Re: Improvisation

>I've been playing for several years now and I still cannot improvise.
>I can only play tunes I have learned and add a little of my own sound
>(but not much).

Improvising requires you to be able to hear a melodic line and then execute
it...that's all there is to it.  How difficult is it for you to pick up parts
from records?  If you find that easy you're not in too much trouble, because
both improvising and learning songs by ear requires a good ear.

I don't play harp myself anymore, I'm a bass player...but when I listen to
songs I can pretty easily follow the changes and can even *visualize* what the
bassist is doing as I hear it.  The next leap is to be able to think up a new
line...for instance, hum or whistle something, and then be able to find it on
your instrument and play it.  The great improvisers have refined this to the
point where the gap between the original thought and the execution has shrunk
to near zero time.

The first step in improvising is usually stringing together licks you know. You
probably already do this...for instance, if you are playing "Juke" do you play
it note for note like Little Walter, or do you ever stretch the tune out and
take extra choruses?   After doing this sort of regurgitation for awhile, you
start figuring out your own licks.  From there the next step is to go beyond
licks and develop longer melodic phrases, in particular developing the ability
to smoothly play over chord changes or to start and end phrases somewhere other
than a bar boundary.

The final step is being able to create strong solos on demand, rather than
having to blow three or four choruses before you start cooking.

>Does it get any better or easier?  Am I the only one with this

Nope. Many classical musicians who have spent years learning to play from
scores do not know how to improvise because they have never had to develop the
skill.  Up to a year ago I used to get pissed when the bandleader called for a
bass solo.  Now I'm starting to enjoy it.  The solos still are awful, but I'm
becoming more comfortable in trying to give them some sort of form.


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