Have you ever used a famous classical theme in your improvisation? Many people have only heard classical music performed in symphony centers and don't think about its potential for improvisation. While there is nothing wrong with playing a popular classical piece in its original form, most themes have great potential for improvisation. As they are so popular, they often put a smile on people's faces.
In the video, two guys play Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor on a floor piano mat. Whether or not you're ever planning to play on an oversized novelty piano, there is a lot that you can take away from this video. Most importantly, there are so many possibilities from this theme. From playing it as a piano solo to performing it with a full orchestra, the Toccata and Fugue is fun, versatile, and instantly recognizable even in an improvised form.
As you watch the video, you should also consider how these two people had to break down the left and right hand notes to master the Toccata and Fugue. As it would be virtually impossible to play the entire piece on an oversized instrument with just one person, they were forced to learn the parts separately and then put them together. Learning to improvise on a new theme is largely the same. Take your time breaking down the left and right hand notes before you put them together.
Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor and Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King are excellent pieces to learn at any time of the year. However, they are particularly fitting for the fall season with Halloween right around the corner. If you've never been to the symphony, you might be familiar with these pieces because they are often used in horror and suspense movies. Creating a haunting improved version for an upcoming Halloween party will have family and friends talking for years to come.
The first step to learning how to improvise on the Toccata and Fugue and Hall of the Mountain King is familiarizing yourself with their minor keys. Once you are comfortable with the notes in the themes, you can start using them in different combinations to make the themes your own. Don't be afraid to experiment with varying rhythms and dynamics. It's only a matter of time before you'll be blowing everyone away with your new versions of these two fantastic themes.
To learn more about how to improvise the classical repertoire, please read my article - Using Music Theme to Create Spectacular Piano Playing.
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