Bradley Sowash is a composer, performer, and educator specializing in improvisation. He is the co-founder of 88 Creative Keys improvisation camps for piano students and teachers and his widely acclaimed keyboard improvisation books are published by the Neil A. Kjos Music Company.

Dot spots

Add improvised pizzazz to the easy rhythms found in beginner tunes by asking your students to identify "dot spots." These are places where students can substitute dotted rhythms in place of quarter notes. Instead of this: Students play this: Listen and play It's not necessary for students to know how to read dotted rhythms prior to exploring their ...
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Creating by chance

Can't get started making your own music? No excuses! Use the laws of chance to prime your creative pump. In the eighteenth century, Mozart devised a game for composing minuets by assigning pre-written melodic fragments to the numbers on dice. Here's a similar activity you can use to prompt creativity in your studio. 1. Rhythm a. Easy waltz rhy...
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Endings

by Bradley Sowash Add pizzazz by repeating the last chord concerto-style in a couple of ranges. Flying hands Play the last chord hand-over-hand Liberace-style for a flashy sound that's also exciting to watch. Then "button it" with a final low tonic note. Scaling away… Try improvising a little scale after the last chord as you fade away. dd one last...
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Introductions

A good musical introduction creates anticipation for the listener by suggesting the key and style of a tune about to be played. Ready? Go!  The easiest way to set up a tune is to play a V7 intro chord. This works because it takes advantage of our expectations about functional harmony. Since most tunes begin with the I chord, a V7 chord pl...
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Stretching a Lead Sheet

So, your students can play the melody and chords in a lead sheet...now what? Played at a medium tempo, this classic tune lasts about thirty seconds: How could this be stretched it into a complete performance? For inspiration, we can turn to legendary trumpet man and singer, Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong. When asked about his ability to spin seemingly e...
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Steps to learning a lead sheet

Lead sheets are a simplified form of music notation designed to present the essentials of a tune, while still leaving room for creative interpretation. Lead sheets consist of two main parts:  ​Written melody Chord symbols Interpreting lead sheets works best if you and your students already know the tune. Hopefully, this one is familiar (s...
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Create and Motivate

​One fun and important area of teaching music that sometimes gets overlooked is creativity. While most of us would agree that improvising, composing, arranging, and playing by ear are necessary ingredients for developing comprehensive musicianship, somehow we may not get around to teaching these skills often enough in our lessons. One thing is for ...
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Scalin' the chords

When I was about twelve years of age, my parents took me to a restaurant that featured a live jazz trio. I was amazed to see the pianist playing without written music. Unaware of the awkwardness I might cause by interrupting a performing musician, I approached the stage and asked him how he did it. His succinct reply changed my life. Without missin...
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Piano Magazine is the leading resource for pianists, piano teachers, and piano enthusiasts. We bring you informative, interesting, and inspiring ideas on all aspects of piano teaching, learning, and performing. The official name of Clavier Companion magazine was changed to Piano Magazine in 2019.

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