As performers, we are constantly balancing on a razor’s edge: on the one hand, we want to display the fruits of our careful and thorough training, on the other we need to be absolutely fresh, vital and expressing something alive that is completely unique to that moment.
It is my view on improvisation, like it is on composition, that there does not need to be any method or orthodoxy to begin improvising. In fact, some people’s most creative connection with an instrument comes simultaneously with their earliest, beginner phases on the instrument. The vitality of this connection, the fertile territory of “beginner’s mind” can ever be reignited and encouraged in the realm of improvisation or spontaneous creation.
The branches of this tree are many: some are accomplished players on their instrument and now have a desire to delve into new (often “uncomfortable”) territory: they have an intuition that giving up the training-wheels of precomposed music will lead them into a deeper and more enriching connection with their instrument. Some become frustrated with their lack of progress within the confines of a “tradition” or a style and figure that because improvised music is “made up” it will be harder to tell, in this realm, if they are in fact an inferior player. Obviously this motivation needs to be closely scrutinized and a solution with more integrity (possibly still involving an improvisational element) can be sought out.
And lastly, and perhaps most commonly, the tradition of an instrument itself includes a strong element of improvisation and this category of study needs a different pedagogical approach from the teacher, and the encouragement of an enthusiastic, open-minded and confident mindset in the student.
Some basic topics include: freeing up your perspective; spontaneous performance approach; free solo improvisation for training and performance; soloing within a genre-specific (i.e. jazz, rock, funk, etc.) group context; and free improvisation or spontaneous composition within a freer or more limit-free ensemble.