Friday, 19 April 2013 15:00

Tony Haynes on improvisation - Music Teacher magazine

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The following extract comes from an article in the recent March issue of Music Teacher magazine - Tony Haynes offers an intriguing and in-depth insight into the art of improvisation...



Some people put improvisation and jazz in the same bracket – perhaps not synonymous, but certainly closely related. In fact, improvisation is integral to a great many other musical forms – even, once, classical music. Tony Haynes explains more and offers some thoughts on the best way to start improvising

Jazz is the music most people associate with improvisation.  It’s true that improvisation is the driving force in jazz, but improvisation is – and has always been – a significant element in most other musics worldwide.

Jazz in itself is extraordinarily hard to define.  It’s not a genre, style or specific musical sound – in the way that, say, baroque music, gamelan or street samba can be easily identified.  It’s better to think of jazz as an approach or attitude towards music-making which can deliver many different results, but always with two features in common: improvisation and the appropriation of elements of other musics.

Jazz is, uniquely, a music that constantly needs to reinvent itself – and it has done so prolifically and with increasing diversity over the last century or so.  Change is of the essence, and although styles from previous eras may exist side by side, they lack the creative vigour that is essential to jazz; like a big band which uses arrangements from a past age, and where no one improvises, they do indeed become just another musical genre.

I make these points not to imply that one kind of music is superior to another, but because it’s important to appreciate differences if we are to make any headway in understanding improvisation...

Read the full article here at   

Extract reproduced here with the kind permission of the Editor of Music Teacher magazine.