Learning to Improvise
September 8, 2012

While learning to improvise has long been a requisite technique for both jazz musicians and organists, renewed interest for the art in the classical tradition has resulted in some interesting new publications lately. The study of improvisation in a jazz style is well covered in the literature and we have numerous books that deal with this specific topic and jazz theory in general that are well worth a look, but we also have a few other books with unique approaches especially tailored to classical musicians. Here are a few examples.

Pattern Play


Akiko & Forrest Kinney’s Pattern Play Series is a progressive improvisation method for pianists published by Frederick Harris, the Toronto company that publishes the books of the Royal Conservatory of Music. In Pattern Play, short musical fragments called “patterns” are provided as a foundation on which the student can begin to improvise. For beginner students, the teacher can play the pattern; more advanced students can play the pattern in one hand while improvising with the other. Each “pattern” is complemented by a “vacation” (or several) that provides a musical alternative from the pattern to create more variety. Suggested variations on the pattern and vacation are also included. Students are instructed to use particular scales for their melodic improvisations. (Read more…)