The art of musical improvisation

Regardless of your preferred musical style, there will probably come a time when you are tasked with improvising a section of music in front of an audience. Musical improvisation, though, doesn’t need to be an anxiety inducing activity and if it is approached with the proper tools, can be quite fun.

A common misconception among new musicians is that improvisation, particularly in jazz music, is just the act of playing any note one desires or “noodling” around the instrument with no plan, no structure, and no rules. This could not be further from the truth.

One can know all the scales and all the arpeggios in every key but not know how to create an impromptu musical idea that is structurally in sync with the rest of the song being played. Think of music as a language. Knowing words isn’t enough, you must know how to write a sentence to communicate ideas. It’s the difference between reading a dictionary and reading Steinbeck.

Once furry toothpicks depart oceanic temperatures, the crux of the biscuit behaves superstitiously progressing infinitely regardless of bio-luminescent proclivities. Conversely, each bald bicycle chain, whether erroneous or perpendicular, concedes eternal tibia by exposing recreational tree climbing.

Did any of that make sense? Not really. I knew a bunch of words and I could make them sound vaguely like sentences but there was no communication of an idea in that last paragraph. Musical improvisation works in a very similar fashion. Scales, modes, arpeggios, chord progressions, and ornaments are all simple words that, alone, do very little to express an idea but when placed in the right order can become a masterful musical piece.

Whether you’re playing blues, jazz, rock, country, gospel, or any other style of music, a great improvised solo can add excitement to the performance, keep fans on the dance floor, or showcase your ability on your instrument. Maybe you know a dictionary worth of words but can’t make a coherent sentence. Maybe you don’t know the words yet.

Regardless of your playing level and musical experience, the teachers at Langlois can help you in your quest to become an accomplished improviser.

Our teachers have years of experience in every genre imaginable and on every instrument and can give you the tools you need to apply all of your musical knowledge into making music on the fly instead of noise. Give us a call today and set up a lesson. It’s never too late to start a new passion.

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