How Not to Suck at Improv

If you don’t want to suck at music improv…

The info graphic about music improv below gives criteria for success and failure.


 This is a very academic chart. I don’t know where they teach music improv! But, let’s look at the “Needs Improvement” and compare it to “Meets Expectations Consistently.” We can also categorize this as “Sucks” and “Brilliant” respectively.

Consider the over all effect first. If we do not play within the genre we select, or within the specific tune we select, and furthermore, make obvious clams while we flounder around, we Suck. On the other hand, if we stick to the type or genre of music and to the piece we’re playing, showing good accuracy, skill and ability to play the piece, we are Brilliant.

Now look at rhythmic accuracy. I can’t think of any style of music that is not characterized by definite rhythm.  If we are not with the beat, falling behind, or surging ahead…and if there is no variety to our notes. Again, Suckville. But, what if we are in the groove, and play with a variety of rhythmic chops, we are Brilliant.

Finally, the Tonal criteria. If our improv is not based on the melody or the harmony, and we’re not even thinking about “out of tune”…Sucks. And all we have to do is play in the given tonality, working off the melody or the harmonic structure, to be Brilliant.

It’s a long road from Sucks to Brilliant. It doesn’t pay to get discouraged right away. It takes time to learn how to do improv well in any musical genre. It’s mostly a matter of first learning some simple fundamentals, and then going from there.

For more about violin improv, click here.


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