The Difference Between an Improvisor ...

The Difference Between an Improvisor ...
And the Rest of Us

There is an important difference between a musician who can improvise and the rest of us who depend on our staff music or tabs in order to play a tune.

I would say a big percentage of us simply play music the way it was written by others, note for note, measure after measure. Now I have several books with my favorite hymns, many of them with the same hymns. Each collection has arrangements by a different composer so, when I pick a new hymn to learn for keyboard or hammered dulcimer, I play that same hymn in all my hymnbooks, hunting for that special arrangement that I think will reach the hearts of my listeners.

Usually I get some great ideas from my music books and end up writing my own arrangement, but it’s still written music, not improvisation. I get out my staff paper and write down every note I intend to play because I’m a grandma and I won’t remember what I created even until the next day. Just being real, my friends.

But improvisers create their arrangements in the moment. They let the mood of the music flow through them and play from the heart. They don’t need printed notes, because it’s a personal, intimate sharing of how they interpret the meaning behind the lyrics and the melody. They never play or sing a tune in the same way twice, because that’s the way they roll. They’re never held back by fear, afraid of making a mistake. Their sounds of their improvisation ripple throughout the room and you are caught up in the moment as you listen.

Now improvisors and the rest of us DO have one thing in common. We have to study the physical and technical aspects of playing our instruments in order to produce the most beautiful and expressive sounds possible.

BUT, someone who can improvise has taken it a step further, a step we never see. They have studied the science of how music works – like a composer would. They are familiar with music theory, keys, chord structure and progressions, and then apply this knowledge to what appears to the rest of us to be a random collection of notes, but is actually the result of understanding the science behind the melody. They approach a song or hymn with an open mind, looking for the message behind every word and note, and search for the melodic variation that might better draw a picture of the meaning for us. And they do all that as they are playing, expressing themselves creatively through their music.

If this is a path you want to explore, first become more familiar with the theory side of music. Then relax, listen to that inner voice, and just play what you hear.



There are no comments yet. Be the first one to leave a comment!