Creating Within Limits

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When I first started playing the piano I wanted to learn how to compose. The idea that I could create something tangible really appealed to me.

So much so that I read everything I could get my hands on to learn the great art of musical composition. The problem was that these books assumed that you knew certain things like form, structure, harmony, and counterpoint. What a disappointment! It was hard trying to take the feelings I had on the inside and put them down on paper.

The real problem was that I had it backwards. Instead of trying to learn composition first, I needed to learn how to improvise - how to free the inner voice from criticism and judgement so I could be free to create the music that was inside of me.

And so I began to read about how to improvise, Again, I was disappointed. I couldn't find good books on the subject, or books that would show me how to play in the New Age style - the style I loved. Eventually, I stumbled on a simple book that showed how to play using chord changes with 8-bar phrases. Now, here was something I could do! All I had to do now was learn chords. Once I knew how to play a few chords I began to see that in order to really be creative there had to be a set of limitations. An irony, yet one that works!

By playing chord changes within a set framework, I was learning how to create within limits. Even so called "free improvisation" has certain rules. For example, you may decide that you'll improvise using the chords and scale of D Major. That's creating within limits. It's not necessary to use limits to create music, but it definitely helps one to focus in on expressing yourself. Instead of thinking about what to play, you've already made that decision and are now free to create.

Edward Weiss is a pianist/composer and webmaster of Quiescence Music's online piano lessons. He has been helping students learn how to play piano in the New Age style for over 14 years and works with students in private, in groups, and now over the internet. Stop by now at for a FREE piano lesson!

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