Training Healthy Brains: Benefits of Using Improvisation in Music Lessons

2020 Piano Magazine Collegiate Writing Contest Runner-Up  As music teachers, we are constantly searching for innovative methods to help our students grow into comprehensive musicians and well-rounded individuals. We strive to give them helpful tools they can utilize throughout life. Musical improvisation is one of those tools. Interestingly, i...
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Improvisation for Students of All Ages

Reading music is an amazing skill. If you're like me, you love being able to read a new piece of music, and love teaching music this way, but wish to expand your own skills and develop an approach to teaching improvisation. It may feel like a mystery, but with a little daily practice and dedication, this skill can be developed.  As an org...
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Inside the Studio with Clinton Pratt

 This student just started lessons in March. We only had a few lessons before moving to online lessons. In this clip, I'm preparing him for the first piece in the method book that involves dotted half notes and triple meter. The rhythm patterns that we do in the video are in the piece, but he hasn't seen the piece yet. I'm reviewing steady bea...
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Let Them Eat Cake! Teaching Piano Using Stacked Engagement Layers

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Piano playing requires the involvement and simultaneous coordination of many different parts of the brain and the mind.1 The aural center forms an image of the way a piece should sound—a goal for performance. Motor processing directs the arm, hand, and fingers in controlling the piano keys. Visual and reading processes are required for decoding mus...
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Music together: Creativity in preparation for the book

Children are excited by sound, they want to make sound, and they want to explore possibilities and express themselves at the keyboard. Children are brilliant— until someone tells them they aren't. When faced with too many rules and layers of abstract concepts at the beginning stages of study they are often just overwhelmed by information they don't...
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Yes, You Can! Breaking through student and teacher inhibitions to create meaningful learning through improvisation

Click the link below to download notes from the webinar: pdf File Name: YesYouCanPresentationNotes File Size: 318 kb Download File
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Robert L Combs
I really enjoyed Siskind's webinar, great pacing, illustration, and explanation. He is obviously a gifted teacher and I am gratefu... Read More
Thursday, 12 December 2019 12:00
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May/June 2018: Create and Motivate

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Combining scales and chords Here are three exercises that benefit all musicians regardless of their preferred style or approach to making music: 1. Scales 2. Chord drills 3. Scales and chords together The last two columns offered interesting ways to practice the first two. Now, here's a way to combine scales and chords into one ...
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March/April 2018: First Looks: New Music Reviews

First-Looks
(SE3-4) Fantasia del Tango: 6 Original Piano Solos and 1 Duet, by Eugénie Rocherolle. Fantasia del Tango augments The Eugénie Rocherolle Series with a volume of tangos by a perennial favorite pedagogical composer. Dedicated to Kathleen Theisen, the seven pieces in this collection (six solos and one duet) pres...
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My meeting with the man in the ebony and ivory tower

Man in the Ivory Tower
The following account may be fiction. It may be true. It may be both. I had been a piano teacher and performer for nearly a decade. At the age of twenty-eight, I was plagued by a persistent "hollow" feeling, especially after giving yet another mediocre lesson or anxiety-driven performance. Performing was always an ordeal, and a perpetual affront to...
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Method reviews return! A review of Piano Safari

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Method reviews return! In 2009, Clavier Companion began a series of reviews exploring all of the major piano methods published at that time. Two years later, the series concluded and we had covered twelve major methods! (You can access these articles collected into a special digital issue on the claviercompanion.com website.) Since then there have ...
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Roll over, Mozart: Creative improvisation and composition activities

The skill of improvisation is often looked upon as the realm of jazz musicians. Many classical musicians would not dream of "riffing" with Beethoven or Mozart melodies. However, incorporating elements of improvisation and composition in classical pieces can provide students with an active, creative approach for learning repertoire. This "messi...
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Learning to play by ear

The purpose of this exercise is to plant a seed of playing by ear in fertile minds, a seed that could germinate and result in life-long learning. A command of basic chords is important, but expanding your vocabulary of chords can become a source of pleasure for you and for your listeners. Hearing the different chords that go with each pitch of the ...
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The complete musician: A conversation with Robert Levin

The complete musician: A conversation with Robert Levin
Robert Levin is a master keyboard artist who performs on the harpsichord, fortepiano, and modern concert grand. He is also a conductor, theorist, musicologist, author, and professor, and his career has taken him all over the world. He is especially known for improvising embellishments and cadenzas in Classical repertoire, and he has recorded for pr...
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Blues 103-Improvisation

In the last two columns, we looked at the steps involved in composing and varying a basic Blues melody. The next step is to stretch the form even further by adding improvisation. Blues scales You know how it feels good to complain a little now and then? It gets your concerns off your chest and clears the air. Sometimes, yesterday's problems can eve...
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What jazz contributes to the classical pianist

There is a long tradition of teaching quality classical piano in Canada. There are also a myriad of support systems to teach theory and written scores in a variety of contemporary styles. Then there's jazz. Some teachers like it and some don't. Others don't feel knowledgeable enough to include it in their studios. For many teachers it is a big unkn...
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Blues 102—Variations

Having addressed in the last column how to help students compose simple Blues tunes, let's now consider how to help them add on to their creations. 1. Embellish the melodyWhether notated or improvised, ask your students to play their compositions a couple of times to be sure the melody is "set." If a melody is too elaborate, encourage paring it dow...
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Blues 101: Basics

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Blues music evolved from its eighteenth-century roots in the work songs and lamentations of enslaved African-Americans to become one of the most identifiable streams in American music. If you grew up in the United States when I did, you heard it on the radio (Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B King, Eric Clapton, Ray Charles), in movies (The Blues Brothers), and...
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Beyond major and minor: A composer’s understanding of chords and scales

​Major and minor. Together these form a basic polarity in Western music. Major scales and chords are usually characterized as "happy," while minor ones are saddled with the label "sad." After composing, improvising, arranging, and teaching for more than forty years with these musical materials, I have come to a different way of understanding them. ...
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Steps to teaching improvisation

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If you are a regular reader of this column, you probably already teach creativity alongside traditional reading skills. However, if you are wondering how to structure this aspect of your lessons, you are not alone. After speaking on this topic, it's not uncommon for teachers to tell me—under their breath, almost secretively as if it's something to ...
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Comping 103—Waltz-time broken chords

​ Here's a riddle: What do you break to fix? Answer: bland blocked chords. ​Whether improvising teacher accompaniments or helping students dress up ho-hum arrangements, broken chords are a very useful trick to have in your bag. Broken chords sound great with lyrical, long-note melodies that beg for a busier accompaniment. They are also particu...
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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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