The Art of Improvisation

Improvisation is indeed an art, but it’s part science, too. If you’ve ever heard a music act “go off” and randomly jam for minutes at a time, you might have drooled, thinking, “I wish I could do that.”  While not something you can learn overnight, improvisation is actually easier than you think.

Music is like any art: it is made up of scientifically-based patterns that are pleasing to the senses. Any Joe could slap a few random brush strokes on a canvas and call it art, but even the most contemporary and abstract artist of any success worth noting will tell you that there are patterns, that there is logic, behind the strokes. Likewise, any person with a few fingers on his hands could press a variety of piano keys and call it music. But until the patterns emerge, it’s just noise.

At Michelle Tuesday Music School, we teach songwriting classes. Several have asked us how we can teach such a thing: “Isn’t that just something you’re either good at or not?”

No. Songwriting and composition can be taught.

In the centuries of music documented for modern enjoyment, the same kinds of patterns emerge over and over again. Those patterns are rooted in rhythm and the frequencies of sound. The songs that “make it” on the radio scene follow the rules, and while each listener has his own taste and personal style, a finite number of patterns can be found in *any* music you hear. The patterns are based on scale and chord theory, which we at MTMS teach in our computer lab to all of our private lesson students, regardless of the instrument they study. Scale and chord theory also serves as the foundation for any good songwriting curriculum.

Improvisation is based on the same scale and chord theory. Once you know the patterns, you can make up anything on the spot and know it will sound good, because you’re following a set of rules that has been agreed upon by ages of listeners. The same progressions of major, minor, diminished, augmented, and seventh scales and chords that make up an existing song can be used to improvise an extended introduction, interlude, or outro to that song.

Interested in learning how to improvise? Enroll in a songwriting class today.

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