3-minute-read. Do you want to improve your improvisation skills? Read these 10 improvisation tips on how to get started if you are still a beginner and want to improvise freely.
Creating music in real-time might be hard in the beginning. But it’s no magic and possible to practice.
What might be our biggest obstacle with improvisation? We all fear mistakes and don’t want to be judged by others. This is what makes improvisation so scary. Many musicians don’t improvise often or have never even tried.
The internet offers many tips for each style and instrument. We’ve collected the best for our community. Here is some advice for beginners, no matter which type of instrument you play.
#1 Believe in yourself
First of all, you can make it! Nobody was born a perfect improviser. And everybody can become better with a little bit of practice, patience, and a relaxed mindset. The good part is: You don’t have to invent the wheel from scratch. Improvisation means to take the existing elements and to create a new mix from them.
#2 Play along with songs you like
Choose some songs you really enjoy to play and listen to. Try these exercises:
- Play along with the song. Add just one or two notes to it.
- Play the song again. Now create a background with your improvisation – some longer notes which “support” the sound.
- Play again. Add more active elements – something which lays on top of the song.
- Play the song again. Let your impro be above the whole song. Use more notes.
#3 Find mates to jam with
After you’ve gained some confidence invite other musicians for a jam session. Make sure you all know the songs you’re going to play. Often blues or jazz standards are played during a jam session. Learn everything you need to know for jamming here.
Did you know you can jam with musicians online, in real-time? Check it out, it’s free.
#4 Listen to other musicians
- Listen to some great solos & impros. Which techniques do they use? Pick one or two and try them out in your next improvisation. Check out the amazing improvisations of our user DonaMoth.
- Listen to your band mates when playing and improvising together. Which elements do they use? Take them and start experimenting with them.
- Use some ear training exercises to become better at hearing harmony and rhythm.
DonaMoth’s: “Work on the succession of the notes. Take those from the chords first. Then the corresponding scale. In general be ready and prepared for the Unknown.”
#5 Learn some music theory
- The basic theory you need for improvisation: Which notes can you play over which chords? Learn some scales.
- If the whole song is in the same key: Know the scale which will fit (e.g. the A scale). Many songs never change their key and are perfect to start with.
- If you want to improvise over chords, learn the pentatonic scales.
#6 Experiment with elements
- Experiment with the melody. Take a song’s melody and use it to create new interpretations. Use the elements other instruments use.Like every good art, improvisation means to change small details about existing things. For example, leave out some notes or change some of them.
- Experiment with the rhythm. Start with very small changes to the original one. Change small bits – hit just one note in a different time, and you’ll have a completely different song vibe.
- Experiment with the dynamics.
- Use some effects, vibrato, bends or slides to change the sound of your solo.
#7 Don’t think too much
- Learn to improvise on your own until you feel confident enough to do so with other musicians.
- Thoughts like “I suck” might come to your mind – don’t let them. Nobody expects you to be perfect from the start. You improvise to improve, so trust that you’ll get better over time. But also note the skills which you are still missing. If you do that and work on them – not during the impro – you’ll improve fast.
This tip is universal for everything in life. Practice on a daily basis: Pick a theme or scale and improvise for 5 minutes daily. Check this cool blues you could improvise to.
#9 Record and listen to your own improvisation
The way you hear yourself while improvising might be misleading. Record yourself and listen carefully. You will maybe find some mistakes. Don’t judge yourself for them, but try to learn to improve next time. Or you might find some awesome techniques, which are simply played but sound great.
#10 Sing along
Singing what you play is said to be very helpful. Like that you’ll understand and feel the melodies you are playing. And you’ll train your ear and voice at the same time – a good way to improve your voice as well.
What you’ll gain with these improvisation tips
- Get better at songwriting – because improvisation tips are also songwriting tips. With both, you create your own music – more or less spontaneously.
- Become a better live musician – as you are able to react in the moment & play amazing solos.
- Become more creative in everything you do. Because during improvisations you use other brain areas as usual. While improvising you let the evaluating & controlling parts of the brain rest and train the self-expressing ones.
How to improvise on sofasession?
- Join weekly jam sessions
- Choose songs (e.g. blues) to play along: Blues backing tracks, Beatles songs or Improvisation Backing Tracks
- Record your solo & get feedback from others
Check these tips for further insight: