Need a book to learn Jazz/Blues piano improvisation for a beginner
February 18, 2018 6:11 AM   Subscribe

I am an intermediate piano player and I’d like a VERY basic book to walk me through how to learn to improvise. I mean basic. I know nothing and need baby steps.
posted by captainscared to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I learned to improvise from listening and spending hours noodling around on the piano. I'm not saying you can't learn to improve from a book - though I don't know anyone who has - but at some point you'll need to rely on your ears and a musical vocabulary built from listening to yourself and others.
posted by bunderful at 6:27 AM on February 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think everyone learns differently, but check out Aimee Nolte's YouTube series. I usually get a tip or two out of them. Plus, she's pretty inspiring. The older ones might be more useful at first.
posted by ctmf at 3:51 PM on February 18, 2018

Intermediate piano player doesn’t quite tell us where you are. Intermediate classical piano player? Or do you already know stuff like jazz and blues chords and scales? If the former, there are a lot of tools you’ll need to get to improvising (unless you have a good ear and take the advice in the first response and listen a lot.)
posted by Smearcase at 5:19 PM on February 18, 2018

I ran across Halberstadt's "Metaphors for the Musician" recently, and thought it looked like it covered the right bases. But bunderful is right:

"at some point you'll need to rely on your ears and a musical vocabulary built from listening to yourself and others."

When I'm listening to music and hear something I'd like to be able to play, I make a note: "song X, starting at 1:15, nice bluesy piano solo". I especially try to keep an ear out for anything simple and easy to hear in the mix.

Then when I have time I'll sit down at the piano with phone, headphones, a pencil, and manuscript paper, and figure it out. This can be a painstaking one-note-at-a-time process of trial and error. But at the end of an hour I've at least learned a lick or two.

Wouldn't it be simpler to learn those licks from a book? Maybe, but the process of working it out yourself is good ear training and helps really internalize the ideas. And you get to work on exactly the music *you* want to learn. Random exercises from a book are rarely as satisfying.

It helps to have some basic theory and ear-training: you should know what the notes of a Eb dominant seventh chord are, and be able to name the scale degrees if you hear a simple diatonic melody. Something like a first-year theory course at a local community could help fill in those gaps if necessary.
posted by floppyroofing at 12:28 PM on February 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I found Tim Richards' Improvising Blues Piano really good
posted by criticalbill at 3:34 AM on February 21, 2018

How to Play from a Fake Book for a good, fairly quick introduction to playing from a fake book.

How to Play the Piano Despite Years of Lessons for a much lengthier, fuller version of playing from a fake book.

How to Play Jazz and Improvise by Jamey Aebersold - and there are a ton of other improvisation books on his site ... but start with this free Jazz Handbook, especially Tips and Practice for New Tunes on p. 9, and "How to Practice" and "Starting a Phrase or Melody" on pp 25-26.

Improvising Jazz by Jerry Coker, especially for chapter 4, "The First Playing Session," where he talks about everyone starting out by just playing whole notes.

Finally, please check your local library for all these, and for anything else shelved nearby. It's a great way to get a sense for which author's approach works for you.
posted by kristi at 10:35 AM on February 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

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