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What do you need to start improvising?


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This is a cosmic question, we all know...
What to we need to start improvising? What are the primary things to do that?
I discussed the fist element here: the head.
Learning the head and than starting to add variations in the first step. Leave a comment to let me know how you approach improvisation.
I also discussed the importance of learning tunes as a platform, instead of practicing many things in an abstract way.

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For me the easiest way to think of improvising is to wonder how Anita Baker would go about singing the tune...
With all due respect to everybody, Fabrizio has put together a nice video and I don't see value in dissing him, yes it is funny but it doesn't really help the site or the cause.
Thank you for your replies.
If you watched the video I discussed about the importance of learning the head by singing it without the instrument or reading a chart.
You should learn tunes by listening to records, especially from the singers.
Listening to the singers is great because you can easily understand the melody, and they also use variations and embellishments. Variations on the melody is the first form of improvisation, as you pointed referring to Anita Baker.

@Nick Wyver I gave my saxophone to my dog.
She doesn't need to know chords, because she wants to be spontaneous.
I would describe wer style as avantgarde, experimental, she sure has a barking sound on baritone!

@lydian Yes, we can scat, but we need to learn the melody first.
In the video I discussed about the importance of singing and then transfer what you hear on the horn
From what I've seen, browsing online teachers, far too few say exactly this.

Maybe part of the problem is that "beginner" is ambiguous. Beginner; playing music? Playing sax? Playing jazz? Improvising? If you've invested valuable time writing a "beginning improve" material/course, you're probably not inclined to say "don't buy this until you've learned 50 tunes by heart".

Anyway, worth putting on YouTube
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Another good video Fabrizio, I have to say your subtitled videos are more clear than a lot of English language videos I've seen.

In my volume one Abersold jazz improv book there's a "Song list for beginners" -- anyone know of other lists like that? Or even a couple you know are on the beginner level.

The main thing I'm working on now is being able to play what I can sing -- seems simple in theory, but not in practice ;).
@mizmar you are right. There are thousands of factors involved in playing and learning music, and maybe one of the most important is our ears. You can achieve an insane technique on the instrument that can be totally useless if you are not able to whistle a melody or to hear the difference between a major and a minor chord. I am taliking about an extreme situation of course...maybe the strongest adivce can be "listen more"... and then "sing first, play second" is an another essential aspect.

@wakyct Thank you. Maybe one day I could try to shoot a video in English too, never say never.
I don't know the Aebersold song list, but I suggest you to start with a simple tune learning the melody from a record.
Just learn it by singing it and then try to transfer it on the horn, do this before thinking about chords, scales, etc
The ability to sing the melody make you become aware that you know it.
Being able to play what you sing is the goal of a serious improviser in my opinion, it's way harder that what we might think!
Being able to play what you sing is the goal of a serious improviser in my opinion
Whilst getting musical ideas into sounds through singing so that you might learn from it is a tried and tested technique, it isn’t the only way.
It’s fine if your voice is decent, and you enjoy singing too. Or if you have no theoretical skills in order to transcribe solos etc.
For me, my voice is about as good as a 1983 La Fleur with several leaks. I never enjoyed singing either.
Yes, for many it’s great, but as with so many things it’s not the only way. I certainly couldn’t sing many of my improv ideas.
Hello @Pete Effamy ,I'm not a good singer by any sense.
I'm talking about just being able to sing the right pitches of the melody, or the phrase that you aim to play.
This of course is not the only way to deal with iprovisation, however in my opinion trying to play what you sing or hear in your head is way better than playing scales up and down or patterns that you read somewhere.
Being able to translate 100% on what you hear and being able to sing 100% of whatever you hear is uthopic, but we can try to work in that direction.
Listening to many good musicians is essential to understand what you would sound like, and this doesn't mean that you must be a clone, I'm talking about imitating what you want to build a vocabulary.
I think we all learned to speak by imitation, before strenghten our knowledge by studying grammar.
By the way I'm trying to improve my English reading and writing on this forum and watching movies in original language...(I'm Italian).
I'm talking about just being able to sing the right pitches of the melody, or the phrase that you aim to play.
This of course is not the only way to deal with iprovisation,

I agree there is not one true way. One case where playing what you hear is valuable is when you're trading solos with another player. If you can play what you hear them play then your ability to riff on their ideas is greater, no? I'm always impressed by my teacher when we are doing improv in a lesson, and he takes my (very basic) ideas and expands them on his chorus. I guess it also helps to have some theoretical knowledge in this situation too though.
Know your scales to cause tensions and resolutions, have some technique, an instrument and some imagination. And remember what is noise to 1 person can be wonderful music to another.
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