I already mentioned on the first part of this series that in my opinion “Improvising is composing in real time”, so what about “The Content” of this real time composition? What about the “story” you want to tell? Or maybe you haven’t noticed yet that what you really want to “tell” when you improvise is how good and skillful you think you are? If so, please consider removing this aspect from your artistic statement. 😉
In my opinion even though scales, licks, chops, techniques, etc., are such an important thing to manage, the lyricism is something even more important, because you can perfectly manage all the techniques and all the information available, but if you don’t know what to do with that “nothing but notes will come out of your instrument!”
There is a mountain of information regarding those lyrical and poetical improvisational aspects that I would be able to share with you, but I don’t want to extend too much and I’d rather go for the ones I consider the most important.
1) Express something to the audience: If you want to play for yourself stay at home, there’s nothing wrong with that anyway.
2) Consider the context, context is the key: There’s always a moment for everything, so you can start very slow and generate motifs that you’ll gradually develop through your improvisation. But depending on the circumstances, consider just “going for it” from the beginning as an option. So be aware of what’s happening around you.
3) Question and Answer: Generate melodical and/or rhythmical motifs taking them as “questions, and then “answer” those questions with another melodical and/or rhythmical motifs. Let your feelings take care of that answer…they never go wrong.
4) Amplify/Simplify: Take any melodical and/or rhythmical motif and expand it or compress it. The best example I can give you (while being in a quarter note time signature), is playing some melodic idea made out of triplets and then play “the very same idea” again using eight notes so to “Expand It”, or using sextuplets to “Compress it”. The sky is the limit for that, because many polyrhythmic and polymetric situations will start to show up when you begin to explore this specific aspect…, that imply you’ll need to develop extra rhythmical abilities for being able to do that proficiently.
5) Add/Rest: Take any melodical and/or rhythmical motif and add or rest some notes to it without varying the actual time signature. If you decide to remove some notes, let this empty space “breath”. This empty space will serve as a womb and also as a launching platform for your next idea.
6) Interpolation of the Melodic & Rhythmic contexts: It may sound complicated, but the concept is quite simple indeed. A) While improvising, take any recognizable rhythmic motif on the music piece you are playing (Rhythmic Leitmotiv) and start playing it with different notes and different melodic approaches. (One Note Samba is a good tune to start with) B) While improvising, take any recognizable melodic motif on the music piece you are playing (Melodic Leitmotiv) and start playing it with different rhythmic lines and different rhythmic approaches, I suggest short melodic lines for this case. (Footprints bass line is a good tune to start with)
7) Varying or modifying: First of all never forget that “Varying is not only adding or modifying, it’s also taking away!!” That being said, I’m referring specifically on this point to small nuances like vibratos, slides (glissandos), and bendings. These nuances can make a HUGE difference on your speech and have the power to “steal a tear” from somebody in the audience, or from yourself.
Next month, or better said, “next year”, on the last part of this series I’ll be addressing the esthetical and psychological aspects so to close this circle that intends to help you out on building a solid improvisational concept.
I wish you all a Happy New Year’s Eve, and also a Happy New Year!!