Teaching improvisation – is it a dying art?
I had an enquiry recently from a potential student who wants to learn improvisation on the piano, asking me to help her ‘prepare an improvised piece’! I chuckled as I explained how these two terms contradict each other, though I added that I could prepare HER for improvising the piece.
It’s now the 21st century, yet too many music teachers are missing out this hugely important part of students’ musical development. Improvisation on the piano has somehow been lost in the modern ‘classical’ curriculum. It wasn’t always like this – notable composers such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Liszt etc were known for their great skill at improvisation at the piano.
So how have some classical teachers stopped developing this art? As a session musician working in recording studios and on stages around the world, I know that one of the most important skills to have is improvising. Many notable performances on contemporary jazz and pop albums are entirely improvised and it is this skill that often marks out musicians as ‘first call’ players. Of course technical dexterity is important, but practically anyone can acquire this.
Improvised music could be said to be the pure musical spirit of the individual – it is this side of musicality IMHO that takes the most significant effort and deepest understanding to achieve and it is this that truly makes someone a musician of great worth.
If you would like to talk to me about improvisation on the piano and how it’s built into my lessons, please feel free to contact me.