To Improvise Or Not To Improvise – 3 Ways That Improvising And Reading Are The Same.
In order to improvise one needs to produce a viable tone, be skilled in scale playing and acquire a flair for phrasing.
In order to read music, one needs to produce a viable tone, be skilled in scale playing and acquire a flair for phrasing.
Both reading and improvising require the same demands on the musician.
In order to produce a tone, one needs to hear a good tone and try to imitate it. You can read notes all you want; they won’t directly help you produce a tone. There are exercises such as slow vibrato studies, and dynamics exercises that one could write out, but once the player gets the idea, the reading of the exercise is superfluous. Practicing comes though repetition; if it was read at first, then it will not be necessary to read it after many repetitions.
Does this make you wonder if at this point the musician who is memorizing, is improvising? It started out as reading, but is now in the practicing and no longer on the paper. The non-reader could listen and pick it up. Does this mean the non-reader is improvising? No, repetition is not improvisation.
Yet, even though there is repetition, one improvises while practicing repetition. One improvises with the tone. The tone must be aimed towards perfection.
You can only experiment and improvise solutions for the tone, while you are practicing repetition. Once a good tone is produced, it is important to learn scales.
Scale practice and basic harmony study, is a must for both improvisers and readers. Musical improvisations are either scale or arpeggio based. The reader may be acquainted with various written passages in the literature that are based on scales and arpeggios.
From the traditional literature comes the extraction of scales, which are then built into systems of learning. From the tradition of improvisation, the extraction of scale patterns is taught visually and aurally from generation to generation.
Either kind of musician must be adept at scales in order to perform properly on the instrument of choice.
Breathing life to the music is a great skill that makes the difference when the previous attributes spoken of above are already in place. Tone and scales are the basics for guitar technique; nevertheless, if one has no sense of phrasing, they will drag or rush and make the music sound poor. The reader and the improviser need to have a sense of phrasing.
Begin a phrase, carry on through the middle and come to a stop at the end of the phrase. Whether it is written or spontaneously composed, the phrase will make or break the music. We can hear technique for only so long. Phrasing is a mental control of the expressive elements. Without phrasing, music will come off too mechanical and repetitive, as if one is practicing.
What is the difference between reading and improvising from the musician’s point of view? There should be very little difference in the output. The difference is how the musician derives the source material.
The reader does not have the same options that the improviser has. The reader must play the exact notes in the exact order. The improviser can change the order around, but the improviser is restricted by the same basic harmonic rules, the same skill sets and the same musical instinct for phrasing.
To get a fuller understanding of guitar improvisation, check out the Kindle Edition of Guitar Improvisation in 7 minutes.