What is musical improvisation?
In the musical field, improvisation is the art of composing and recording in the same time; in other words, it is inventing in that time!
Improvisation can be a harmony, a melody, a solo, a riff, a rhythm, etc.
This art differentiates creator musicians from the ones who only reproduce. These second ones are those who only reproduce or play ready songs. They generally have the technique, but they are really limited musically (dependents on a repertoire) and they don’t know what they are doing; they are just following a cake’s recipe.
Creator musicians don’t limit themselves to only reproducing ready songs; they are capable of changing them, to enhance them, to create new melodies or harmonies automatically. These are musicians that know what they are doing; they understand what is beyond symbology and staff. They can “speak” musically.
Summarizing; those who know improvisation:
– Understand what is happening and have immediate ideas;
– Find easy to compose, because they have many tools and resources in mind
– Have the ear really accurate
– Can deal with unexpected situations (new songs, changing of repertoire in the last minute, lack of memory (when your mind goes blank), etc.);
– Put their own identity in the songs.
Motivating, isn’t it?
The subject of the improvisation in music
Well, to be capable of doing improvisation it is needed to know this subject. For example, in the lectures field, any person is capable of improvising in a speech about “happiness”, because everybody has a concept in mind about this subject. But maybe the improvisation can damage the quality of speech; many people would speak without using beautiful words and deep reflections. But now, how many people would improvise about the importance of Schrödinger equation in quantum electromagnetism?
In music is the same thing, we need a good vocabulary (to know how to choose the write “words”) and we also need to know the context that we are so that the “word” can make sense.
This conversation is good, but let’s talk about something more practical now: How do learn how to improvise indeed?
Well, there are some secrets to become a good improviser. We will talk specifically about solos in this topic, but the concept is the same for all the other aspects of improvisation in music.
Explaining this in an easy way, it is just to know the basic scales and to know how to identify the song tonality to do an improvisation. These things we already learned here in Simplifying Theory, don’t worry. But in practice it is not just knowing scales and its tonalities, you have to create a solo with them.
It looks obvious, but it is not. Someone who is initiating in improvisation can learn about major scale and understand where to use it, but if he/she doesn’t have ready “phrases” and links in his/her mind, the improvisation will be terrible.
Nobody likes listening played scales that go up and down without dynamics. The beauty of music is in the fact of knowing how “to write” musical phrases with notes. And how will a beginner in improvisation be able to do that? He/she has to take the ready phrases from other musicians, memorizing them and using them in various contexts. This way, he/she will develop the ability to know where to put the phrases in the songs. This is essential. The next step is taking these same phrases and making some little changes, trying to put your own ideas from the ideas in the phrases. After a certain time doing this, the person will start to create his/her own phrases from zero, without having base in any ready phrase.
Very well, for those who have never done an improvisation, to have this ability will take time. It is like everything in life: if the result is good, the effort needs to make this result be deserved. We advise that the beginner devote himself/herself to take theses ready phrases and applying them in major and minor tonalities. These phrases can be part of a major, minor, pentatonic or blues scale. This must be the starting world to the person who wants to improvise. He/she needs to feel himself/herself confident in this, because this is the base for future improvements. In this phase the beginner will acquire “feeling”, he/she will learn to put his/her expression in the songs.
We will show along our study about scales, examples of application in each scale in various harmonies. You should take these riffs and phrases and also play them, understanding them and after that creating your own.
Soon we will be updating the website and putting basic riffs that can be used in innumerous contexts, so that you can exercise what we said above about using ready sentences in various different songs. We intend enrich more and more this subject creating a handbook for beginners in improvisation, with a selection of riffs. Wait! For now, practice with the material that is already available in each topic.
If Simplifying Theory has been useful for you, help to spread it. So you will be collaborating with the growth and improvement of the website. Our target is to be a reference to students of music, mainly for those who had already tried by their own strengths and found difficulties due to shortage of material about the subject.
Make good use!
Go to: Relative minor and major
Back to: Module 4