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Notes on improvisation

Try to get your fingers into interesting and comfortable little places. Become one with the instrument. Cut back on friction that gets between you and the music. Think total efficiency and economy of motion. Make hard things into easy things, easy things into hard ones. Use mental/physical sub-contracting. Keep one part in sharp focus and let the others parts happen in softer focus, more automatically following in line with the sharp object. Always keep something moving even if something else stops. Even if that something is silence itself. Use rests and silence as needed for longer improv programs and suites. Think in terms of how a sonata or larger formal composition would be made, just as inspiration for how you improvise. But don’t make the notes strict (just the abstract idea). Have ideas worked out but make them vague. Work really hard on technique in practice for greater cohesion during performance. Blend practice and performance together in experimental ways. Don’t try to sound like anyone else. Don’t rip off other musicians. Come up with your own ideas and feel pride towards them, even if they’re unusual. Take risks and be inventive. Try to please yourself and others can take it or leave it.

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Please Note: This response is not supposed to be taken seriously!!


Originally Posted by Nahum
From the book by S. Maltsev "On the psychology of improvisation".


The motor side of technology arouses our keen interest as soon as we begin to consider it in connection with sound or with auditory representations. Hence it is clear that the phenomena of sensorimotor anticipation in musical improvisation should be considered not in isolation, but in terms of their correlation with auditory representations or perceptions, including, of course effects of partial or complete mismatch.

Or, "Keep it in key".

Originally Posted by Nahum
Turning to analysis, let us first of all focus on the subconscious correlation between the improvisation by "micro-anticipatory" anticipation and motor readiness to perform the necessary game actions for the sound realization of this anticipation F. Couperin called this phenomenon local hand memory. German pianist-improviser A. Nestmann says that the improviser must "have music at his fingertips" . S. I. Savshinsky describes this correlation as follows: “The relationship between visual perceptions (from musical notation, keyboard and hand movements), auditory and motor (kinesthetic) pianists is so close that we have to talk about not two, especially competing perceptions, but about the main feature that characterizes the pianist's hand - about the listening and speaking hand. We also find descriptions of this phenomenon in other Methodists: some call it a “living hand”, others prefer to talk about the feeling of “fingertips”, etc. . Moreover, the concept of "listening hand" as a working term, obviously, can be considered universal for improvisation and performance at all tools.
[/i]

Or, "Keep it in key".

Originally Posted by Nahum
The “listening hand” of an improviser is a functional system of anticipatory correlations between his hearing and motor skills; this is the necessary intermediary between the current auditory representations and movements, thanks to which auditory representations instantly acquire a musical “flesh”, become a sounding reality. Synchronicity of embodiment "current" and developing auditory representations on the instrument is an indispensable condition for the unimpeded progress of improvisation; any delay, and even more so - an error, that is, a discrepancy between the preheard sound and the extracted one, is irreversible way affects the sound result and, including into improvisation, becomes the very fact of its form.[/i]

Or, "Very rarely try going out of key, but be careful and on your own head be it. I'm not taking responsibility for your lack of ability."

Originally Posted by Nahum
Hence, it is very important that the hands of the improviser be able to unconsciously, easily and instantly obey any order of hearing and extract on the instrument precisely those harmonies that are unfolding at the moment in the imagination. The immediate readiness of the hands to respond to the order of the ear, of course, is not an innate ability, but is trained throughout the entire previous musical activity. The whole theory and practice of pianistic technique can serve as an answer to the question of how the “listening hand” is formed in a pianist .

[/i]
Or, "Get back in key and next time don't be so stupid! Did you think you were Oscar Peterson?"

I am fortunate enough to own a copy of the Oxford Keyboard Methods book "Improvising: How to Master the Art".
It is mainly intended for organists but I really must start reading it one day.
Anyway, a quick quote: "The most troubling obstacles in learning to improvise will stem most probably from our inhibitions. The challenge of destroying those inhibitions becomes liberating and satisfying, making possible self-expression through improvising that becomes deeply fulfilling."

And, again, for fun: "Some years ago, a gifted and conscientious (you can tell I copied that, can't you?) student said to me, "I am so discouraged; every time I improvise, I sound just like Faure." More impressed than amused by her predicament, I replied "Be grateful that you sound like a great composer. In fact would you please teach us all how to sound like Faure?"

So that seems quite easy then. This time next year, "Step aside Frederick Chopin, I sound more like you than you do".

Last edited by slipperykeys; 05/16/22 10:01 AM.
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Originally Posted by slipperykeys
Please Note: This response is not supposed to be taken seriously!!
Need to add: in my opinion.

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Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by slipperykeys
Please Note: This response is not supposed to be taken seriously!!
Need to add: in my opinion.

No, I don't need to add that. I'm telling you that I am posting a reply that I do not mean to be taken seriously. That is a fact, not an opinion. If you wish to take it seriously that is up to you.

(It's like pulling teeth....)

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"The most troubling obstacles in learning to improvise will stem most probably from our inhibitions. The challenge of destroying those inhibitions becomes liberating and satisfying, making possible self-expression through improvising that becomes deeply fulfilling."

Acceptance.


Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." Harry spends his time teaching jazz piano online and playing solo piano gigs.
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Originally Posted by slipperykeys
No, I don't need to add that. I'm telling you that I am posting a reply that I do not mean to be taken seriously.
I understood it just the other way around; and I'm not sure I'm the only one.
Originally Posted by RinTin
"The most troubling obstacles in learning to improvise will stem most probably from our inhibitions.
Means - not expressed aloud. I came across this with students who graduated from the Academy of Music.

Last edited by Nahum; 05/17/22 01:56 AM.
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A few thoughts…ime on self-taught improvisation, just my opinions…

Very standard theory, e.g. tonalities, arpeggios, chords, and scales can be studied and used, but seem to not work as well for improv because they sound too composed and prescriptive…like you’re trying to mimic classical works…you’ll struggle with individuality and freedom, and easily get stuck in boxes that way…you’re generally better off inventing your own scales and twists on arpeggiations, chords, etc that fit your own style, ear, and fingers…so you can move more freely and figure out an intuitive way around to experiment in the moment that becomes second nature…it’s better to think in terms of little to no structure, beyond what you can pick up kinesthetically, instinctively, and aurally. I think more in terms of motions, fluidity, connection, and flow, than advanced analytical thinking. After all, this is expressive music. Find things that go well together in practicing…but for thing A, come up with 10 things that would all work with it. And for each of those, ten. That kind of thing. And then pick one path and go with it. Choose your own adventure.

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