What I’ve learned about improvisation is just that… it’s improvisation.
Improvise with your Improvisation.
Meaning come up with your OWN ways of improvising. You can read books all day and study improv for years in college without the main ingredient and you’d be getting nowhere. These are out of the box ideas and have nothing to do with your skill or ability to improvise. What’s this ingredient? Actually there’s a few… but the most important in my opinion is Confidence – do you believe you can improvise? And do it well? The following are in no particular order.
Desire. Confidence. Belief. Conviction.
First you gotta want to be the greatest of all time. A little too much for you? Why? Maybe you just need to change your thinking and think a little bit bigger. Don’t worry this is normal I went through and still go through periods of low points and doubts but I always come back and think even BIGGER.
Second you gotta have the confidence that you can pull this off. I used to think Jazz Improvisation was some type of virtuoso only members club that I would never be a part of. Total bullsh-t. I’m not even a jazz player. But thinking that I could never do something… that’s just a negative thought that creeped into my head.
What do you do with these negative thoughts? Well.. You can dwell on em… or you can let em pass. Everyone gets negative thoughts. Successful people let em pass knowing its just a thought and that that particular thought has no value. Negative people dwell on them. So just let it pass. And finally how do you gain confidence? BY DOING. So just get started.
Third. You HAVE to believe that you can pull off improv. You have to believe that you practicing it has a purpose. AND IT DOES. In fact, its probably one of the most important things to have in your arsenal. The ability to improvise may be second to NONE. In the heat of the moment if you can’t improvise you’re most likely gonna make a mistake but if you have this skill under your belt and its not even really a skill in a sense, its more like a core confidence that you can pull something great off over any chord or progression.
Fourth. Play EVERYTHING with —>>> CONVICTION. Every note, articulation, chord, rhythm, rest, dynamic, dive bomb, vibrato etc…do it with a purpose. Don’t go through the motion just because you know how to do it. Keep thinking “Why am I doing this (what’s its purpose)?” and “How can I make it better?” Is it to sound powerful or not? Cus if you’re just playing something because you can and not with a purpose then its not gonna come across the way you want it to.
And we all want it to come across like we hear it in our heads. We hear it in our heads for a reason… because we want to express it. Because we need to… or because something moved us. So play it with conviction.
I love definitions, I always see the word in a new light when I focus on the actual definition of a word I like.
Desire… a strong feeling of wanting to have something.
Confidence… the feeling or belief that one can rely on something; firm trust.
Belief… trust, faith, or confidence in someone (yourself) or something (your ability to come up with things on the fly).
Conviction… a state of mind in which one is free from doubt (you’re so sure that this note is the one you wanna hit and that its gonna sound good that you have absolutely no doubt even if others think otherwise… so sure that you can change their mind).
The goal here is to get you so confident that you come up with your own ways of improvising. You already know how to improvise in other areas of your life so think of something out of the box… challenge yourself. If you come up short. Keep thinking, keep asking daily… sure enough you’ll come up with something. Seek and you will find.
Lastly, don’t try to be like anybody else. Be your own player. Don’t wait for someone to tell you how to improvise, or read something on how to do it… you’ve already done that… try coming up with ideas on your own. You’ll get much more confident this way instead of relying on someone always telling you what to do. Its self-reliance and self reliance will come in handy when you need it most.
I’ve been playing for years on end and what has culminated inside me is this one important concept called confidence.
About the Author:
Mike Socarras is a guitarist, songwriter, lyricist and guitar teacher. He teaches guitar in the Westchester area of Miami, Florida.