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No matter what your instrument or musical style - jazz, new age, jam rock, bluegrass - Cindy’s improv lessons guide you to discover and create powerful solos from your deepest musical expression. Cindy approaches improvised playing by developing a keen, intense listening. Most improv teaching focuses on learning music theory (learning scales, chords, keys, standard chord progressions) and a method of how to play solos using this knowledge of theory. Although Cindy’s students learn theory knowledge as a part of their improv training it is not her starting point.
Cindy’s first steps in improv teaching is to assist the student in developing a keen, intense listening which then directs them intuitively, almost magically, toward what to play while creating their own improvised solos. Cindy plays simple chord changes (according to the student’s choice of musical style) in repetitive progressions on the piano while the student plays along. Through deep listening and experimentation, students allow their ear to guide them to notes, then to short 3 and 4 note phrases, and finally, to beautifully improvised melodies that fit the piano harmonies they hear.
As a student becomes more experienced with this kind of playing, Cindy adds in “coaching” comments while the student is improvising, encouraging the player to expand and stretch their ideas. These suggestions bring amazing solos from students, full of interest and diversity. Students often end this playing experience saying, “Wow! That sounded AMAZING!! I didn’t think I could play like that!!”
Another of Cindy’s secrets to success with improv students is to empower them with “YES!” in their playing. She teaches students to play with a spirit of curiosity and acceptance - learning from EVERY note played. Students discover that the “WRONG” note they played, if they listen, can take their solo in a new and fascinating direction - one they would not have discovered if the note had been “RIGHT”. Playing without judgment is playing with freedom. This is playing with “YES!”
In addition to learning improvisation through deep listening and experimentation, Cindy teaches the music theory that is the basis of improvisation. Her approach is to explain what chords/scales/progressions are at work in the music AFTER she has guided the student to create improvisations through listening. As time goes by, this scale/chord/progression knowledge is absorbed, and becomes an aid to improvisation. This is a natural progression of learning the language of improvisation. It is the same way we learn to talk - first we listen, then we babble, then we find a few words, then we talk and make sense. And later, we study grammar.
For keyboard and guitar students Cindy includes a larger focus on chord theory in lessons, since these intruments are polyphonic (can play more than 1 note at a time) and are often called upon to provide the harmonic underpinning for improv bands and ensembles.
When beginning improv lessons, Cindy uses recordings and apps as learning tools to get students playing. As she begins to incorporate music theory into lessons, Cindy uses online sources, additional apps and software and a variety of improvisation and theory books to make concepts easy to understand.
Group Playing and Singing
Cindy encourages students to make music with others and, along with traditional recitals, offers workshops and events where students can participate in house concerts for family and friends, ensemble playing and singing, jam sessions and more. Follow the links below to learn more.