Listening, playing and targeting for better improvisation technique
As we attempt to better our skills in playing jazz music, we often ask ourselves ‘’How can I improve my ability to improvise?’’ Watching master players do that on the spot almost effortlessly, it makes us wish we could have their musical prowess. However, what exactly is improvisation to begin with?
Improvisation in its most open sense is anything we do in our everyday lives while walking, speaking, making choices, playing football – you name it. We improvise all the time and everything we make is colored by our personalities, temperament, circumstances, etc. Jazz improvisation is no different from that, Don Braden argues. We perform spontaneously or make something from whatever is available, in this case – our musical instruments.
We have compiled some recommendations for you to take in order to work on your improvisations effectively towards greater results over time.
LISTEN. That is first. Listen to jazz music and to the records of the master players. In that way, you can perceive the language of jazz music and as time goes on, you will be able to speak it more fluently – just like foreign languages! Listening and understanding jazz music also requires a very special skill – attention. In music, we are able to perceive and take in multiple voices and tunes at once and that is very important when trying to incorporate attention into selective listening that can be used for ear training. It works through isolating the different aspects of intervals, chords, and melodies through the learning process, while listening, and mastering them.
SEE ALSO: 20 Albums To Begin A Journey into Jazz
Okay, now we know the language basics. But, how to start speaking the jazz language more fluently? PLAY YOUR INSTRUMENT. Play as often as you can – practice makes perfect! Make jazz solos as much as possible. Figure out how to play and try to find people with similar taste for music to play with. Under such circumstances, you will achieve best results. To support you in the process, we’d like to advise you to lean onto the music theory, unleashing the abilities to improvise.
“Music theory is simply a way to talk about the sound of music.”, Jazzadvise
Music is made from the interaction and cooperation of melody, harmony and rhythm. Each of these key elements plays an essential role in shaping the form of the final piece. Improvisation, considering what we are implying here, is the ability to manipulate and master your feeling of one or more of these three elements. Based on this knowledge, you may assume different approaches to your improvisational techniques – scalar improv (improvising melodies within a scale), arpeggio (independently playing the individual notes of a chord) and more techniques, which you can find here.
Another important thing to do is to WORK TOWARDS A GOAL. Improvisation itself always has some sort of a direction or a goal. Imagine the best version of yourself playing jazz – how would you like to see yourself in the future? That direction will become the compass for your passion and influence your motivation even more. It will help you stay focused and determined to move in a direction of growth.
If you are searching for some jazz artists to draw inspiration from, choose from an abundance of great ballads to listen to and play along, especially for saxophonists.
Enjoy the sound!