “All The Things You Are.”
I usually play this in a straight-ahead jazz style, but yesterday I started improvising melodic lines with my left hand, in counterpoint to the right hand melody. I was having so much fun playing the tune in this contrapuntal style that I continued like this throughout most of my solo, all the time wondering why I’d never played it like that before. It wasn’t until after the broadcast that I glanced at the Bach book again and made the connection: “Of course – I played “All The Things You Are” in the style of Bach because I had just spoken about Bach!”
This sounds so obvious in retrospect, but Bach was actually very far from my mind while I was playing the jazz. I had forgotten all about it. But the thought was still somewhere in me, below the surface, and it came out in full force in a surprising and delightful way!
So listen to as much of your favorite music as you can. Practice hard to learn the musical techniques you want to incorporate into your playing. You never know when your musical influences will make themselves apparent!
Here are 10 Ways to Improve Your Piano Improv Skills. Have fun!
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