Monday, March 7, 2011

The Importance of Improvisation

Up until now I have been compiling good lessons that I have found throughout my time playing guitar however today I want to write a lesson of my own so... improvisation and its importance!

The ability to improvise is a very overlooked skill. It takes intuition and creativity on a level that surpasses writing music in a studio. Every experience listening to an improvisation will be different and completely unique to that moment in time. This makes it possible to play the same song over and over again yet still find something new to enjoy, appreciate, and rock out to. hopefully this lesson will help people approach music from a jamming perspective which will in the end help you create new riffs, play music that sounds great without using music theory, and make you a much better overall musician.

So... what exactly is improvising?
Improvising is done everyday by you and me. When you are having a conversation with someone, you are expressing yourself to them without putting too much thought into it. Every thought is spontaneous and based on prior experiences that suggest to you what will express your desired emotions and thoughts most effectively. It is the same principle for music. Based on your past experiences playing music (you will have more as you play music for longer and thus a better improviser) you are expressing your current thoughts and emotions through the median of music. Your thoughts and emotions are always changing and thus your current state of mind creates and experience that will be completely unique to that moment in time.

Components of improvising
-Flowing naturally while you improvise without losing focus or control

-Communication with other musicians.

-Creativity. Sometimes (actually a lot of the time) your going to have to think outside of the box while improvising.
-Technical and harmonic ability to play over chord changes in time or in a way that conveys your thoughts and emotions.

-Past musical experiences to expand upon. Having a skill set of basic vocabulary and phrasing to be able to play over any style of music.

-Control. A key to improv. You must be able to flow naturally and control what you play while playing in time with a band or jam tracks.

Practicing improvisation
Improvising can be hard to incorporate into a "practice routine" because it is not as simple as forming muscle memory by practicing for extended periods of time. Instead of practicing muscle memory, you need to practice and better understand your musical thought process. You need to understand how to transfer different techniques into various styles of music and how to rely on your musical instincts in order to create some kind of art instead of the note-for-note riff that you have been practicing for countless hours. Something else that is very important is utilizing your ear instead of relying on given scales and chords. If you hear something that sounds good, play it. It doesn't matter if it is "correct" because it is you expressing your current thoughts and emotions in that moment in time. more on ear training in the ear training lesson - located here. Some things that are good for helping to understand improvisation are playing along with unknown songs on the radio, learning basic intervals for scales and chords that can be applied to different styles, and jamming along to various backing tracks.

example of an improvisation:

This video is of Jimi Hendrix jamming at woodstock

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