I play piano as a hobby and am mostly self-taught through spending many hours in front of the sheet. Now I can read sheets decently, and play classical pieces (maybe not so elegantly) such as "Clair de Lune" or "Fantasie Impromptu".

However, I am completely limited to what I see on the sheet, and I want to be able to just play impromptu.

I have a little bit of absolute pitch, I can tell with pretty good accuracy when a single note is played in the piano. (Not very well when more than one are played at the same time.)

What is the best way to start learning to play impromptu for me? Are there any books you would recommend for me to use? Maybe I need a book that is both practical and theoretical. Thank you!

  • 1
    The answer's in the question! Jam with other musos!
    – Tim
    Dec 22, 2016 at 9:35
  • You need to develop relative pitch. understanding how scales work. Feeling the tension and resolutions. I suggest you to play with different chord progressions within the major scale for a while, knowing all the basic chords, and playing around with a melody in the right hand and singing. Then you can move on to more difficult things once you begin to understand how to recognize the different feelings each of the sounds have, and what "role" they play in the construction of harmony, which is basically a cultural construction. Dec 22, 2016 at 13:25
  • check out this channel from youtube, from a guy who tought his son to have both absolute and relative pitch, extreely accurate, and more importantly has dozens of videos explaining great things about everything there is to know about (Western) music: youtube.com/channel/UCJquYOG5EL82sKTfH9aMA9Q Dec 22, 2016 at 13:27
  • Actually, I learned relative pitch a little bit when I was taking this music harmony class back in college. But I want to learn these little more systematically. Aren't there some good sources? Dec 22, 2016 at 14:31
  • As in some books. Dec 22, 2016 at 16:43

1 Answer 1


You can jam with other people or compose on your own in an improvisational way.

In the former case, you either have to agree on a chord pattern to use (say the simple classic C-Am-F-G in key of C, or maybe G-Am7-D C-D-G in key of G, or even stay on one chord like Am), or you have to be able to recognize chord changes (like the ones in my example). Of course this takes some practice, and DO NOT BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES. Some people argue that there are no wrong notes ;) Hopefully your ear is good enough to notice when a note you play on the piano "fits" into the harmony of your fellow jammer(s), but you said you are ok with pitch.

In the composing-on-your own case, you have more freedom to experiment (we sometimes call it noodling, and it can bother some players who are more structured, but on your own it's fine). Start with a simple triad in your left hand (say Am, a-c-e) and just play some notes in the RH - any notes at all, even black keys - and listen to how it sounds. String a few notes together. Try some rhythm variations (oom-pa-pa, diddley-dee, diddley-dum, whatever). Find a little motif (against Am you might play e c-d-e c d b-c-d b c for example). Now play a different related triad in LH (say Dm, a-d-f) and find a related motif that "answers" the first one. Play some scale runs, both in the chord (for Am, abcdefga, or even a different scale like e f# gabcde). How does it sound? Like it? Try another key.

Or just take a fragment of a piece you know and modify it a little, either the notes or the rhythm. This can get to be addictive.

One last tip (there are so many): play along to a CD or radio, pop songs maybe.

Good luck, have fun. Remember it's not a job.

  • I am so sorry. I tried to vote the answer up, but my phone decided it was going to be down. I hope someone can rectify this - I am unable: no powers.
    – Tim
    Dec 30, 2016 at 15:20

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