Improvisation at the Piano 

Use the links below to learn more about Improvisation at the Piano. To purchase a copy, contact your local music store or visit for the location of a print music dealer near you.

About the Authors

Lesson Plans for Individual Lessons

Lesson Plans for Group Lessons

Frequently Asked Questions



This is probably the most effective (best) book I've read for any acquired skill.  I'm a pianist (currently working on my masters at a conservatory) and was searching for a book on improvisation within the classical medium. I was frustrated because I couldn't find any book with the exception of this. Thank God that I could only find this book. The exercises are brilliantly isolated to help acquire rhythmic, harmonic, dynamic competence. Books like this are truly a savior to this art. The authors Brian Chung and Dennis Thurmond demonstrate ways of improvising over classics such as the bass lines to Fur Elise and Mozart's C Major Sonata. This book will help you understand the theory behind music, which in turn helps memorize and understand the composer's compositional style/intentions. I rarely write a review on Amazon but this book is truly deserving. If I am able to conquer this text, I will finally be able to say that I have true mastery of the instrument.  - S. Ranney  (June 24, 2009)

This is by far the best book on improvisation. I own several books on improvisation and after getting this book I think I can throw away the rest. I love it because it is not the same jazz improvisation books that just repeat themselves all the time. if you like jazz on top of this book you may want to get Sid Jacobs book which also get 5 stars,that would be all you need.                Dovith (March 15, 2013)

A wonderful book-exactly what I was looking for: aimed at musicians with a pure classical bent. If you memorize the harmonic devices and improvisation patterns in this book, you can review a piece AWAY from the piano to identify patterns such as the true key signature (major or minor/melodic minor), as well as scale and modal shifts (for instance, you'll find aeolian and mixolydian modes in many, many pieces). A harmonic analysis of a classical piece will not only give you insight into how the greats composed, but will greatly ease the memorization process. You'll have a lot of fun with the info in this book. I feel I have quite an edge on most musicians now. The info in this book is also entirely applicable to ANY instrument.   -  Mike Dulka (May 31, 2009)

I am having a great time with this book. I am a conservatory trained pianist, always good with sight-reading, quick grasp of notes. Memorizing was more of an effort, and as I age, I don't enjoy reading music as much as I once did. Following authors' suggestions, I am finding a groove, making my own sounds. I want to be free of the written page, and this is definitely helping. Not as technical, theoretically, as some other approaches. Not that I mind theory, but this is a real direct way to get at playing on my own.  I also use solfege when playing piano, which very few people do. I find it gets me to focus on sounds, pitch placement, making musical decisions instead of letting my fingers wag at the keys. I'm having a blast, so what is there not to like?                                                 - Margaret B. Hooden (February 23, 2015)


AMERICAN MUSIC TEACHER (December 2007 Issue)

Did you ever wish you could simply sit down and "play something" without the aid of written music? In this book, the authors tackle the fascinating subject of improvisation with clarity, humor and an earnest desire to demystify the learning process for the uninitiated.

Usually beginning improvisers learn their craft casually by picking out tunes by ear, "noodling" around on their instruments and exchanging ideas with peers prior to more serious study. Here, the reader progresses systematically from simple one-note rhythms through more complex concepts, including melodic manipulation, modes and harmonic improvisation. Whether the first time improviser is better served by free wheeling explorations or this more formal, sequential approach probably depends on one's personality and learning style.

Ideally suited to the student with a serious interest in improvisation and the capacity for disciplined self-study, this book will find many other users. For example, piano teachers could readily utilize many of the simpler concepts by adding short improvisation segments to their lessons. Classroom theory instructors will find a ready-to-use textbook that provides a practical application of their subject. Experienced improvisers who find themselves "in a rut" will enjoy investigating the wealth of new ideas presented here. Since composition differs from improvisation only in the speed with which one makes decisions, student composers could also benefit from the many suggestions about how to create variations from simple melodies. Even readers with a passing interest in improvisation will be interested in the final chapters, which include an overview of jazz and a brief history of improvisation reminding us, for example, that "all medieval musicians were expected to improvise.

All readers will appreciate the format, which lends itself to easily assimilating concepts through labeled paragraphs, numbered lists and a review of key points at chapter endings. Along the way, colorful analogies, such as comparing improvisation to "a snake slithering over and around notes" or "trying to steer a kayak through swift rapids with shifting currents," make for enjoyable learning. Scholarly, witty and thorough, the authors urge us to view improvisation "more as an exploration than a discipline." Whether readers choose to merely dabble in the many tips and insights presented here or diligently work through all of the exercises, they will expand their listening skills, increase their melodic vocabulary and gain a deeper understanding of the process of creating music.

- Bradley Sowash, Independent Music Teacher

CLAVIER COMPANION (January/February 2009)

Well written and presented, this volume guides players through straightforward exercises that quickly become interesting and sophisticated.  The text is lively and balanced with musical examples, charts, and periodic summary comments that engage students of all ages.  The chapters discussing how to choose the right scales when improvising above a harmonic structure will help those who have a little experience but need help to give more control.

The musical examples are based on excerpts from the classical literature, and there are chapters covering jazz examples and topics.  Ways to voice seventh and other extended chords will answer questions that accomplished pianists, inexperienced in jazz, will have. 

- Karen Kan-Walsh, Northwestern University (Evanston, IL)

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