Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to Improvise Christmas Music

Learn how to improvise Christmas music and other similar tunes

In this video, Robert plays one of the most famous Christmas carols of all time, "Greensleeves" (also known as "What Child is This?"), and by starting from a very basic version, improvises step-by-step on his piano.

Released on December 18, 2013

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Welcome and Happy Holidays to everyone. Today's subject is how to improvise Christmas music. A lot of times if you're a pianist you're going to be called into action to accompany people playing Christmas songs or people just want you to play something. Maybe you don't want to practice a whole bunch of Christmas carols so what I suggest is find the easiest arrangements you can. I got this one right off of Virtual Sheet Music and there's a bunch of easy piano arrangements. What's great about it is you can embellish them and improvise.

So this is a little study in improvisation here and Christmas carols are one of the best ways to do it. Why? Because when you improvise music it's best to have music that you can pretty much play by ear because that's what improvisation's all about. This gives you a great starting point if you don't know the music intimately you can at least read a simple version and fancy it up. Let me show you what I mean.

First I'm going to play it as it's written and then I'm going to embellish and show you just what the possibilities are. And this way you can do it on your level you can do it with people who are singing or solo whatever you like. It's totally flexible. That's the beauty of it. So this is Greensleeves sometimes called What Child is This and this is the easy arrangement in Virtual Sheet Music.

Now you can do pretty much whatever you want with it and in fact you could just take the left hand and make up a melody totally fresh and take off on this song and create your own song based upon the descending harmonies in the left.

So the only rule here is have fun with the music. All right? And you can do this with many simple Christmas songs or any songs at all. Gives yourself a chance to improvise with something you're intimately familiar with which is the secret to improvisation. When you hear the jazz greats taking off on something you wonder how is it possible to create these masterpieces of composition instantly? Well the secret is they've lived with the music so much that it's a part of them.

So that's why Christmas songs are a perfect way for you to get started with improvisation if it's something new for you because it's familiar songs.

Thanks for joining me enjoy the holiday season and I'll see you next time on and living Your host Robert Estrin.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Kathy * VSM MEMBER * on December 1, 2021 @10:10 am PST
I’m new as a member and am inspired by your amazing tips!! I play piano and flute! Merry Christmas!!
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on December 1, 2021 @2:21 pm PST
That's great to know Kathy, and welcome! I am sure Robert will be thrilled to have you here Smiley Face

Enjoy your time and play great music this coming Christmas!

All the best,
Larry on December 2, 2020 @7:52 am PST
As a 80 yr old beginner who SLOWLY squeezes out a easy piece of music, Robert left me breathless but so inspired.
Robert Estrin - host, on December 2, 2020 @11:11 am PST
That's great to hear - hope you have a musical holiday!
William John McClay on December 5, 2018 @4:07 pm PST
Great tip. Thanks!
Connie Veldkamp * VSM MEMBER * on December 5, 2018 @9:58 am PST
Love your shirt, Robert!
Robert Estrin - host, on December 6, 2018 @9:50 am PST
You gotta love vintage shops!
Ramona Walter * VSM MEMBER * on December 6, 2017 @4:15 pm PST
Beautiful !
Tammy Hall * VSM MEMBER * on December 6, 2017 @7:14 am PST
Beautiful Robert. Even on my iPad you sounded wonderful. Thanks to you, Florence and Virtual Sheet Music. To everyone, have a WONDERFUL Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Robert - host, on December 6, 2017 @12:36 pm PST
Hope everyone gets a chance to reconnect with friends and family this holiday season!
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on December 6, 2017 @3:25 pm PST
Thank you Tammy for your kind comment! I am so glad you enjoyed this video. Florence and Robert played wonderfully indeed. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you as well!
Maria * VSM MEMBER * on December 18, 2013 @3:05 pm PST
Grateful thanks to Robert and Fabrizio for their enthusiasm and wonderful service throughout the year. I'll be thinking of you all as my string trio ( myself on viola) play your Christmas Carols this coming Saturday, for the third year at a shopping centre. Very popular versions! Thank you.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on December 18, 2013 @5:25 pm PST
Dear Maria, you are most than welcome! Glad to know you are enjoying the videos as well as our Christmas Carols! My best wishes for your coming performance!

Please, feel always free to contact me with any questions or ideas you may have, I will be glad to hear from you. Thank you again and Merry Christmas!
Humberto Cruz * VSM MEMBER * on December 18, 2013 @9:40 am PST
Robert, this is the first Christmas carol I learned how to play and one of my favorites.
Thank you for all the excellent videos throughout the year and merry Christmas to you and your family.

Humberto Cruz
Fulvia %28SnowLeopard%29 * VSM MEMBER * on December 18, 2013 @6:55 am PST
Thank you Robert and Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year. .
Grazie, Fabrizio, tanti auguri di un Buon Natale e prospero Anno Nuovo.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on December 18, 2013 @11:07 am PST
Grazie Fulvia! Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo anche a te. Smiley Face Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too!!
Elaine on December 18, 2013 @2:19 am PST
I really appreciate Robert's music tips. Thank you Virtual Sheet Music and Robert. Happy Holidays. Elaine
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on December 18, 2013 @6:19 am PST
Thank you Elaine! Happy Holidays to you too!
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