Good Morning everyone!
My friend and recent music student Bill gave me a book called Musicophilia by Olive Sacks.
Just getting into it but so far very interesting. It started me thinking about my students, primarily the ones trying to learn to improvise.
What are the blocks that keep people from progressing to freedom in improvisation? While there are some people who seem to have a physical impairment to perceiving pitch and rhythm, they are by far the exception, not the rule. so if a person can perceive pitch and rhythm, in my mind they should be able to improvise to some degree.
It seems to be largely psychological with most. Fear of making mistakes plays a huge part. The student will try something, maybe even play some good stuff, then hit one clinker. In some students, Instantly their whole demeanor can change. “Im no good at this” “I keep making mistakes” “Im never going to get this” . In others it’s -“ oops! that didn’t work”…. maybe followed by a laugh! They may get frustrated but that turns into determination to get it right. I don’t worry about the 2nd kind. They’ll get it. The first kind requires some work to break the old thought patterns. Can take a while, but worth the effort both for the student and the teacher.
The other misperception seems to be that if they are not as good as me right away, they are somehow failing. “You make it look so easy” All I can say is it would be that easy for you too if you put the work I put into it!
Kids, and Adults, if you are playing something that sounds good to you, it’s probably a good thing to play. Record yourself. be objective in your listening. Compare yourself to yourself before. Not John Coltrane or Keith Jarret or whoever. Notice improvements. Embrace the mistakes! everyone makes them. They are the greatest learning tools. Then, LET THEM GO and keep going! You don’t have to be, or even want to be a professional musician to have fun improvising. Freedom to improvise is a blessing.
I will always add that the main block to freedom in any kind of playing, is lack of proficiency on ones instrument. That also becomes apparent as one explores the great mystery of improvisation. The better your sound is, the better places it leads you to. The more control over your fingers you have, the better time you have and that also leads you to better places. It’s never ending and difficult but a beautiful journey.