Piano Improv: The Year In Review (2020)

Hey everyone!

With all the “year in review” articles coming our way in a week or so, I thought we’d get a fresh start by looking at the Piano Improv trends that have arisen during the past year and are still in full bloom.

For all the craziness of Covid, 2020 has been an exciting year for we pianists, especially as far as improvisation is concerned. Here are the 3 major trends I’ve observed, which began about a decade ago and were sped up beginning last March:

1. Piano Improv became mainstream

Pianists all over the world are improvising! Not since the days of Bach and Mozart has improvising seemed such a natural way to play piano. Sure, jazz and rock pianists have always improvised, but this has mostly been genre-specific.

The big change is that improvisation now transcends genre. Keith Jarrett has definitely played a big part in this shift, especially in his wide-ranging solo concerts which fluidly combine and transcend musical genres.

Children as young as 8-9 years of age are discovering the excitement of piano improv, and adults are returning to the piano more than ever, since they can now play the music they enjoy most and learn piano “on their own terms.”

2. We can hear our musical idols play in their homes, without slick production values

The Covid-lockdown home music video movement was led by two famous pianists!

When Norah Jones and Chris Martin each sat down at their home pianos and casually played for us, we heard how they really sound. Just like you and me, Jones and Martin play chords, improvise notes and rhythms, and enjoy the process of playing piano for its own sake, without obsessing over note-perfection or studio audio gimmicks.

This breath of fresh air is inspiring!

Norah Jones: Patience

Chris Martin: Together At Home

3. People are spending a lot more time at their pianos

Since everyone’s been staying home more, we pianists have chosen the piano over the television. We’ve realized that spending lots of time at the piano calms and energizes us at the same time, and nurtures our creativity. And the slower pace of our lives is giving us the patience to view our musical progress in the long term, which gives us the strength to keep going and explore the music we love more fully.

Yes, these are exciting times for we pianists, and piano improv is at the forefront of the musical world.

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”


PS – if you wish, reply to this email to share your perspective and experiences at the piano. I’ll publish as many of these emails as I can next week so we can all support and encourage each other.

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