Is Improvisation a Gift?

Posted by Yoke Wong on 6/11/2014 to Piano Improvisation

I recently came across a video of a pianist who was improvising on the Oprah Winfrey show. I think you should take a look at the video.

What was interesting about this video was Oprah's comment - "Improvisation is a gift."

I don't know what you think about this comment, but I certainly do not agree with it. I have realized, through my own piano playing and teaching, that you can cultivate and develop improvisational skills.

In fact, I receive emails from many of you telling me how much your improvisational techniques have improved after taking our piano courses.

Head over to watch this video now.

You will see that she improvised beautifully. It certainly took her many years to develop the styles and techniques that allow her to play so effortlessly. But it was a skill she developed through practice and not a gift she was born with.

The fact is that you too can become a great improviser with the right learning tools and practice.

If you dream of improvising and playing beautifully on the piano, our piano courses, such as the award-winning “Definitive Piano Improvisation,” “Mastering the Art of Piano Accompaniment” and “Sweet Sounds of Jazz Improvisation,” will take your playing to the next level.

Remember, you must also practice. Applying the knowledge you acquire from the course is the secret to mastering your new-found skills.

Definitive Piano Improvisation

Definitive Piano Improvisation

Mastering the Art of Piano Accompaniment

Piano Accompaniment

Sweet Sound of Jazz Improvisation

Jazz Improvisation



Date: 6/12/2014
Yoke, I have seen this video before. This lady has a "gift " for sure. Just as Richard Claydeman has a gift, just as Yoke Wong has a gift. If I had this gift , I might in time get to be as good as anyone of these people, BUT only IF, I practice as hard. And even then, I might only be half as good. Not every person can be a rocket scientist, though most people can be a decent engineer. No one can deny this gift from God ! I have gone through your Improvisation Course, TWICE, on my own steam, and I am still groping in the dark, though I have a much clearer understanding of the principles involved. Learning from your book and video is like learning Biology or Medicine from a textbook, without a laboratory or a lecturer. Fortunately, I do not have grand delusions of my piano skills.
Date: 6/12/2014
It was wonderful to watch you perform on Oprah Winfrey show. You have a great gift. Bernard.
Lim Soo Lim
Date: 6/12/2014
Hi Yoke I certainly do not agree. I was so lousy doing improvising years ago before i saw your name on the computer. I couldn't improvise at all. After purchasing your books that youv'e mention. I do improve!!! Although it is still very immature but i do go on a step further. It is due to practising that you can achieve to this stardard. I speak through my exprirence. Hard work counts not miricale and of couse with guidence and self- determination put you to where you want. Thank you for showing the video. --Lim
The Ngo
Date: 6/12/2014
That's amazing. I wish I could do that. The Ngo
Date: 6/12/2014
Amazing.....! Thanks for sharing! :-) .
Howard Nelson
Date: 6/12/2014
Yoke Please allow me to take this opportunity to thank you for keeping me on your email list. I am an accordion player and a lot of your tips help. To answer your question: It is absolutely a gift. I am 79 years old and started playing the accordion when I was in grammar school. Before I retired, I spent 40 years working as an engineer. With music and engineering, I struggled trying to be creative. While I read every book I could find on creativity, some of the people that I worked with, and played music with, didn't need any help. It came naturally. Of course I could contribute in some ways that they could not, but, that was not your question. The bottom line is to be happy with what you can do.
Patti Nippert
Date: 6/12/2014
Talking about having a gift or not having a gift has been a hindrance to me because I do have to work at the piano, but I do love it. At times I feel threatened and think I have no gift at all and why am I doing this. So "gift" can be a troubling word.
Date: 6/12/2014
She had to recognize which chords could be used. In the key of C, only omitting the A and D notes leaves plenty of chord options. Music is a gift, but it's also a skill that can be learned and improved upon. Interesting video.
Date: 6/12/2014
Abbie number
Date: 6/12/2014
Improvasation Hi Yoke, I thought that was so interesting and I too would have thought he was really gifted, but things I've learned from you reminds me that over time anyone can do this with practice. This is something I too hoe to learn. Thank you for sharing so much with us.I am one of your niggest fans!
Colin Colussi Date 13-6 -014
Date: 6/12/2014
The young Lady certainly plays beatifully and she has a gift for music and melody , but said all that I agree with you that without a lot of studing and practice she wuold not be able to create improvisation o composition of that kind. I am an old person and I have loved music all my life , but becouse of lack of training in my younger days i vill never be able to master music well. With thanks for your help. Colin
Ron Carter
Date: 6/13/2014
Some of us are given more skills but nothing is achieved without hard work and determination.To be able to give something to others like joy and peace through music is something worth working for.
Date: 6/13/2014
I think it takes practice and lessons. Also noted that she was all over the keyboard not in just five keys. Were both hands on just five keys, I could not tell. As you no I have lots of your lessons and I am still very much a beginner.
Date: 6/13/2014
I saw that video late last fall and I was so moved by her talent and improvisation techniques that it brought tears to my eyes. How amazing that would be if we pianists could learn something of that magnitude! Thanks for sharing this again because as far as I know it is no longer being featured on You Tube...I will keep a copy of this e-mail as I want to learn or if you can show us in another video HOW this is done. Blessings to you Yoke!
Date: 6/13/2014
The lady playing the piano has a bit of a gift but she also was taught piano and knows the theory and the combination of chords. So I believe that piano playing is a combination of both talent and instruction. I’ve certainly learned a lot from your videos and I highly recommend them!
Date: 6/13/2014
Hi Yoke, It is impression. Practice and also depending on God's gift too. Someone is better than other, talent and practice must be worked together. Your piano course is good to learn. I improve my playing piano by your course. Thank you so much. God bless. Mark
Cricket Cohen
Date: 6/13/2014
Hi Yoke, This is an interesting video. I agree with you that improvisation is not a gift alone but can be learned with practice and a set of learned skills. I can understand how Oprah can be completely amazed by the demonstration of her piano skills, Oprah is not a musician. The player has practiced many great piano skills that work well for her. No substitute for that, and I congratulate her for this. However, when talking about IMPROVISING it is a different matter. To improvise it is a greater skill to use all of the black and white keys rather than less than the seven different notes the white keys give us. I heard only ONE black key played in the whole song, an F#. Also, with her left hand she played mostly a descending major scale in the key of C. She added another section at points, and it sounded pretty, and Oprah was amazed. There are other areas of improvising that go deeper into all the sounds we can create on the piano, and it can all be learned, enhanced by the gift yes, but for those of us who want to make our own gift we can learn how to do it. I am not criticizing her playing, it was wonderful and God Bless! Please understand all readers, I am simply saying improvisation goes beyond a great party trick.
Date: 6/14/2014
I agree with u, if u understand basic music theory u can improvise. Music can also be felt. Emotionally that is. Appreciate your emails and points.
Date: 6/14/2014
I feel improving in some kind of skill is only the process.But her final result of her own creativity will be the gift acquired by that skilled process of her inner ability, which is very different.It is acquired by her perseverance and interest.CREATIVITY IS DIFFERENT FROM LEARNING!!
Date: 6/15/2014
I actually do agree with Oprah's statement. I have always had a hard time improvising. As a piano teacher I do encourage it, but don't feel knowledgeable enough to teach a whole lot of it. Some of my students are able to do it very naturally. That's why I consider improvisation a gift.
Date: 6/15/2014
Haha.. That was kind of hilarious. :D But still, it's awesome!!
Date: 6/15/2014
To be a great piano player and be able to improvised like she did, you need talent or if you prefer gift. The talent and the work you put in is the result of a good piano player.
Date: 6/16/2014
OMG i cried this time. the melody is so awesome... :')
Date: 6/16/2014
Amazing!!!I don't know what to say.She got the gift and she put hell a lot of time to practice.
Date: 6/16/2014
Thank you very much for the tutorials that I can find in these lessons. I agree with you, that you can cultivate and develop improvisation skills. May be some influence can be felt by having the gift of improvisation but that is added as an additional value.
Date: 6/16/2014
Hi Yoke, thank you for sharing this video. It was inspiring not only because she showed great skill and talent in composing a melody and improvising so quickly but also it had great expression and feeling. Sometimes a simple melody affects you more than an elaborate and fancy piece of music. After all the purpose of music and art is to express yourself and connect with your audience and not to show off your skills which are necessary but not sufficient by themselves. They are just means to an end!!!
A Sham
Date: 6/17/2014
Yoke, I share with you good improvision skills takes a good deal of learning and practising over years. One needs to learn what are the appropriate chords to accompany, good vocabulary to create good melody etc. Being musical is really a gift in my mind. Thanks you and your untiring effort of musical sharing with us from time to time is greatly appreciated.
Jack Cerveny
Date: 6/17/2014
I have been doing impervision for the past few years, not as smooth as that guest.And I have learned a lot of this from your free bits of playing that you show on the internet.My family think Iam not too bad of a player for an old fella Thank You
Date: 6/18/2014
Thank you for the Video and allowing me to share my thought. I think Improvisation is 'Practice make perfect', I can say that again because I am a perfect proof. I didn't start improvising under the tutorials of a tutor anyway, I just read books and listened to different kinds of songs and pieces performed and organized by veteran pianists, and other times, take instructions from piano teachers online just as you. That is how I began improvising. So I think improvisation is not just a gift--easily said by Oprah. I think the improvisation in the video was quite cool.
Date: 6/18/2014
It's so melodious. I listened to it several times. She is just marvelous. Awesome music.
tomas d. gonzalez
Date: 7/2/2014
to play by improvising you have to have the sound of music within you. Ten the skill to do it. I can play many songs however I cannot implement or play the black keys. thanks for the video.
Date: 4/24/2015
When I first started learning to play electronic organ and piano in a group music school, I asked a visiting professional pianist how he went about playing, and he simply said "knowledge"!! Most important is, don't listen to any nay-sayers, they're only wanting to pull you down to their level.

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