Approaches to learning.
Improvisation skills are an age -old tradition and a wonderful practical and creative resource. Improvisations simultaneously encompasses all dimensions of music; instrumental colour, technical control and overall communication with the listener. An improvisation can also create a special experience of the moment, as the listener follows every twist and turn, novelty and aural delight of the improviser’s uncharted journey, in eager anticipation of what comes next.
Alas, improvisations can all too often be synonymous with vague wandering chords or cacophonous loud displays, all of which usually say little and achieve minimal engagement with the listener.
Nevertheless, with care, perseverence and a critical ear as to the result, any keyboard player can at some level improvise music that engages with the listener and goes beyond mere padding and musical wallpaper.
The road to this is not to somehow unlock a magic door to some mysterious art that is accessible only to the talented few. Rather, it is to approach it slowly and methodically, taking our lead from the examples of a fine composition. Indeed, improvisation is best viewed as ‘composition speeded up’. An improvisation can be in any style - it need not be 'contemporary' to be relevant to you or the listener; nor need it be long or complex.
Even with the most brilliant an experienced of improvisers, their creations are still underpinned by sound compositional principles, albeit subliminal and well embedded in to the conciousness.
Beyond fluid and confident creations, improvisation is also about 'S.U.S.' - i.e. 'Soaking Up the Style'.
A consistent style means not fast forwarding from Couperin to Cochereau via Howells, or Bach to Hindemith in two minutes! Listening to and performing music of all periods and styles will help refine focus within a particular idiom.
The emphasis at any given stage is to produce a musical result of quality and appeal, based on sound technical foundations and irrespective of length and complexity. For example, a short single line melody and drone bass, carefully crafted and executed, can prove to be of infinite more musical worth than a mass of chords or uncontrolled rhetoric. This approach should ensure a satisfying result for each student, helping to build self-confidence and motivation to progress to the next level.
For a more in-depth discussion of organ improvisation, with practical examples click here.