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Piano, Organ, and Keyboard/Playing piano without music/improvisation

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Question
Hello,

When I play piano I generally play octaves in the left hand and my right hand does most of the work. I'd like to learn some "tools" to improve my playing, in particular what my left hand does. I feel that my playing is too "sparse", but when I try to add more notes (e.g. the fifth of the scale) to the left hand, it makes everything sound "muddy" to my ear. I would appreciate any advice you could give.

I've learned to "improvise" playing piano at church (e.g. a musical interlude) using a mixture of the chords 1st, 4th, 5th, 2nd minor and 6th minor. I'd also like to learn a little jazz improvisation. Are there any similar "tools" in jazz? I know the sequence 1st, 6th min7, 2nd min7, 5th, 1st but that's all.

Thanks so much.

Regards, Dominic

Answer
In a lot of playing, especially jazz, it seems that the right hand does the work while the left provides the rhythm.  There are different kinds of left hand rhythms, and I guess you learn them largely through listening and  through experimentation.  I think you can get a lot of ideas just listening to how pianists play.  For example, I've learned things listening to Mickey Gilley (country), Jimmy Swaggart (gospel), or Floyd Cramer.  Also, check a site like Sheet Music Plus and see what jazz methods, especially about improvisation, are available.  

Piano, Organ, and Keyboard

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Joel Bjorling

Expertise

I can answer general questions about playing the piano, playing technique, and piano literature.

Experience

I have played piano for over forty years. I have taught private piano. I have also played in church. I am especially interested in the piano as a music ministry. I have also written several compositions for piano.

Organizations
I'm a past member of the National Guild of Piano Teachers.

Publications
Making Music Magazine Newsletter of the Illinois Country Music Association

Education/Credentials
BA, Behavioral Science, Oral Roberts University (1975) MA, McCormick Theological Seminary (1980) I have had courses in Music Appreciation, Music Theory, and in Hymnology

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