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Picture a stormy night.

In an old, abandoned house, a figure walks down the hallway. Passing old portraits whose faces light up with each lightning strike.

What soundtrack do you hear?

I’m going to show you what I hear — and how you can create your own hauntingly beautiful improvisations.

Flipping the script

What I love about this lesson is how it reverses what we normally do when it comes to improvising. Usually, we’ll play the rhythm in the bass, and focus on the scale and melody with the right hand.

Not today.

This exercise involves playing a scale with our left hand — and using the right hand as the rhythm.

It’s a great way to build hand independence and dexterity, and we’re going to get to know a scale you’ve probably never played before.

The F# minor scale

This is an uncommon scale, so it’s helpful to get to know the notes before we start! Here is the F# minor scale written out for both hands (we’ll only focus on the left-hand today)

As you can see the notes are F#-G#-A-B-C#-D-E. Another way to think of it is the A major scale — but starting on F# (A is the relative major).

So spend some time getting used to the scale with your left hand, and watch the video to find the fingering pattern that works best for you.

Rocking right hand

Because the left hand will be playing the melody, we’ll be using our right hand for rhythm. To do this, simply play the shell of an F# minor chord. So that would be the root and 5th, which is F# and C#.

Rock back and forth between those two notes to create a really haunting sound, and set the rhythm for the improv.

Get creative

Now it’s time to explore. Start by simply playing the scale up and down, and getting a feel for how it sounds. Once you are comfortable doing that, try creating different melodies and patterns with your left hand.

As with everything related to improvisation — your creativity is the only limit!

Lisa Witt

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 18 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others.

Go from absolute beginner to playing
your first song in four easy lessons!

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