Sometimes it’s nice to just sit down at the piano and let your fingers wonder freely across the keyboard. You let yourself loose and experiment, looking for sounds and combinations that you like. After doing this for a while you may start asking yourself what style you are playing in. Is it Jazz? Blues? New Age? Classical improvisation? Pop? Rock?
Does it actually matter?
I heard a concert with the Piano Concerto in G major by Ravel recently. This wonderful piece is one of Ravel’s last compositions. The set up was in the usual classical music style: a symphonic orchestra with the conductor and solo pianist in the center. But Ravel didn’t stick to the classical style. At times it sounded like Gershwin’s music from the 20ies, there were blues elements in there, modal music sections, classical parts and more. Even with all these clearly external elements, the piece sounded like Ravel from beginning to end. His unique style shimmered through all the tools he put to use and these extra surprising influences only enriched the Ravel sound.
Why limit yourself to only one style?
I find it quite inspiring and freeing to take away the style question, since this enables us to wonder between different means of expression. Like Ravel, we too can play across different genres. If we play our genuine music, “copy and pasting” as little as possible, it doesn’t really matter what title others will give the music we create. It will be the expression of our own musical ideas.
Learn to play in different styles to enlarge your musical vocabulary
Having said that, the more fluent we are in different musical directions, the more freedom we have to forget about the borderlines between them. If we know how to play and improvise in the style of Schubert, and also feel confident in playing the Blues, etc. we can switch off our thinking mind when we decide to get creative and see what floats to the surface.
Structuring the freedom
There are many ways to develop a freedom in creating at the piano. Some lucky people are naturally inspired and don’t need much guidance or help to create and compose beautiful music (or so we would like to believe). Most mortals though are grateful for having this process broken down for them and having a path to go down, leading them to a place where they can create freely.
Classical music improvisation
Improvisation is usually associated with jazz, whereas most people would think that classical music means playing from a written score.
Ioana Illie is a brilliant concert pianist. She is a classical musician who can improvise in classical styles in front of an audience. She is also a teacher who has developed a path helping those who would like to create music in the language of the old masters.
Ioana had kindly given Pianoways an interview full of insights and anecdotes that will be published shortly. Meanwhile, you can check out her website and try adding some new special spices to your improvisations and/or doodling on the piano.
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