How to improvise piano - Keeping your Footing

How to Improvise on Piano – Phrasing Techniques


How to Improvise on Piano - Phrasing Techniques

Stepping stones

Improvisation is a balancing act, we have to keep our melody and harmony in balance, and that’s a gravity-defying journey. Maintaining the delicate balance between melody and harmony is like navigating stepping stones in a babbling brook, each note of the scale is a stone, and our tonal centers act as anchors, where we can stand.

All the other notes are passing notes, and are like the unstable stones if we step on them for too long, then we lose our balance and we fall and plunge into dissonance.

In this immersive exploration, Federico Dantoni unravels the secrets to solid piano improvisation, unveiling how resolving our phrases on tonal centers anchors our musical flow, preventing it from drifting into disarray.

Music is a Harmonic Gravitational Language. In music we have 3 levels of stability, we have stable, unstable, and semistable. And these levels of stability apply to all of our musical elements from the beat to the chords, to the scales.

Levels of Stability in Music


When there is no harmony, our 12 notes have the same value, we have a chromatic scale in which the value of the notes is equal. 

The Chromatic Scale

But as soon as we introduce a chord, we add a tonal frame in which we get our diatonic notes and chords. Let’s say we play the Chord C in our left hand. 

Now, we are introducing the key of C Major, and instead of dividing by 12, we are dividing by 7 and we get our diatonic notes. 

The Major Scale

Now the notes of our scale, become our stable notes, and the rest are our chromatic notes, and they are unstable.

(In the figure below: Blue is Stable and Red is Unstable)
The Chromatic Scale

Now, from the notes of the diatonic scale, the notes of the chord, are the tonal centers, and they are the most stable notes. All of the other notes of the diatonic scale are our passing notes and they are semi-stable. In the Figure

(In the figure below: Green is Stable, Blue is Semi-Stable)
The Major Scale

So we have stable, semistable, and unstable notes.

(In the figure below: Green is Stable, Blue is Semi-Stable and Red is Unstable)
Chromatic Scale

The secret to maintaining our balance in our solos is always ending our phrases in our tonal centers.

If we want to become fluent improvisers, landing in our tonal centers should become an instinct, it should become second nature to us. In the featured video, Federico Dantoni introduces a unique method for practicing scales, offering a structured pathway to develop the crucial skill of resolving phrases on tonal centers.

To delve deeper into honing this instinct and enhancing your improvisational prowess, access the detailed exercises by downloading the PDFs.

Incorporating these practices into your routine will help you elevate your ability to maintain balance and cohesion in your solos. Start your exploration today and let the gravitational language of music guide you toward harmonious improvisation.

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