Is Improvisation Really Just “Spontaneous Composition”?

Yes. (to answer the question in the title) And no. Yes, in that you are most certainly generating musical ideas. And yes, these ideas contain what can be referred to as “compositional elements and principles”. And yes, when you are a skilled improviser, you are often constructing a solo in a cogent, “compositional” manner. But […]

A Simple Way To Expand Your Improvisational Vocabulary (As You Improve Your Technique!)

The most typical frustration that an aspiring student of improvisation expresses to me in our initial consultation is that they feel stuck. They feel rather stagnant, uninspired by their own predictable (to them, anyhow!) playing. And as I listen to them play and ask questions, I notice without fail that not enough of their practice […]

Improvisation: Using Silence As A Part Of Your Expression

It is often said about the great jazz trumpet player, Miles Davis, that a large part of his improvisational genius manifested itself not only in what he played, but also in what he didn’t play. His use of silence became an integral color of all his improvisations. It was largely responsible for keeping us, the […]

The Thing That Makes You Sound The Most Predictable When You Improvise

Jazz writer Whitney Balliet famously called jazz, “the sound of surprise”. It is this thrill of unpredictable, yet cogent, musical communication that is the essence of jazz (and many other genres of improvised music, too!) And to this day, there are those artists who are still consistently able to  surprise us each time they play. […]

Improvisation: Discovering And Defining Your Voice

What is it that makes a particular jazz artist sound so immediately recognizable? Is it tone? Phrasing? Rhythmic conception? Time feel? Articulation? Harmonic vocabulary? Melodic sensibility? Something else entirely….? Perhaps even something undefinable? Truth be told, it’s probably not one single thing. Though there certainly are distinctive qualities some artists possess that immediately stand out […]