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Improving Your Improvisation Skills

Aug 18, 2007
Music is undoubtedly a form of communication and/or expression. Coincidently, the skills of improvisation are certainly related to the dexterity and formalities that are imperative to accomplishing your role as a communicator. Therefore, as you are preparing to become a musician, improvising will firmly assists with your development of the overall perception and understanding of musicianship.

Improvisation often focuses on the recognition of one's personal awareness, into the present moment. The skill also enables the development of a profound understanding of the action that one is currently displaying. Once you are aware and understand the concept, you will be provided as the practitioner with a sense of belief and accomplishment.

As a practitioner you will display pure confidence in which you are able to execute with a range of options that best conforms to the current situation regardless of previous successes or failures. Quite frankly, the practice of improvisation symbolizes acting and reacting, making and creating of "in the moment" response to the stimulus of one's immediate environment.

In music, specifically, improvisation is spontaneous composition. The performer is challenged by performing music that is composed at the spur-of-the-moment. This is usually achieved through solo or cadenza. Improvisation has actually dominated in Jazz musicals. The challenge of improvisation is not to be confused or compared with technique. The two concepts are different in that improvisation is described as a creative performance art.

On the other hand, technique or sight reading is a reconstructive process. It is noted, however, that as both technique and improvisation require that you react immediately to any changes needed to the music in response to stimuli, they do demonstrate primary differences. Namely, the process is executed externally for successful sight- reading and internally to execute improvisation. Furthermore, they both are greatly enhanced by a strong musical knowledge base.

As a musician, you will be able to identify how your audience is responding to you. You can use specific musical "cues" to communicate with the audience during a performance. Furthermore, during the performance, the initial musical piece may be altered to establish an emotional connection. Subsequently, you will have succeeded in the art of improvisation. Improvisation can take place as a solo performance or interdependently with an ensemble with other players. When done well, improvisation often elicits gratifying emotional response from the audience.

Musical improvisers often understand the language of one or more musical styles such as blues, rock, folk or jazz. In order to be successful, you must realize that practicing this art is intense and requires great focus. The musicians are expressive in that they have the ability to precisely illuminate creativity and originality. To successfully explore different methods of creating your own music, you should experiment in low- risk situations. You must listen carefully for your feedback to discover what does and does not work well. This will assist you in gaining valuable experience. Making your own music requires you to focus through relaxation, listening and ultimately learning.

To get started you must simply experiment with a variety of melodies, rhythms and moods. Of course, melody is the variation of the basic theme of music. To use improvisation to alter the melody you must attempt to change some of the original notes of the main theme. You will also be able to improvise the harmony as well as the rhythm. The rhythm, for example, simply requires you to experiment with the notes by making them longer or shorter or adjusting the tempo by making it slower or faster. Incidentally, very few musicians have ever risked presenting fully improvised concerts. However, there was one successful attempt by Keith Jarrat.

Techniques of improvisation are widely trained in the entertainment arts, such as music, theatre and dance. It can be expressed across all artistic, scientific, cognitive, physical, academic and non- academic disciplines. Musical improvisations require active listening and perseverance.

Basically, it is the creation of music in the real time. "Real time" is developed by listening carefully while enjoying and inevitably discovering the skills and techniques of improvisation. It usually involves focus and advanced preparation especially when there is more than one performer. Subsequently, improvisation results in a composition, a creative discovery.

More so, as the composition is reiterated over time in the same form, it becomes quality and pleasant music to its listeners. Therefore, with the establishment of a composition, all skilled composers are skilled improvisers. Perhaps, to study the skills and techniques of improvisation will encourage and enhance your pursuit for musicianship. Thus, the idea of executing an improvisation in a fixed musical form has always held attraction.
About the Author
Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of MusicianHome.com, a site that provides information and articles for musicians at all stages of their development.
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