Learning how to improvise on violin


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Improvisation course

The intention with this course is to teach you some methods that you can use in order to learn how to improvise on your instrument. The improvisation course is mainly based on blues and simple jazz standards.



What is improvisation?

Improvisation is when you make your own melody while playing. The concept is known in most musical styles, but is mostly used in rock, blues and jazz music. It is quite a challenge to teach improvisation, because there are probably as many ways of learning it as there are musicians who knows how to improvise. There are however a lot of people asking me how to do, so I will give it a try. Not because I evaluate myself as a great jazz musician or improviser, but because I have used many years in order to teach myself, and I would like to share the methods that I have found during the years, so I can lead other people into the wonderful world of improvisation.

Can improvistation be taught?

The answer is no! The only person that really can teach you is yourself. The nature of improvisation is that you play something new everytime, so you will have to teach yourself. Now this course is a teach yourself course. It gives you some good advices on which way to go. Feel free to follow the advices. But don't hesitate to follow other ways as well. Improvisation is when you express yourself. If you feel right with what you are doing, other people will probably feel OK too.

Basic steps

The basic steps in learning how to improvise are:

  1. Master your instrument
  2. Learn how to play rhythmically
  3. Listen for harmonies and harmony developments
  4. Teach your brain the relation between scales an chords
  5. Keep it simple
  6. Copy style and licks
  7. Find the right tools for practicing
  8. Enjoy yourself while practicing

Let me explain

Master your instrument

Before you can start improvising you should of course be able to play on your instrument. The better you can play, the better you improvise. Learning to play an instrument means a lot of repetition, and when you improvise you should not repeat yourself. A good way preparing yourself for improvisation is to play scales. The idea is that if you know all scales, then you can play in any key, and you can more easily find yourself around in the instrument.Playing scales is a good way of learning your instrument. (But it is boaring, and you do not learn how to improvise only by playing scales)

Learn how to play rhythmically

Start making some exercises where you play one note only. Experiment how you can vary the rhythm. Make the same exercise over two or three notes. Concentrate on the rhythm.

Listen for harmonies and harmony developments

Try to play a melody with just the chords in the background. Listen the the chord developments. Try to sing the melody while just listening to the chords. Try while listening to the chords. Here are some example of jazz melodies .

Teach your brain the relation between scales and chords

The best is if you practice the scales to some chords that the scales are based on. So while playin the scales the chords are sounding in the background.

Keep it simple

Don't press yourself above your own limits. Remember a good solo (that people wants to listen too) is were you show that you are competent in what you are playing. Some improvisers occationally go "out of bounds" just to impress people, but it is when you keep control of your rhythm and note that you are making the good improvisation.Improvisers are allowed to play anything, so why not play something you master? Remember all music is built over repitition. So repeat your licks.

Copy styles and licks

For improvisation you need to play with other people. And you need to agree on which style you are playing. It is a good idea to listen to the style you are in and it is a good idea to learn other peoples solos, or at least to copy parts of their solos and make them your own. But beware, you don't become an improviser by copies other peoples solos alone. Solos are built up of small parts of melodies also called "licks". It is a good idea in the start to pick up some licks that other people have made and put them into your solo. After a while you will develop your own licks, that you can "pull out of the pocket" and put into your solo. This is a good beginning. After a while you don't have to think about licks, you just play....

Find the right tools for practicing

Some people are lucky enough to be able to learn how to improvise simply by playing with other people. Most people are slow learners however, and it is difficult to find somebody who is willying to just sit and repeat chords so you can learn how to improvise. This course contains references to good tools for learning improvisation.

Enjoy yourself while practicing

It is fun to play music. Don't forget it. When something is fun, you want to practice, and you learn much quicker. Keep yourself on a level where it is fun will make you a good improviser.