(Big) Improv Quote of the Day: What Does Improvisation Do For a Musician?


(Photo credit: Emilie Ogez)

For one, it gives me a break from tackling my wrong notes, distasteful vibrato, and being torn between interpretations in the practice room. There are no wrong notes, no wrong inflections. I wouldn’t say that a note during improv with “distasteful” vibrato/intonation/whatever was necessarily done on purpose, but was made in the moment and without expectation. There is something very freeing and empowering about this. What happens on accident- a cracked note, or a gasping breath, can turn into inspiration for what is to come.

At the same time, I can tackle my classical music troubles through improv. Lately, I’ve had issues with controlling the style of my double tonguing. I’ll start moving my fingers, with no regard to scales or my piece, and focus solely on my double tonguing. This allows my mind to be entirely focused on the production of my tonguing, because I am not going to be distracted by the fingers in an awkward passage, or by the monotony of scales.

Continue reading


Improv Quote of the Day: Don’t Put Up With It


Major and minor scale

You don’t have to practice boring exercises, but you have to practice something. If you find the practice boring, you don’t run away from it, but don’t tolerate it either. Transform it into something that suits you. If you are bored playing a scale, play the same eight tones but change the order. Then change the rhythm. Then change the tone color. Presto, you have just improvised. If you don’t think the result is very good, you have the power to change it- now there is both a supply of raw material and some judgment to feed back the process. This is especially effective with classically trained musicians who think they can’t play without a score or develop technique without exact repetition of some exercises in a book. –Stephen Nachmanovitch, Free Play



Improv Game of the Day: I Go You Go

English: Circle of fifths, with color-coded pi...

2 players. Although it seldom occurs to us traditionally trained players, good deal of technique work can actually be done very effectively and efficiently with two players, in the same way as having a workout partner at the gym has advantages in motivation, pacing, rest & recovery. Where one player might normally work on an element of technique (pattern, scale or scale part, arpeggio, etc.) alone, two players can often accomplish more in both quantity, quality, and well, fun, as partners doing the same thing. Take the following example:

Play the major triad 1 3 5 through the cycle (i.e. circle of fifths descending: C F Bb Eb Ab Db F# B E A D G), 4 reps of the triad on each key; repeat the whole exercise 5 times. Player One goes first and then rests as Player Two does it. Player One immediately commences the second time through when Player Two is done, and so on, until they both have completed five times. The resting player may also serve as a coach, keeping track of reps, giving encouragement, small corrections, or variations (“Keep the pulse steady!”; “That’s it!”; “Now: two slurred and two tongued!”; “Last round – speed it up a bit!”; “Now two on each!”; “Now louder! Very soft!”; “Again!”; “Next time down an octave!”; “Good job!”).

The players should continue this type of exercise with a number of different challenges, e.g. using various scale types (major, different minors, pentatonic, whole tone, chromatic, etc.), different ranges, articulations, intervals, patterns, and so on, so that the whole session lasts 20-40 minutes. Even ten minutes of collaborative practice can do wonders. If at all possible, work with a partner three or four times a week – it’s always great fun and pays big dividends.