Monday, July 2, 2007

Summer Jammin': Adventures in Improvisation

In a May post I encouraged you to try out new activities and approaches this summer. Several of you expressed the desire to work on improvisation or to learn how to play jazz.

Here are some great resources to help you along your way:

Flutist and composer Nathan Zalman has published a free online tutorial for improvisation entitled Unleash Your Inner Flutist! which encourages us to use patterns we already know and put them together in new and interesting ways to express a palette of emotional qualities. He identifies improvisation as a simple three-step process: feel; choose; and, play.
  1. Identify a feeling you wish to express—happy, sad, meditative, lonely, peaceful, curious, mischievous, surprised, etc.
  2. Choose a vocabulary to embody the feeling—scales, keys, rhythms, or a non-musical inspiration such as a poem or story.
  3. Play, allowing the music to come out. When you improvise, there are no mistakes, only ideas, intention and creation.
I attended the workshop Nathan presented for the Raleigh Area Flute Association in November, 2006, and truly enjoyed his creative and well-thought-out presentation. He is living his passion, as he says--a model to us all. You can learn more about Nathan, his interesting life and music at his website.

A good improvisation resource for learning jazz is the Hal Crook Play-Alongs page from the Stan Getz Library at Berklee College of Music. Entries, listed in ascending order of difficulty, include a pdf leadsheet and mp3 accompaniment track . I like "Taught 'em keys" --usually known as "Autumn Leaves."

I am gradually working my way through the DVD teaching series, "this is the Way i do it" by amazingly fluid guitarist John McLaughlin (of Mahavishnu Orchestra fame). I encourage you to visit John's official (and highly creative) new website to search for this boxed set while exploring and enjoying his virtual territory.I encourage you to include improvisation in your daily practice. I enjoy beginning my practice day with an improvisation, acknowledging and expressing my feelings before turning my attention to advancing the art of recreating music created by others.

Try something new every day! Life is waiting to be discovered.
Happy exploring...


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