So a seven year old kid says to his dad, “When I grow up, I
want to be a musician.
And the dad says, “I'm sorry – you can't have it both ways.
To be successful at making music you've gotta to get serious about play!
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation” – Plato
If you have attended any of my workshops, you've probably heard me drilling away at the importance of improvisation. Improvisation, AKA, doodling, experimenting, creating, playing, is the life blood of Art.
Think about the term “play the piano”. You never here anyone say, I went to see this great “piano worker” or “I want to learn how to work at the piano”, or can you “work”Imagine by the Beatles ?
“I never studied technique independent of music” Harold Bauer, Classical Pianist..
Yes technique is important.
Yes reading music is a wonderful skill
Yes ear training is great........ but if there is no music being made
and only the mechanics of music being practiced, the heart is lost.
Getting comfortable with improvising helps bridge the gap between technical practice and making music from the heart. There are millions of remarkable pianist and musicians who can read and play anything put in front of them with astonishing accuracy and technique but have little or no personal expression in their sound, playing a carbon copy of the written music.
The irony of all time is, that most modern day students are trained to focus on attaining, precision, and "perfect"music that was written by composers who where masters of improvisation. It's like there is an unwritten law that says you can play their music, as long as you don't get to know them to well. Imagine a piano lesson with Bach or Chopin. I can't imagine that improvisation wasn't included in their lessons . After all....................................................
* Bach put improvisation skills at the center of his teaching. Most of his instructional manuals are how to books in improvisation. He often wrote out several different versions of his most popular pieces, such as the inventions, to show how a student might improvise on the structure.
* Mozart was most famous in his day, according to scholars, “first as an improviser, then as a composer, then as a pianist”.
* Beethoven became famous in Vienna not as a composer but as an “astounding” improviser. It was a full ten years that he was famous as an improviser in Vienna before he started to become well-known for his compositions.
* Schubert was almost completely unknown as a composer in his day – but he was renowned as an improviser, playing in taverns all night improvising waltzes, dances, character pieces, and drinking songs.
* George Sands, the writer, and girlfriend of Chopin wrote, “Chopin's compositions were but a pale shadow of his improvisations.”
* Handel wrote one treatise on performance – and half of it was devoted to improvising dances and fugues.
Several years ago I was asked to do a presentation on improvisation at the California Music Teachers Association annual convention.
During my demo I asked for a volunteer from the room of mostly piano teachers, to come up and help me demonstrate an idea. A “loud hush”fell over the room as if I were asking them to line up for a firing squad. At that point a kid jumped up from the audience and fearlessly made his way to the stage, with glee in his eyes, ready to help out.
Afterward, in talking to some of the of teachers I learned that this would be the first year that improvisation would be included in the syllabus for piano students working on music degrees etc. I'm thinking, umm, It only took 200 years. Oh well....... better late then never uh ?
So...... as I prescribe to all my students, take 10 or 15 minutes (at least) a day to practice improvising. This is a time to go OUT OF YOUR MIND, out of judgment, out of routine, out of stress and just PLAY!
If you need any help, find any kid under 10 and ask them what they would do, or give me a call and we will schedule a improvisation session. Mostly just doodle around. If you come onto something you like, fool around with it, see if you can develop it a little. If you don't like something you play, move on. The idea of this time is to practice allowing music into your heart and mind spontaneously. There is no right or wrong. In Art there only is...... Remember, there has never been a statue erected to a critic. This is a time to play whatever you feel and have fun.