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I am not a pianist or keyboardist in any sense of the words. I play guitar, violin, viola, cello, and violin bass; I cannot play a keyboard past “chopsticks” so thanks anyhow……………….


Keith R. Dunnington

Hi Keith,
I started improvising when I was about 11. My dad was teaching me guitar, and my cousin Sally was teaching me Heart and Soul on the piano. I put two and two together and realized that chords could also be played on the piano. After the notes on the keyboard, I taught little kids to play “every other note” while singing CEG. I taught piano several (many?) years ago, and I taught both notation and improvisation.

Maxwell – I think the author meant to say that the (natural) minor scale is like the major scale in structure except that the 3rd, 6th, and 7th notes are flatted. So C major = {C, D, E, F, G, A, B} whereas C minor = {C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb}. Notice that the 3rd, 6th, and 7th notes are different. [It just happens that A natural minor (called the relative minor of C) has the exact same notes as in C major but in starts and ends in a different offset].

Not to scare you off, but A minor is called the Aeolian mode of C (Starting on the different notes have their own “mode” name). I think the author’s approach is good for getting the sounds in your ear. However, you’ll eventually want to know the structure of these and other scales without having to relate it to another one. For example, a G altered scale in a similar manner shares the same notes as an Ab Melodic Minor scale, but eventually it’s easier to see it as a G major scale with G (the root), b9, #9, 3, b5, #5, b7} being changed.

Thanks to Jim K. The 3,6,7 stuff came out of left field in the article, and doesn’t seem to correspond to the pictures. The rest of the article is v basic, I learned all this as a kid but I find now that improvising is about creating pleasing exceptions and embroidering on these basics

I found this article and your reply really helpful. I am am adult amateur musician who struggles with music theory and sight reading, but loves to play by ear. I am quite good at pitching in and playing along, but never understood how I did it and still do not. However I am pleased to have it simply put like this. My problem is playing the right rhythm when sight reading written notation. I notice this when playing with others. Thank you so much.

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