Improvisation and embellishment

In order to improvise and add ornamentation, one must begin with a piece that has already been mastered, doing simple exercises in order to build up an archive of resources that will be available while playing. In this way, the beginner will become accustomed to thinking and deciding while playing fluently over an accompaniment.

The best way to encourage them to play things that are not written down is for the professor to demonstrate a variety of examples for the students to repeat and then choose what they like among all of them. Afterwards, they can be encouraged to create small, proportioned motifs, and then helped to fit them in. If necessary, they can be advised as to how, when, and how many of such motifs should be employed.

The professor can also fit in some ornamentations, doing this occasionally in the accompaniment, in order to surprise the beginner so that he or she will have to remain alert without losing concentration. This can be done as a kind of musical joke or wink of complicity at the same time. This will encourage beginners to attempt the same when they feel ready. Once we can see that the improvisation exercises are working well, we can do another complete section using the same harmonic sequence, with the upper voice completely improvised, starting with those elements that came up during the earlier rehearsals.

Here we suggest a few exercises that can be used to start playing, while other possibilities emerge along the way.

  • In pieces ending on a long note or fermata, while the last chord is still ringing
    out, the beginner can play the final note one or two octaves higher. This can be followed by any note of the final chord, then a 6th, 7th or 9th, played on the higher part of the keyboard. They can also be combined in chords and arpeggios or skips. Later, two or more notes of the chord can be combined in a scale with the intermediates as passing notes. We can even introduce a glissando and clusters.
  • With long notes, a mordent can be played with the upper or lower note.
  • In those pieces in which the same thing is played with both hands, every so often try to alternate instead of playing them at the same time, looking for different sounds and creating a hocket effect.
  • With those pieces that allow it, one can occasionally duplicate notes, cutting the duration in half, or change equal values for unequal ones, or imitate the rhythm played by the teacher, or any rhythmic combination of note values, especially in the repetition of a motif or section.