Beginning Blues Improvisation

Beginning Blues Improvisation

Beginning Blues improvisation for Solo Piano

Many of our piano students, adult piano students in particular, are interested in playing the blues. This is great fun and we’re happy to help students get started.

We usually start off by introducing the 12 bar blues form, what chords are involved and how the measures are laid out. From there we go on to introduce the notes in the blues scale. At that point students often will say, “Well now what?”

In order to give a students a good starting place we introduce the concept of a musical motif. A motif in music is simply a short musical fragment that can be repeated to create a melody in a piece of music.

Example No. 1 – Demonstrates a simple blues motif using only notes from the C blues scale.

Once the student gets this motif under their fingers they are ready to start using it in their improvisation. To begin, we repeat the motif on measures 1,2 and 3, leaving measure 4 as a free measure. Then, we repeat the motif again on measures 5,6 and 7 leaving measure 8 as a free measure. Finally, we repeat the motif once again on measures 9,10 and 11 leaving measure 12 as a free measure.

This allows the student to really hear the structure of the blues and students are often amazed at how the motif sounds different on each chord.


Example No. 2 – Demonstrates the simple blues motif repeated over the entire 12 bar blues form. This shows the students how the same motif sounds different depending on which chord its played over.

From there, we help the student to vary the motif as well as take notes from the blues scale to fill in the free measures. Often then the students will start to write their own motifs, creating their own musical sounds.

Maybe you’d like some help in beginning to improvise on the blues, playing a jazz waltz and/or other types of jazz on the piano? Take a look at information on our Piano Lesson Programs.  We’re here to help you Learn to Play the Music You Love.

Music Education Blog

Diana Mascari has also written a number of Jazz Waltz blog posts as part of her  Conversations at the Piano Music Education blog.