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Reflections on Teaching Blues Improvisation

It really takes experience and skill to be good at teaching. I have come quite some way on teaching improvisation during piano lessons. That way was twisted, recursive but mostly enjoyable for my students and I nowadays.

It takes time and skill to successfully teach the base elements of a piece for improvisation. Take the Easy Blues yesterday which turned out to be not so easy. I haven’t properly thought through the sequencing of the learning steps for students to be able to play it with minimal effort. Of course blues can be played with eight notes and swung eight notes but that would only delay my students exposure to the blues. So, I’m determined to include a Blues tune for improvisation at the beginners level.

(Re)Learning points for me are:

  • For a 2 student lesson, ensure that the facilitator is on the right side of the piano.
  • State the number of sections in the piece
  • Describe each section as section A, B, C and so on
  • Start with the left hand
  • For each section, play it three times. For the first time, focus on the correct keys/notes. On the second time, combine all keys/notes together with counting. For the third time, have the facilitator add in the right hand and encourage the students to count aloud.
  • When it’s time to combine both hands, for beginners and/or a piece with new elements e.g. a 5 finger blues scale, have the students play the same rhythm in both hands
  • Only when the students can play hands together in the same rhythm, have the students play a “quicker” rhythm in the right hand

I also have to think of how to teach swung quavers properly for students who are new to it. Perhaps I could use rhythm words. I wonder how does the body expresses swung quavers and actually syncopated rhythms for that matter. Hmmm.

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