Lesson 4: Improvisation
Different Types of Improvisation
Different Modes of Improvisation
Formulaic improvisation can be done in two radically different ways:
Check out the first chorus of Bob Russell's Bessie's Blues solo as a great example of motivic improvisation:
Check out my transcription of Sonny Rollins' St. Thomas solo. The first two choruses are a great example of motivic improvisation.
A scale is to be considered as a pool of notes to draw from, not as a sequence of notes. Try to use this material in different ways, you can for instance construct fourth chords starting on any note in the scale. When using a particular scale, try to think of the key ( the scale, the mode, the tonal center) instead of trying to negotiate every single chord in the tune.
Telling a Story
When playing a solo, try to tell a story:
How to Get Started
Take a tune. Write a solo ( if you can't do that, how do you think you're going to be able to improvise, which is instant composition?). Now you have the time to make it good. Learn to play the solo by heart. Try to make it sound like you're making it up while you're playing it.
Written Example Solos
Check out lesson 20 for two written example solos and short analyses of them. There you can see how some of these concepts can be put to use in a solo.
Playing What You Hear
Try to rely on instinct more than on licks and patterns. Try to hear melodies and then play them - this requires a lot of practice and time but it's worth it. A really strong melodic idea doesn't even have to follow the chord changes rigorously. This is one of the greatest ways to play a little "out": to follow a strong melodic idea and not think too much about the changes.
Music is communication and interaction, both between musicians and between musicians and the audience. Miles Davis once told about a gig where a woman in the audience was having a running conversation with his trumpet. Listen to what is happening around you and try to react to it.
Less Is More
Don't try to fill up every space. Once again, remember that very often LESS IS MORE!
© 2004 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.