Getting Started With Music Improvisation

Getting Started With Music ImprovisationImprovisation is one of the most useful skills to have in the music world, but also one of the trickiest skills to obtain. It can be pretty intimidating, especially to newer musicians. Enhancing your musical improvisation skills is an on-going process that requires your full  attention. However, you can employ handy tricks and strategies to get better faster. If you want to learn music improvisation, you will need to know these six tips.

Learn the Fundamentals

Boy playing guitar in field

In order to improvise music, it is vital to understand how music works. Study music theory in order to have a grasp on some of the ground rules. Most, if not all, music can be explained and analyzed with basic theory. It’s also important get comfortable with your instrument of choice. Playing the guitar is completely different from playing the piano. You should be able to articulate any desired sound from your instrument without a second thought. Taking the time to learn theory and all the nuances of your instrument is highly recommended.

Play Slowly At First

Close-up of woman's hands playing an upright piano with sheet music

Improvisation requires practice. There’s no way around it. You’re not going to be a master improviser right out of the gate. However, there is nothing wrong with taking it slow when you begin. Novice improvisers need more time to mentally process what they are going to play. As you play more and more, the extra time needed to process your improvisation will gradually diminish. Eventually, it will become second nature. If you’re new to music improvisation, resist the temptation to go full speed and give yourself a little wiggle room.

Don’t Be Afraid of Mistakes

Hand playing F major chord on hollowbody guitar

Another “fact of life” with improvisation is that you’re going to make a few mistakes while playing. It’s nearly impossible to improvise perfectly, but that’s not to say that improvisation should be all mistakes. It’s more about taking risks and recovering from them if they don’t work. Don’t forget that you always get better with practice. You’ll also be able to assess what went wrong in your improvisation after the fact. That means every time you practice improvising, you have to worry less and less about making mistakes. Once again, practice makes perfect.

Record and Listen Back

Microphone in music studio

By extension, you can also record your improvisation sessions to gauge your progress. In fact, it’s highly recommended. It may be easy to forget certain sessions over a long period of time. The ability to listen back to your previous improvisations is a luxury. Your recordings will become a timeline of successes and failures. It also serves as a good reference point for future improvisation sessions. You will be able to look back on your recordings with a critical eye and iron out the problems in your playing. It’s always a good idea to have your peers or a mentor listen to these recordings as well. Critical feedback from others will always outweigh your own feedback.

Play With Friends

Retro drawing of home band circa 1940s

The best way to build up confidence to improvise music is to start casual. Then, work your way up to something serious once it’s in your comfort zone. Start by having casual jam sessions with your friends, nothing too serious. This is also a great way to practice and get feedback from your peers. Remember that any opportunity to get peer review is golden. There are many social aspects to music, much like any other art form.

Keep Practicing

Man playing acoustic guitar with capo

In general, you must continue to learn music improvisation in order to get better at it. As with many other skills, Improvisation is definitely a learn-by-doing experience. Keep challenging yourself with new musical ideas and techniques, even if they seem sketchy at first. Music is a medium that welcomes experimentation. Every hiccup you are willing to make now means fewer hiccups to worry about later. Practice consistently and you are sure to become a master of music improvisation.

Trying to Learn Music Improvisation in Los Angeles?

Adam’s Music is your friendly neighborhood music shop in West Los Angeles. We have a wide variety of instruments and musical equipment for sale or rent. We also offer a free, half-hour introductory music lesson over video chat. If you’ve always wanted to pick up a new instrument or brush up on your technique, now’s a perfect time! Contact us today to arrange a free online music lesson with one of our teachers.

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