In order to develop the improvisation skill, the basic to learn is how to play a chord. Before learning to play a simple chord, one must learn the interval – the relationship between notes. Here is the 3 easy steps to play a chord on piano:
1. Play the bass note with your left hand little finger.
To play C Maj7, press C with your left hand little finger
2. Play the remaining notes in the chord with your right hand.
Here is where our brain do all the maths. In CMaj7, there are 4 notes:
C – the root which already played in left hand
E – the major 3rd from the root (C)
G – the perfect 5th from the root (C)
B – the major 7th from the root (C)
So, play E-G-B with your right hand.
3. Play the designated notes as if a drummer – create your rhythm!
play the left hand root note as if hitting the bass drum
play the right hand chord notes as if hitting the snare drum
These 3 easy steps are done subconsciously when you reach a practice level where you can play any chord without doing all the interval maths. When you can do that, improvisation is just a piece of cake!
To learn about notation of chords and what the chord consisted of, refer Shane McDonald’s complete chord chart. Click on the chord’s name and it will bring you to a keyboard picture highlighting the notes you should play.
Please understand that the best way to practise is to play songs, improvise and compose your own tune.