Improvise in Finnish Folk Style

Timo Alakotila
Publishing year: 

It is as easy to improvise in different folk dance tunes, such as the polska and waltz, as in jazz. The aim of this learning material is to help you to learn improvisation in folk music.


The exercise kit contains three different types of melodies: Semiquaver polska, triplet polska and waltz.

I have gathered the melodic material in the exercises from Finnish and Swedish folk tunes. The harmonisation enables you to play solos over them and these are marked in the music sheets with numbers (exercise 1, exercise 2, etc.). The material also makes it possible to play the provided solos along with background chords and to gradually move on to improvising.

You are advised to start practising by listening, observing and learning the example solos provided in the material. You can compose new versions of the samples by hopping from one line to another or inventing your own tunes. At the early stage, you can practise new variations and solos by composing and transcribing your compositions. This adds to your improvisation vocabulary.

In addition, the material contains reference material comprising a couple of tunes. They provide examples of variation, improvisation and folk music style.

Johanna Juhola (accordion) and Esko Järvelä (violin) accompany me in the recordings which were recorded by Hannu Oskala who also wrote the notations from transcriptions.

Semiquaver polska

Tuning level is a=442 Hz.


Five solo examples (accordion and piano).

semiquaver polska, slow

semiquaver polska, fast

Five solo examples notated.

Solo examples to semiquaver polska (PDF)

Backgrounds (piano).

background for semiquaver polska, slow

background for semiquaver polska, fast

Triplet polska

Five solo examples (accordion and piano).

triplet polska

Five solo examples notated.

solo examples to triplet polska (PDF)

Backgrounds (piano).

background for triplet polska


Three solo examples (accordion and piano).

walz, slow

walz, fast

Three solo examples notated. Examples 2 and 3 are transcriptions of fiddler Arto Järvelä's performance.

solo examples to walz (PDF)

Backgrounds (piano).

background for walz, slow

background for walz, fast

Reference material

Accordion and piano

Polska from Bromarv

Polska from Bromarv (PDF)

Carola\'s Brudpolska (comp. Hans Kennemark)

Carola\'s Brudpolska (comp. Hans Kennemark) (PDF)

Fiddle and accordion

Polska from Delsbo

Polska from Delsbo (PDF)

Polska efter L. J. Holmgren

Polska efter L. J. Holmgren (PDF)

Kringellek från Siljansnäs

Kringellek från Siljansnäs (PDF)