What is musical improvisation?
In the music industry, improvisation is the art of composing and recording at the same time; that is, it is to invent on the spot! An improvisation can be a harmony, a melody, a solo, a riff, a rhythm, etc.
This art differentiates creative musicians from reproductive musicians. Reproductive musicians are those who only reproduce or perform already-made songs. They usually have technique and good reading, but they are completely restrained musically (dependent on a setlist) and do not know what they are doing, they are just following a cake recipe.
Creative musicians, on the other hand, are not limited to just playing already-made music; they are able to change them, improve them, create new melodies or harmonies automatically. These are musicians who know what they are doing, they are the ones who understand what is behind the chord notation and the notes. They can have musical dialogues.
In short, a musician who knows how to improvise:
- Understands what is going on and has immediate ideas;
- Easily composes, since he has many tools and resources in mind;
- Has a very sharp ear;
- Manages to do well in unexpected situations such as: new songs, changes to the setlist on the last minute, memory failure (blank), etc.
- Can put his/her own identity in the songs.
Motivating, isn’t it?!
To be able to improvise, it is necessary to know the subject in question. For example, in the field of lectures, anyone is able to improvise a speech about “happiness”, since everyone has some concept on this topic. Perhaps the fact that it is an improvisation impairs the quality of the speech; many would speak without using beautiful words or profound reflections. Now, how many people would improvise a speech about the importance of the Schrödinger equation in quantum electromagnetism?
In music it is the same. We need a good vocabulary (knowing how to choose appropriate words) and we also need to know the context in which we are inserted, so that the words make sense.
This explanation is interesting, but let’s talk about something more practical now: how do you learn to improvise after all?
Well, there are some secrets to becoming a good improviser. We will talk specifically about solos here in this topic, but the concept is the same for the other aspects of improvisation in music.
How to improvise
Explaining in a very simplistic way, it is enough to know the basic scales and how to identify the tonality of a song to make an improvisation. However, in practice, it is not enough just to know and understand the scales and their tonalities, it is necessary to know how to create a solo with them.
It seems obvious, but it is not. A beginning improviser can learn the major scale and understand where to apply it, but if he doesn’t have some already-made phrases and licks in his head, the improvisation will be horrible.
Nobody likes to hear a scale fingered up and down without dynamics. The beauty of music is precisely how to draw musical phrases with notes. And how can a beginning improviser do that?
He should start by taking ready phrases from other musicians, memorizing and applying them in various contexts. Thus, he will develop the ability to know how to fit phrases into music. This is essential.
The next step is to take those same phrases and make small changes, trying to put your ideas based on the ideas of the phrases themselves. After doing this for a while, the improviser will start creating his own phrases from scratch, without having to rely on a ready phrase.
Very well, for those who have never improvised anything, acquiring this skill takes time. It is like everything in life: if the result is good, the effort needs to match that result. We strongly recommend that the beginner dedicates himself a lot to getting ready phrases and applying them in major and minor keys.
These phrases can be part of the major, minor, pentatonic scale and the blues scale. This must be the initial world of the improviser. He needs to feel secure in this, as it is the basis for future improvements. In this phase, the beginner will acquire musical feeling, you will learn to put your expression in the song.
In the following topics, we will talk about improvisation whenever the subject applies.
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 5