Classical Improvisation

    Improvisation is the ability to navigate through an ocean of options, the myriad possibilities of sounds. 

Improvisation involves training to make instant structural decision that enrich the cognitive process.

(Walter Ponce, The tyranny of tradition in piano teaching)   



   To explain better my idea about the importance of improvisation in music, allow me to shortly compare language and music learning. Children learn talking by imitation. Initially sounds, then first words, finally structured simple sentences. At the end they go to school to learn how to read and write. Conversely, how usually children are trained in music? Regardless the widely range of useful methods, children often begin their music studies through notes reading, often with the aid of the metronome, and teachers focus mostly on accuracy and mathematical duration of notes, without any attention to quality of sound and meaning of music. Among several disadvantages, in such way children consider the metronomic performance the only point in music, and they ignore how and why notes are combined together in that specific way. Moreover, music “words” and “sentences” are totally neglected. While in the language studies we usually deal with reading, writing and conversation, in traditional music teaching there is extreme attention on reading, very few on writing and none in "conversation". I do consider the improvisation as important as conversation in music learning, Improvisation, like conversation, force us to think. Given that it is not be possible to
speak without thinking, in the same way it is not possible to improvise without thinking-in-music.

    Through teaching and learning process based on improvisation, students would start learning music by imitation (rhythmic and/or melodic), then discover simple words (simple music patterns), and finally learn how to organize words in sentences (music structures). As historical evidence and effectiveness of this approach, allow me to reckon that the most important composers in the history of classical music (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt just to say few names) were excellent improvisers. Improvisation was systematically taught in classical music at least up to the beginning of romantic era and practiced up to the beginning of 20th century. Nowadays several treatises about improvisation are very well known and widely available, moreover a number of studies by eminent scholars and musicians appeared in the last circa 20 years.

   If you wish to know more about classical improvisation, and how it could be integrated in the traditional piano teaching and learning, feel free to contact me.