I’m a huge supporter of mimicing what you hear. It’s a fabulous way to learn to play music and grow. With traditional music lessons, sometimes I think the act of sight-reading is over-emphasized. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very important. However, teachers are going to teach what they know, and they know sight-reading. They know Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, etc.
The path to becoming a well-rounded musician is multi-faceted. There is theory, sight-reading, and ear training. There is history, and learning how to playing with other musicians.
Another very important element is improvisation. The freedom to express oneself is such an important element of becoming a full rounded musician. Here are a few ways I encourage my students to do this. Some will do this freely and others will struggle to play without music.
First, I get them to play a simple rhythm left hand pattern in C major, and have the student do C major triads in the right hand. Giving the student the rhythmic pattern to copy gives them a headstart. As the student gets more advanced I give them common chord pattern progressions like ii, V7 and I with a left hand rhythmic pattern. I show them how to embellish these chords with 2nds, 6ths and 7 major and dominants. We do these patterns in various inversions and make little songs of these chord progressions.
Second, we listen to a simple song of choice, not a classical song….a song of repetitive chord structures. Students are amazed once they realize they can play harmony with a song of their choice. This usually inspires them for more challenges.
Thirdly, I use Pattern Play by Akiko & Forrest Kinney. This is geared to teachers to help them show their students how to improv. In turn it shows the teacher how to improv as well. I also recommend PlayPianoTODAY.com for the moderate to advanced piano player wanting to challenge themselves with rhythmic patterns and improvization.
I hope this helps you reach beyond and try something new. Your comments are welcome!