i use to practice improvisation on the piano together with play-along tracks, like the ones provided by aebersold, hal leonard, etc.

but i have a lot of difficulty in accompaining the chord changes, choruses, and bars. i can't count the beats in my head and improvise at the same, so i always get lost, and can't find my way back into the correct chords and changes of the song, and it is difficult for me to discover by ear at which point the track is, because of so many tensions and all that that makes the harmony hard to grasp. i struggle to keep myself together with the rythmic section, but it is no use.

i would like to know if anyone has got any tips for me. what are the tecniques used by the improvisors not to get lost in fast songs?


thanks in advance!
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random thoughts:

make sure you know the tune.  and i mean, really know it.

keep the melody of the tune in your mind.  that helps you keep place.

relax.  on faster songs, thinking about the tune measure by measure is going to stress you out.  think about the tune in sections.  either groups of four measures (if it works out that way in the tune) or in groups of key centers (see the tune up discussion.)

play less.  you don't have to fill up every space with notes.  if you play less it will be easier to tell where you are in the song.  don't even comp all the chords.  

don't comp while your right hand is going.  try only comping when you're not playing a line, use comping as an answer for whatever phrase you played in your right hand.

tap your foot, sway to the music, do whatever you need to do to have "belly time".  that way you simply can't get lost, it's impossible if the time is inside you.

spend some time listening to the backing tracks or to recordings of the songs and concentrate on the time so that you can really feel it.  don't play anything, just listen.

time is something that clicks in a person, when it clicks in you getting lost in songs is a thing of the past. even if you don't know where you are exactly, you always know when your at the top of the form, or hitting the bridge, or whatever.  it gets intuitive, you feel it.

hope this helps!
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scot's point about playing less is a great one.  in fact,i would suggest playing along with the tracks, comping only, until you can do it without counting. once you can comp on autopilot, it will be easier to focus on  melodic improv without getting lost
usually i look up for one scale, like on coltrane`s mr pc, its pretty fast for me but the progression is kinda easy and you can play it on c minor blues, i know thats wrong but its kinda hard for me to keep times on fast songs that i dont know well.
i know i should practice to allways know where i am, a friend told me that, but when im doing a new song, i usually follow the sheet with my eyes while listening to the drums so i dont get lost and i improvise in a small part of the piano (i heard this from the blog jazz piano lessons).
i dont know if this is how you should aproach it but its what i do when i start learning tunes!.
and have fun! thats the most important, i started playing jazz this year and when i tried to play a lot on every single chord, as i was told it sounded... i dont know nice but i didnt really liked it, it was like i was just doing something to fill up every chord, but later i started using phrasing and i improvised according to what i wanted to do, this helps singing the tune you want to improvise while you play it and see if it sounds the same!
hope this helps you, and i can be wrong on any advice i gave, im new at this also!
metronome on.  practice clear relaxed tempo's.  play only simple whole note sustain chords in left hand.  play eight note improvised melodies in right hand grouped in fours.   always metronome on.  quarter note = 80 very good practice point.

play alongs can be counter productive because you are not learning to keep time for yourself.   think of play alongs as not good practice but just light fun.
i have to laugh because all time goes out the window when you play with certain singer at least many that i have played behind. i have had some hellish roller coaster rides with the rhythm at which some vocalist like to stylize. i just comp along pretty quietly and hope i can end when they do.
this is a random point about practice that might appeal to some people.  i just bought a 61 key casio keyboard to take with me on holiday (light, fairly cheap, batteries).

i've never really used any "keyboard" functions or sequencing, i've only ever used the "piano" function on my digital piano. but, i've been mucking around with the auto-accompaniment/arranger facility on this new keyboard, and it seems to me to be a great tool for practicing improv.  you play the left hand chord (very simply), and it creates the full accompaniment, in a whole range of styles.

this makes it very easy to practice improvisation in the right hand, but the song doesn't "run away from you" like it can with a play-along.  it also really helps in learning a tune - just for fun, play the tunes you know in various styles (autumn leaves, hawaiian style, nylon string guitar sound in the right hand).
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