9 HS Virtual Jazz: Improvisation

I. Improvisation

A. Improvisation – perhaps jazz’s most essential ingredient

1.Improvisation is spontaneous composition; that is, each musician determines what he/she is going to play AS he/she is playing it (easier said than done!)

2.Jazz improvisation is very similar to regular conversation (see Jazz Improvisation/Conversation analogy sheet).

3.In order to improvise, a musician needs to:

a. Be able to technically play his/her instrument well

b. Have an understanding of music theory (the way notes and chords go together)

c. Have the ability to play by ear (i.e., the ability to play the music one “hears” in his/her head without reading music)7

d. Have a musical vocabulary covering a wide variety of styles (i.e., be familiar with various styles of jazz, as well as blues, rock, pop, classical, etc.)

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