Three Ways to Embellish a Melody

A lot of people think you have to be an expert to improvise.  Wrong!  Improvisation begins simply by merely embellishing which means you decorate or enhance a tune you already know.  Here are three easy embellishments that can be applied almost any tune.

Fill notes

Play the notes between the written notes.  This embellishment can be used anywhere a melody includes notes that are a third or more apart. Take, for example, the first leap between the 3rd and 4th notes of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  This is a great place to add fill notes.

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Tip:
When embellishing a melody, play it slowly enough to leave time/space for additional notes.

Repeated notes

You can also make a melody more interesting and personal just by repeating some of the notes. For example, in the 2nd measure of Twinkle:

Neighbor notes 

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A third way to enhance a melody is through the use of neighbor notes which go away and back.  From any written note, play an adjacent note (above or below) and then replay the written note. I happen to live on a hill so if I go to my uphill neighbor to borrow some flour for my baking project and come right back home, I’ve followed the same path as an upper neighbor note.  If go to the downhill neighbor and right back to borrow some sugar, I’ve followed the path of a lower neighbor note. Here’s an example of an upper neighbor note applied to the last measure of Twinkle.

Combinations

Put all three of these embellishments together and you’ll find you have a much more interesting way to play this classic melody.

Try mixing and matching these embellishments on other tunes and feel free to add ideas of your own.  There are many ways to customize a melody.

Details on embellishing and many more easy-to-play improvisational tips and tricks can be found in my piano method books, all of which, include improvisation for every tune. 

Until next time, enjoy your creative musical journey!