The 3 ways to become an incredibly fluent improvising pianist

Is it your dream to sit down at your piano and have it be easy, without much effort? This is actually a great goal, and you intuitively sense that it’s possible for you. You can sense the possibility.

But “possibility” and “current reality” are two different things, and you probably feel like you’re never going to get there. You have too little time to practice, or you’re “not talented enough.”

Neither one of these is true, because you are talented enough (and anyway, talent isn’t as important as you may think) and even a few hours per week will get you to the point of fluency, where it begins to comes more easily for you.

So what’s the “missing link” in your playing? Why isn’t it easy for you yet? What’s holding you back?

Perhaps you know the answer and perhaps you don’t.

For many pianists, it’s that you don’t know chords well enough. I don’t mean just “knowing” them; I mean knowing them thoroughly, in all their inversions and being able to instantly use them in songs. (Knowing chords helps your sightreading, too, since you can relate every note in the piece to the underlying chord. It’s like grouping letters of the alphabet into words. After a while, you see the words instead of a collection of letters.

Or maybe you do know all the chords and inversions, but cant find the right rhythms to use in the different styles of music. This is easier to remedy than you might think, too, since once you learn 3-5 styles in your favorite genre of music you can play literally hundreds of songs.

So those are the 2 most common things that are holding most pianists back: not knowing chords and rhythmic styles.

Now, how are you going to overcome this? (It’s not enough to say “practice more,” since you’ve already been practicing and it hasn’t gotten you there yet.)

From my experience, there are a few ways you could go:

1. Join (or form) a band, learn about 20 songs as a group and play them over and over for a year or so. This is the way Duke Ellington and the Beatles did it.

2. Go into a practice room and practice for 15 hours a day. (This is the way Charlie Parker did it.)

3. Find a way to do it one step at a time, in a way that builds upon itself so you improve steadily. Since most people will never do the first 2 methods, this is probably the fastest way for you.

I myself had the advantage of doing all 3 methods, so I know for a fact that they work. You want to get there, right? Just choose a path and “go for it.” There’s no other way.

Let me know if you have any questions,

Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano
You’ll also get my weekly jazz newsletter with practice tips and inspiration

Leave a Comment

Sign up for Blog Updates