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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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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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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 101 - Accompanying Students

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Accompanying students is an enjoyable way to transfer musicality from veteran to rookie efficiently without so much "teacher talk."  For students, it  • tightens up their sense of time;  • helps them listen while playing;  • enables them to feel more like "real musicians";  • prepares them to play in ensembles;  • and ...
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Preluding with the Masters

​For centuries, improvising introductions to keyboard works, also known as preluding, helped inspire musicians and prepare audiences for what was to come. (The German verb präludieren and the French verb preluder can simply mean "to improvise.") Preluding had practical functions as well, allowing performers to warm up, test tuning, or adapt to unf...
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Improvising for non-improvisers

When  you hear dazzling improvisation from top jazz players, you may be overcome by something very akin to inertia. "I could never do that so I'm not even going to start," could well sum up many people's view on improvisation. My wife once summed up her own view of jazz as "a lot of men showing off." Cruel (but fair) as this jibe might appear,...
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