When I was in my 3rd year of University someone ran up to me in the hallway, breathless: “You’re a piano player, yes?”. Uh huh. “My keyboard guy just quit my band and we have a gig tonight. Can you fill in?”
Let me see… do you play Minuet in G at any point during your gig? A Sonatina perhaps? How about anything by Schumann?
It was in that very moment as I had to politely decline (and thus missed out on a very cool evening of collaborative music making) that I realized that my 20+ years of piano training was pretty darn limited. What part of my lessons had prepared me for the “real world”; for situations just like this one? I had played pretty much every single day of my life for 20 years… and yet I couldn’t hop in and follow along with a band? I could play, yes… but I couldn’t improvise. I couldn’t create my own music. I couldn’t throw down some accompaniments at a retirement party for the good ol’ standards as people sang along.
It was a huge wake-up call for me, and a moment that directed my musical direction from then on. We hope this podcast inspires you as much as I was in that moment. Scroll to the bottom of this post to listen now.
A Welcome Addition To Any Piano Lesson
As I continued to teach piano lessons while attending university, my focus changed. I moved away from only teaching what my students could find in a book, and began also teaching them how to read lead sheets, how to compose and how to improvise. I didn’t want to be pumping piano students into the world who would eventually be in that same position I had been in… the position where they would not feel as though they had the skills to jump in and jam with someone even after 20 years of lessons.
Was it out of my comfort zone? Yes, absolutely. I grew up on a strict, classical-music-only diet and improv to me was something that those geniuses in piano bars in Vegas did through what could only possibly be some sort of magic. But I learned quickly and my students ate it up. This “side” of piano playing is now a permanent and important part of the offerings at my music studio.
I cannot recommend welcoming improvisation into your piano lesson offerings enough. And today’s podcast will help you do just that!
Learning To Improvise with Bradley Sowash
Today we’re talking with Bradley Sowash, a creative pianist, composer, recording artist and teacher who will be sharing some fabulous hands-on tips on how you can get started with teaching improv today. Even if you yourself have never improvised a single note, Bradley’s instructions will give you the confidence and the know-how (and the inspiration!) to just simply… start!
Listen in as Bradley shares what is jazz, and improvisation and what can they do for your students and your studio, how to teach the pop songs your kids are begging for, how the “4 chord wonders” work, a jazz method book series for kids that will lead you step-by-step through improv and jazz playing and much, much more.
Once you’ve had a listen, and if you’re dying for more information, you can check out Bradley’s blog at eyeearrevolution.com for instructional videos and more improv teaching tips. He also offers an improvisation summer camp for teachers, and more information on that can be found here.