Improvisation and Musical Form

Edward Weiss

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Do you ramble on endlessly with your improvisations? If so, good. This has its place in music making and in new age piano playing in particularly. Just listen to New Age pianist Michael Jones's music to hear an example of this kind of free-form improvisation.

Now, some of you want to create something that will give the listener a slightly more cohesive experience. How is this accomplished? By forming the music into a shape - an ABA shape for our purposes here. To give form to music does not require as much theory and technique as most people think. In fact, it is as simple as applying the principles of repetition and contrast.

Now in most new age piano music there is some kind of form that the composer uses whether it's extended “A" form ala Michael Jones, or extended “A" extended “B" and back to “A" again as in some of George Winston's music. Think in sections people. A section of music can last for as long as the person who created it is involved with it- that is, as long as the inspiration is fresh.

As soon as the music sounds dull it's time for a change - the next section of music. This is the point where a composer will add something-new (contrast) or, if she is smart, end the piece. If the music does not have that freshness, that touch of inspired in the moment fantasy, you'll be able to detect and hear it. Some composers are so in touch with their feeling that they can take you on a 20 or 30 minute journey using very little means - but by using the elements of repetition and contrast maintain listener interest.

First, get your “A" section. The first few bars (8 usually) is more than enough to propel you forward. You must adopt a listening attitude to hear what is coming next. You don't force nor will it into being. This will not give you what you want, which is, I'm assuming, inspired content. Listen, listen, listen and the music will come. If it doesn't just do what Beethoven did.

He worked on 3 or 4 pieces at a time. When the inspiration dried up on a particular piece he was working on, he just moved on to another and picked up on the others later on. You can do the same. Be bold and go forward. Don't be afraid of making mistakes. Be afraid of not trying.

Edward Weiss is a pianist/composer and webmaster of Quiescence Music's online piano lessons . He has been helping students learn how to play piano in the New Age style for over 14 years and works with students in private, in groups, and now over the internet. Stop by now at for a FREE piano lesson!


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