FAQ for Imagination on the Piano: Improvising Classically with George Ko! 🌠

Welcome to the magical world of classical improvisation!

In this month’s Community Challenge, we’ll learn to improvise on the piano and soon you’ll be able to create your own music, live!

 

Whether it’s when we’re listening to jazz, or watching John Mayer take off on a solo, we have all wanted to improvise as classical musicians. However, even after years of practicing scales, etudes, and difficult concerti, we just can’t seem to make up things on the spot.

In this livestream series, classical improviser and Young Steinway Artist George Ko shows how you can improvise and spontaneously create any song with your background of Bach, Chopin, and understanding of I-V-I cadences.

Some selected tonebase productions to get you started:

Noam Sivan's lessons on Improvising

John Mortensen on Historical Improvisation

Harmonic Formulas of the Great Composers

The What:

  • We’re going to learn how to improvise on the piano!
  • The goal is to start improvising immediately at the piano with the Classical style
  • Every week we’ll have different improvisational challenges. Depending how much you practice will ramp up your results. You know… How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
  • TBD: A watch party featuring your improvisations will take part at the end if by popular demand!

The When:

  • Challenge start: Kick-Off Friday June 10th at 11am PT
  • Watch party: TBD

The How:

  1. Join the live stream (or watch previously recorded sessions) and follow along on the improvisational topic of the week.
  2. Practice the improvising challenge on your own, then go to our Updates thread and post your improv!
  3. If you are willing and open to share, add a video or audio recording of yourself improvising. This is optional, but we’ll be able to share our progress together! This is a safe space, and we are not here to judge, but to encourage. There’s enough competitions for that.

The Fun Part:

  • TBD:At the end of our practice challenge, we will be hosting another Watch Party on tonebase LIVE! This will feature user submissions, community awards, and shoutouts!
  • This is planned for July 1st at 11 am PT!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

Can I join the challenge if I wasn't there on June 10th?

Yes! Just make sure you watch the first session and complete any workshop challenges before the next challenge.

I have a question, who do I ask?

Feel free to use this thread to ask any questions about this challenge! For a more detailed just DM me either here through the or on Instagram @_georgeko. You can also reach out to our Head of Live & Communinty through [email protected]

Can I do more than one improv per week?

Absolutely! This challenge is to help you become comfortable with improvising and to relinquish the “fear” of making mistakes. It’s about exploring the unknown. To infinity, and beyond!

36replies Oldest first
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Active threads
  • Popular
  • Well this is certainly an interesting challenge! Looking forward to it!

    Like 4
    • Awesome!

      Like
      • George Ko
      • Classical Improviser 🎹
      • GeorgeKo
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Angela Fogg awesome! See you in a few hours!

      Like
  • Note: I posted this question/comment on the other page for this workshop, whereas it seems like it belongs here instead, so I'm pasting it here (in case :

     

    Hi George, thank you for offering this workshop.

    do you want us to post some attempts BEFORE watching the live stream or wait until after that? 

    I've been playing around with these chords & I'm finding it rather challenging, as well as intriguing to try to make them work together.  My ear wants to establish a tonal center with at least a dominant and subdominant, but none of these chords serve that function with any other (although you can get close with some alterations and substitutions).  I'm sure that's part of the reason you chose them, to open our ears to other possibilities & relationships.  are we allowed to use diminished versions of the chords also?  

    Like 1
      • George Ko
      • Classical Improviser 🎹
      • GeorgeKo
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Peter Golemme Hi Peter, both are lovely! I saw you posted something, so expect another comment in a bit!

      Like
  • OK, so here is an attempt to improvise on these chords.  You said mistakes were OK, right?

    Like 3
      • Jenny
      • Jenny.1
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Peter Golemme That was amazing Peter, it got my foot tapping, and I could imagine Latin dancers everywhere taking to the dance floor! 

      Like 1
    • Peter Golemme Great impro, Peter! Well done with the Spanish influence, very exciting to listen to!

      Like
      • George Ko
      • Classical Improviser 🎹
      • GeorgeKo
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Peter Golemme oh wow fantastic start! Love the chromatic touch in the right hand, and the changes in rhythm and building up the song in a different structure, you're already off to the races! We'll discuss it more at 11am PT, looking forward!

      Like
    • George Ko Thank you so much George. I'm greatly looking forward to the session!

      Like 1
    • Peter Golemme Fabulous, Peter!  Sounded like Klezmer to me!

      Like
    • Barbara Blakeslee 

      Like
    • Barbara Blakeslee thanks Barbara. It’s that A harmonic minor scale that gives it that Klezmer/Spanish sound. The tonality is E, and playing that F natural gives it a Phrygian sound.  It was one way to get the chords E F & D to work together.  I thought that was what George was getting  at, but it was apparent today he had a different concept. I’ll try something in that vein next. 

      Like
    • Peter Golemme Well, I loved it, and I don't know why you think George wanted something e! Its5your own improvisation. 

      Like
  • Thanks very much Jenny & Sindre. I played around with these chords a lot before recording this, and this seemed like one of the better ways to get them to work together. I can't wait to hear what George has to say about this choice of chords. I felt stuck in that single mode (mostly a 'Phrygian' kind of mode, utilizing an A harmonic minor scale) despite having a goal of trying to move fluidly in and out of keys they way Bach does in the WTC. I'm learning so much about that from a number of Tonebase lessons, but was unable to put any of it into practice when it came time to sit down and play something! I'm very eager to hear some more postings from our other Tonebase participants!

    Like
    • CK Lau
    • Piano Teacher, Learner and Student
    • br0wn
    • 7 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    Hello George, 

     

    I am not quite sure of the task given. So, I just quickly use the key-signatures given and come out with this. Do give me some constructive comment (even if it's out of topic!) Appreciated. 

    • CK Awesome impro, CK! I did enjoy the surprising twists and turns, and it was a nice structure to it. 

      Like 1
    • CK nice job CK, with some interesting twists & turns in a few short measures, with unity maintained by the rhythm of the motif.  Like so many of your other postings, you play with an unhurried thoughtfulness, even in the faster- tempo pieces you have posted. 

      Like 1
      • CK Lau
      • Piano Teacher, Learner and Student
      • br0wn
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Sindre Skarelven Thanks a lot. Glad you likes it. 

      Like
      • CK Lau
      • Piano Teacher, Learner and Student
      • br0wn
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Peter Golemme Thanks Peter. Personally, I felt that your posted video did sounds more like an improvisation music 🤔. And thanks for listening on those videos which posted in the past. Appreciated. 

      Like
    • George Ko
    • Classical Improviser 🎹
    • GeorgeKo
    • 7 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    CK very nicely done! It's different from the workshop, but you are actually moving into the next phase improving! Very nice use of bass motion! As of right now, where we are in the community challenge, you are on the right track! Next week we'll get into more how our favorite dead composers improvise, and how we can use their techniques. You're already halfway there!

    Like 1
      • CK Lau
      • Piano Teacher, Learner and Student
      • br0wn
      • 7 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      George Ko Thank you for the feedback. Yes, indeed you were right. I felt it's very different after listening from your 1st lesson. Am glad to be able to learn such techniques. Truly appreciated. 

      Like 1
  • I realise it’s probably just me, but I think there seem to be two streams for people to post.

     

    So I’m posting this here as well, I hope that is okay! I really enjoyed George’s talk, gave me some nice ideas, and this was how I use them… Also really enjoyed the other two improvs that I’ve been able to listen to. I do hope there’ll be some more!

    Sadly I cannot make the lecture tomorrow, but I will watch the video afterwards.

    • Angela Fogg It's not just you Angela, I'm also seeing two different places to post and not sure which one to use. This Page here seems to be the "FAQ" Page. the other page is at https://piano-community.tonebase.co/t/y4hdwa6/week-1-kickoff-start-improvising-with-f-e-d and it says "This is the thread for posting the submissions and assignments for the first week". so I'm going to copy and paste my post over there, and hopefully figure out how to upload my video.

      Like
    • Angela Fogg I've now had a chance to listen to your improv Angela & I think it's really nice. lt sounds like you're already well down the path of improvising on a series of chords. nice variations of the melodic line & the bass accompaniament.  looking forward to additional posts!

      Like
Like5 Follow
  • 5 Likes
  • 7 mths agoLast active
  • 36Replies
  • 216Views
  • 14 Following