Learn How To Improvise on the Piano


The piano is one of the most popular instruments to learn how to play because it is one of the most powerful and intimidating instruments. When piano students learn the piano, one of the things they like to learn is the ability to improvise. Improvisation essentially means making something musical up on the stop- but the truth is, as any experienced improvisor on any instrument will tell you - the art of improvisation is to have a bank of ready made ideas that can be dropped into any piece of music at the right time. So learning how to improvise is essentially learning what sorts of licks and ideas fit nicely with certain harmonies or styles. In music, it is normal practise to have some sort of foundation, something solid that other lines of music can be played on top of. this foundation can be a chord sequence, a walking bass line or even just a drum beat.


Melodic instruments such as the piano or guitar can then improvise over the foundation. Improvisation without any sort of framework can prove difficult, you need something, normally a rhythm section holding the music together in some way.

A good way to improvise your improvisation skills on the piano, is to record a solid foundation, then play it on a loop and improvise over that. You can start by improvising with just one hand initially on the piano. Try playing notes of the scale of the key your are in, but in a random order, not in the normal sequential way we normally play scales. Then learn different types of scales - the blues/pentatonic scales normally are used a lot by improvisors.


Don’t feel that if you are improvising you need to have a new phrase or new line after every 4 bars. Learn how to repeat ideas over and over - the art of good improvisation is to build upon ideas, rather than starting something new all the time that can start to sound messy. The repetition does not be exact- try altering slightly on the second or third time around- transpose it, or change the rhythm slightly - you’ll be surprised the great results you can get by repetition.


Another way to improve improvisation is to read from jazz “Lead sheets” - they provide the musical outline of the chords and melody - but you can improvise around these two bit of information. If you know what notes are in the chord, you can come up with different rhythmic patterns using the notes of the chord- you can even use these notes as melodic fills in-between the written melody line. The only way to really get good at improvisation is to keep practicing.

Would you like to start online piano lessons with Matthew Clayton?



If you really want to get good at learning how to play the piano, try taking online piano lessons with Matthew. Matthew has produced many online music courses such as his Piano Fast Track and Complete Music Theory course that are high sellers on the Udemy online platform. He has considerable piano teaching experience, having taught across South Wales in the UK in primary and secondary schools. He has a vast wealth of performing experience as a pianist, band keyboardist and musical director. Matthew can play in a range of styles, and encourages his pupils to learn both classical and popular music styles. Matthew now gives online piano lessons though zoom, skype and FaceTime.

If you would like to try an online piano lesson with Matthew, please contact on mattdaveclayton@gmail.com

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