Developing my Improvisation (post 2)


A little while ago I was thinking hard about how I might develop a framework that I could use during improvisation.

As I began exploring this idea it became apparent that I really needed to strip things back to basics and spend some time thinking about the core musical elements that musicians have at their disposal.

I came up with the following list of elements which I would use as ‘focus points’ each week for my development:

Dynamics (originally silence), rhythm, melody, phrasing, arrangement positioning, structure.

The intention is that each week I will spend some time trying to fully explore one of the above elements in my improvisation, and really try to get to grips with how that element can be manipulated to improve my playing.

The first element I have been working with is dynamics.

Originally I had listed this as silence, as I was interested in how musicians can use silence to enhance the sense of space in their music, but also to add weight to their contributions.

I soon discovered that it might be more fruitful if I began focusing on dynamics instead, and exploring what effect this could have in my performance.

Working with 1 to 3 note patterns, I have been exploring how I can manipulate dynamics to exaggerate a sense of movement in my playing – lifting notes in and out of an arrangement, and to and from the listener.

I also explored using phrasing techniques, such as slides, hammer on/offs and string bends to create low level detail, hopefully drawing a listeners attention deeper in to the musical space.

Manipulating the dynamics of a phrase can also be used to exaggerate the rhythmic qualities of what you are playing, and offers opportunities to manipulate the ‘swing’ of your playing.

I’ve now started thinking about melody, and particularly about setting out and developing a melody as a kind of narrative with beginning middle and end.

This has the potential to become a tricky area as I wrangle with the use of scales – something I have never consciously thought about in my playing before.


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