The Pianist’s Guide to Historic Improvisation

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The Pianist’s Guide to Historic Improvisation

Keyboard artists in the time of J.S. Bach were simultaneously performers, composers, and improvisers. By the twentieth century, however, the art of improvisation was all but lost. Today, vanishingly few classically-trained musicians can improvise with fluent, stylistic integrity. Many now question the system of training that leaves players dependent upon the printed page, and would welcome a new approach to musicianship that would enable modern performers to recapture the remarkable creative freedom of a bygone era.

The Pianist's Guide to Historic Improvisation opens a pathway of musical discovery as the reader learns to improvise with confidence and joy. Useful as either a college-level textbook or a guide for independent study, the book is eminently practical. Author John Mortensen explains even the most complex ideas in a lucid, conversational tone, accompanied by hundreds of musical examples. Mortensen pairs every concept with hands-on exercises for step-by-step practice of each skill. Professional-level virtuosity is not required; players of moderate skill can manage the material. Suitable for professionals, conservatory students, and avid amateurs, The Pianist's Guide leads to mastery of improvisational techniques at the Baroque keyboard.


1. Introduction
2. Figuration Prelude
3. Toccata
4. Rule of the Octave
5. Diminution
6. Variation
7. Lyricism
8. Suite
9. Imitation
10. Partimento
11. Schemata


  • Improvisation topics

    Diminution (up to 1620), Partimento, Prelude, Rule of the Octave, Schemata, Suite (ouverture and dance movements), Toccata, Variations

  • Solo / Ensemble


  • Website Source

  • Author

    John J Mortensen

  • Language (Translation?)


  • Type of Thing you Learn

    Toccata, Prelude, Rule of the Octave, Diminution, Suite, Partimento, Schemata, Variation

  • Instrument


  • Level

    Beginner, (More) Advanced

  • Year


  • Medium


  • Style

    Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic

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