I have been trained classically in violin, but it wasn’t until my sophomore and junior years of college that I actually discovered that in all of my music training, I couldn’t improvise very well from a tab/lead sheet with a band. I grew up musically with a very good ear and really enjoyed playing melodies that I heard and apply them to my instrument. However, I found that in collaborative, non-classical environments, I was insecure in my improv skills set. I am not alone in this feeling. Many classical musicians have at one point found it very difficult to go from reading every note that he/she should play, to being an extemporaneous composer of his/her own music. I’m grateful that my previous worship pastor, Caleb Widmer, helped me break out of my classical shell when I was interning at Cavlary Memorial Church and delve into improvisational music. Through his help, along with other mentors, I have been able to feel comfortable in my improv skills and am enjoying this style of playing as much as my classical playing!
We, as classical musicians, should not “paralyse ourselves with composer idolatry,” but should be able to use our musical skills that we have developed to play both classical and non classical genres with equal excellence. Below are some tips on how to grow your improvisational skill set. Enjoy!
Has respect for the written note gone too far?