Improvising with Jamey Aebersold


 "Anyone can improvise. It's the most natural way to make music. Always has been! It's a technique we've forgotten or thought we weren't good enough to begin." -- Jamey Aebersold
I just finished reading through How To Play Jazz and Improvise, a play-a-long book & cd set for all instruments. I wanted to share eight things that Jamey recommends when improvising.  Mr. Aebersold suggests that you choose one or two items at a time and concentrate on them while playing with the recorded track. Soon these elements of music will become automatic.

8 Tips for Improvising


1. Don't limit yourself by beginning every phrase in the low register and then proceed upward (ascending motion). Utilize descending motion and use melodic lines that combine ascending and descending motion.


2. Avoid limiting your ideas tot he middle or the most comfortable register of your instrument. Nothing is more monotonous than listening to players who confine their playing to their most comfortable register and refuse to utilize the high, low, or unfamiliar registers. Be prepared to take chances and experiment with less-used limits of your instrument. By so doing, you will experience some of the most gratifying moments in improvising; it can also be quite frustrating at times. Soaring into the upper register or dipping down into the low register of your instrument on occasion can be a surprise, a relief and a joy for the soloist and, particularly, for the listener.


3. In order to have as much freedom of concept as possible, memorize the scales to be used. If you have the scales memorized and mastered, your mind is freer to concentrate on melodic development. Your imagination works best when you feel secure.


4. Vary your dynamics! Lack of dynamic contrast has a dulling effect on the listener and the player. Listen to the phrasing and dynamics of the jazz greats.


5. Don't stacatto every note, and don't legato every note. Use a variety of articulations. Listen to recorded solos of people who play your instruments. Interesting players have an assortment of articulations at their disposal. For variety, listen to solos by musicians who play an instrument other than your type. Many name jazz players have used this technique for practicing articulation.


6. Concentrate on hearing, mentally, each tone before you play it. This requires constant anticipation and awareness. It will help prepare you for more advanced improvisation, as well as create in you an inner sense of pitch. A sense of pitch will greatly stabilize intonation, and is extremely important when playing notes that are seperated by a large interval. Concentration will also help your intonation.


7. Always try to make the notes you play have a sense of direction. be aware of tension and release. Remember, every note you play is part of a larger musical idea. If you can't think of what should come next in a solo, try using silence. After all, music is nothing more than a combination of sounds and silences.


8. Listen to your sound. Do you like the sound you are getting? If not, why? Everyone should study privately with the best teacher they can find. Listen to records and copy the SOUND of the artist you listen to... Always play on the best instrument you can afford. Good instruments DO make a difference.


-- Use repetition when soloing. Repetition is like watching road signs. It helps hold the listener's attention and directs them to the next musical phrase or event.

Vol. 1, How To Play Jazz & Improvise (Book & CD Set) (Play- a-Long)


"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey
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