This is my improvisation on soprano saxophone on unknown African music I found online. I will be starting new Improvisation sessions on Mondays. This is the first.
I will be selecting musics from around the world that I like, and improvising on them. My goal is to draft an ebook explaining the improvisation process for other musicians looking to do the same.
I taught myself improvisation mostly by listening to other musicians that I like. I would take parts of their musical vocabulary that I wanted in my own musical vocabulary, and practice them through scale exercises. After a few weeks of constant practice, my hands would learn these passages without me needing to think about what I needed to do to reproduce them. But more importantly, they would automatically make changes to the original musical passage: adding their own accents, embellishments, articulations, etc. The end result would be a passage that sounded distinctly different from the original one. A process of that goes from assimilation to innovation.
For me it is important to be inspired when improvising. It is when I hear music that drives me, that I deeply enjoy, when I am compelled to have my say on it, to see where I stand within that beautiful musical framework. When I am drawn to be a part of it, that is when my motivation is at its highest. However, I do not think about this when improvising. It is important for me to not be self conscious when improvising. It’s really about entering a state of mind, similar to a dream state. Any conscious thoughts, like “this isn’t sounding good” or “I should do this or that” just kills the improvisation flow, and often I am not able to get it back.
“Flow” and “dream state” are the keywords here. Of course there is an essential technical aspect to improvising, one that can be practiced and learned. We’ll get to this on another post. But I find that to be the the “easy” part. Practicing is a mechanical process: you work repeatedly at teaching your fingers / hands / body what it needs to do to reproduce the desired sound, but that is not music. Music comes from this ‘flow’ and ‘dream-state’.
I will go into more detail about this in my next post.