Learning to improvise

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by nickenator, Nov 3, 2013.

  1. bigtiny

    bigtiny Mezzo Forte User

    Aug 14, 2005
    There's a post from last week....I think the title was 'which jazz licks to learn' or something like that.

    There's good info there....

  2. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Jackson NC
    I've always thought an arpeggio slur upwards sustaining each note a wee bit and on as high as I can go is a "skyrocket" ending to a lot of what I play. Sometimes I do a random soft decrescendo sprinkle of the notes in decent with a fade to soundless.
  3. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    You want to learn how to improvise, this is the structure to improvisation:

    'You can't improvise on nothin', man. You gotta improvise on somethin'. (Charles Mingus, bassist/composer. Cited in Kernfeld 1995)

    All music, including jazz, exists within a certain musico-structure which defines such performative basics as harmony, melody, rhythm and tempo, and, more fundamentally, form and composition. Unlike other musical forms, which rely on a tight script and/or conductor, jazz contains few if any constraints on performative style and interpretation. All that jazz needs in terms of structure is a set of consensual guidelines and agreements which we conceptualize as 'minimal structures'. Minimal structures are comprised by two elements: social structures and technical structures. Jazz is performed in a turbulent task environment whereby the turbulence results from the dynamic process of musical invention and the dynamic process of coordinating invention. Minimal structure constrains the turbulence of the jazz by specifying particular ways of inventing and coordinating musical ideas.

    Social structures in JI are conceptualized largely in terms of behavioral norms and communicative codes. Behavioural norms include: the nominal leader, who decides which songs to play and in what key; the soloist, who determines the style and embellishment; and the use of a chorus, which restates the basic theme. Band members use a combination of hand signals and eye contact to communicate change in tempo, the beginning and ending of soloing, call-and-response exchanges, and so forth. Technical skills refers to the techno-structural and performative conventions of jazz music as well as the variety and combination of talents, skills and capabilities that members bring to the ensemble. This requires two elements: cognitively held rules for generating and building upon new musical ideas, including rules for 'musical grammar'. More specifically, this refers to the basic procedures in jazz theory for defining and selecting the basic form of the music: the key, chords, chordal relationships and chordal progression. The second element is the template, a song, chorus or riff. The song is a basic template upon which musicians can generate innovative variation.

    There is more to the story, but this is the beginning of the basics. Enjoy.
  4. stumac

    stumac Fortissimo User

    Oct 19, 2008
    Flinders Vic Australia
    After reading the above post my head hurts, my take on improvising is first one must be able to play well by ear, I do not and cannot improvise, not enough time on the horn and have been classically trained to read.

    I do not think improvisation can be learned from a book, most books I have seem to be analysis of what the great players have done. I like the Charlie Porter aproach, and do not get too far away from the melody, it may be difficult to get back.

    Atributed to Miles "There are no wrong notes, just bad choices".

    Regards, Stuart.
  5. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Don't be surprised, Stuart. This is the first long post I've encountered from GM without spelling mistakes. I'm thinking cut and paste on his part.
  6. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    With 'behavioral' and 'behavioural' on the same line? Jus' sayin' ;-)
  7. tjcombo

    tjcombo Forte User

    Nov 12, 2012
    Melbourne, Australia
    There's a ton of good advice in this and other threads. My 2cents, 15 months into a comeback, never having played improv until the start of this year and now standing up blowing improv solos that I'm happy with (haven't dared check with the audience yet :-)), is that it's a Nike kind of thing - just do it. Find some simple chord sequences along with a scale - blues, pentatonic or say a relative minor scale that you think of while playing over a major - whatever, that you can jam along with. Once you get a breakthrough in keys where you're comfortable, you'll find the motivation to do the harder grind of learning various scales, arpeggios etc in all keys. Spending time on the horn , just jamming, without looking at sheet music is great development for both your ear and improv. It helps to become obsessive compulsive.
    The Charlie Porter stuff was good for me as was Eric Bolvin's basic improv videos - these provided the breakthrough for me.
  8. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    This is an insert of an actual educational series I have written on "Teaching Jazz Improvisation to Improve Patient-Physician Communication". This excerpt came from a Grant I wrote for the Grammy Foundation to support unique educational opportunities in music. I use this material as well when I apply for Workshop presentations at medical conferences. So actually it was written by me, but yes, cut and pasted from my manuscripts. Keen eye oh winged one.
  9. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    This is a major truth from minimal structure theory. To improvise you must first listen, and finally HEAR. It's like jazz musicians will say when the light bulb clicks... "I hear ya man".
  10. cfkid

    cfkid Pianissimo User

    Jul 24, 2013
    I'll cast another vote for the Jamey Aebersold play along books. I've just started the journey, but Volume 1 is good not only in theory but also in exercises you can play along. There is a long thread of lessons on "the other site" that does a great job of breaking the theory down into easily digestible parts.

    I'm only on the 2nd play along track, but I'm certainly getting better. I guess it helps that my private teach played with Stan Kenton, so he knows a bit about improv.


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