5 Tips For Using Improvisation to Ensure Student Success

Hello and welcome!

When I was a young boy I studied primarily classical music. I loved spending hours playing Bach, Schubert, and Beethoven. It wasn’t until I went on a family trip to Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo that I got a taste of improvisation. I was inthralled to see the violinist, I mean fiddler, on the stage without sheet music. Not only that but the fiddler was improvising. This was a revolution for me. To witness another violin player completely off the page, improvising, and having a wonderful time. As I developed as musician and embracing improvisation, I discovered the vast range of benefits improvisation can administer. Now, I encourage all of my of my students to engage in improvisational activities, so that they might benefit from what it has to offer.

Welcome to the resource for improvisational benefits. Whether you are a skeptic or a believer. This article will reinforce positive ideas or squash any doubts you may have regarding improvisation.

1. Learning your way around the instrument better
2. Expressing yourself creatively
3. Learning to play with, and listen to, others more effectively
4. Improving your knowledge of composition and musical structure
5. Understanding that you can sound good without playing a lot of notes

1. Learning your way around the instrument better

When you improvise you will be required to explore new parts of your instrument. You will also need to learn new ways of navigating your instrument. This will enable you to become more comfortable and know your way around your instrument better. This will effect your technique, flexibility, and knowledge of the instrument you play.

2. Expressing yourself creatively

By it’s very nature improvisation stimulates creativity within you. The act of improvising will make you think outside the box and thus require you to be more creative in order to get the results you want. Creativity will also present itself as you you reach for new ideas and new thought processes.

3. Learning to play with, and listen to, others more effectively

Now, unless you are planning on playing music by yourself the rest of your life you will need to learn how to play with others. Improvisation has a community component that is unbreakable. Improvisors enjoy getting together and exchanging ideas. When you embrace this added component to your musical life you will gain new ideas and new ways of looking at music through the eyes of others that your interact with.

4. Improving your knowledge of composition and musical structure

Improvisation will lead you into the path of composition.

When I teach improvisation classes I always tell the students that they will be composers when they’re finished, not improvisors. This is because every time you improvise you are compositing. That’s right! When you create musical ideas on your instrument you are participating in the very act that all composers in history have. How very exciting, huh? You are now a composer! Run, change your Facebook status!

5. Understanding that you can sound good without playing lot of notes

Some people think that improvising is playing a lot of notes that run together. This is a completely untrue assumption. Improvisation is more about expression than playing everything that comes into your head. The artistic benefit to this is in learning to craft your improvisations instead of blurting out just notes. The best example of this would be jazz trumpeter, Miles Davis. Davis was known for using many single notes within a 10min trumpet solo. This type of improvising was later coined as “minimalistic improvising.” I always instruct students to start simple and small with their note choices. Then, once you’re more comfortable with improvising as a whole, you can decide whether you want to improvise with more notes or not.


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