I"m very much an amateur flutist and I'm new to the flute. I can read music. I'd like to play along with some
music cd's and improvise along with the song. I know you've got to figure out the key that the song is in, then
do your best to make musical sense out your improvisation.
But, I don't know if there's a set pattern of steps, like I, II, IV, etc to go by. Of course I'm talking modern music and not
classical. Is anyone on this forum familiar with what I'm talking about?
Yes, Jazz or popular music of course. And, no, I'm not into classical flute although
I do love to hear the virtuoso's play it. I'd like to just play along with cd music with my
flute. Although I'm new to the flute, I'm moving along pretty good, and am already
playing along with "Music minus one" music. Bossa nova and stuff similar to that.
I just though that there's gotta be a musical format that musicians follow in order
to make musical sense in the ad lib.
I'd appreciate any info.
I agree that certain people have a strong aptitude and others may be null (probably me).
However, this is also a technique and as such, it is taught in academies, like the one I attend for flute lessons.
There they have workshops dedicated to Jazz improvisation and they are open not only to born geniuses but also to students at different levels of skill at their instruments.
Of course if one is not a born improviser with a innate feeling of the music, a person must master a lot of things before being able to improvise decently. But it can be done, with a lots of efforts in the way.
I cannot read music at all, even after several very frustrating attempts to learn it. (I have A.D.D.).
However, I can easily improvise and play by ear. I remember having a lesson with a teacher who revealed
that she could not improvise even a single note, although she could play nearly anything written out in front of her.
That was my first and last lesson with her. The strange thing is, that I'm sure she thinks I'm a total failure
as a musician because I can't read a note, and I think of her as a sort of robotic sight-reading machine
who couldn't improvise if her life depended on it.
Of course, the ideal would be to have both abilities, but one or the other can be good enough, depending on your goals.
It's so refreshing to hear other people voicing what I have believed all along. That is that sightreading is a totally separate talent from playing by ear and that they are not related. I happen to be very talented at sightreading and terrible at improvising and composing. I'm much like the sight reading robot described above. However, I do not look down on people who play by ear. I am envious of their talent. It is something I long for. I have feelings inside that can only be expressed through other people's music. I would love to express my feelings with my own music, but I am so tied to the notes that I find it hard to escape. I am trying to improve my weak areas by practicing, but I don't have to work hard at improving my sight reading. It just seems to improve naturally as I grow musically.
I'm so glad that people like me are not looked down upon by everyone.
Even jazz musicians who read well and talk endlessly about chord progressions
often have the notion that if you can't read, you can't play.
But what kills me, is that most elementary schools, high schools and colleges, too-
seem to perpetuate the myth that sight reading the prescribed curriculum is for
serious musicians, and the students who like blues, rock and jazz, etc.- are the
flakes who will never amount to anything.
My son loves music more than most kids. But since he can't read music fast enough,
and therefore is discouraged from practicing, his music teachers yell at him, and
I suppose he might even "fail". But he knows more about music in general than
just about any other kid, and has more enthusiasm for it by far, too. In my opinion,
labeling him a music "failure" is a type of psychologicall abuse. Anybody else agree?
This is a good dialog on "To Read or Not to Read, that is the question!"
The short answer is that we all need to do BOTH to grow even more as professional musicians.
I play flutes mostly by reading, but work on scales occasionally through improvising (time constraints limit me). I agree that jazz improvisation is a strong commitment, but classical flutists are overlooking an important point here. If you are truly playing well, you are listening while you are playing, and everything you are doing cannot be adequately described on paper. The sheet music is merely a guide, keeping you grounded, and on point. You still need to take liberties in real time, or you will not be making music for human enjoyment. Accents, timings, dynamics, grace notes, trills, et cetera, all get the personal touch, but there are more and less tasteful ways to send the message. If the paper was sufficient, we wouldn't need to hear the professionals, or even take their advice after we knew how to read.
There are jazz standards that jazz musicians need to play where the melody choruses are followed by choruses of improvisation. They need to read, but the sheet music is still interpreted. Paper does not adequately do the job for the jazz musician either, but can commit a good percentage of intent for the experienced and educated reader, who knows the genre. Try to play like Charlie Parker by reading the (very good) Aebersold transcriptions without hearing and studying him, and you won't pull it off. In fact, you will not be able to duplicate it exactly anyway, without personalizing it, due to your own mind, body, and equipment.
"It's so refreshing to hear other people voicing what I have believed all along. That is that sightreading is a totally separate talent from playing by ear and that they are not related"
I agree, that they are distinct skills (not talents...) and can both be learned. My path was circuitous...studied classical piano early in life and just played the written notes. As an adolescent (50s and 60s) I started to play rock and roll along with the jukebox in my dad's bar and records I bought and played a lot of bad notes before I even figured out that most of it was just three chords in a key center (and all Dom7 at that). Then I started playing brass instruments...played in jazz bands and learned/was taught improv. In my 20s I learned guitar (which is really mostly improvisational, but very visual). In my 40s, I learned woodwinds, sax, flute and clarinet and focused more on jazz...the whole thing was a journey. My message in this is to just start today. Put the radio on loud and play along. Listen to what sounds good and what sounds bad...try to figure out the triads and scales that work. In particular, it is important to remember that jazz theory came AFTER the hip cats were playing it...analytical quant types needed to study what those guys were doing.
It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyways) that to do this, you have to be facile with all the scales, arpeggios and study patterns (like Czerny's Progressive Studies in all 12 keys) so that you can experiment with sensible 'within key' patterns as you are listening and playing along.
Having had to do both in College, yes, two entirely different skills. The piano version would be accompanist versus performer. But usually it's only one of the two that their mind really gets, mostly because they spent too much time grinding away in orchestra or band growing up.
The person who can do it, though, usually has a much easier time finding work or being in a band/group.
IMO, it's like having perfect relative pitch - it can be learned given enough time at it.
to be a total musician, one needs to be able to be a good sightreader, be able to improvise on occasion, be able to ornament Baroque music, be able to transpose, and sometimes even be able to transpose and sightread at the same time!
Yes, I too believe improvising is a talent, not necessarily a skill. The only things I can think of for improvising would be to know the key, key changes, the meter, meter changes, and specifically what genre of music you are working with. That seems to help me because different types of music do better with different types of harmonies. For example, rock music usually has very simple harmonies (sometimes similar to the arpeggios used in scales), but the more classical you get, the more intricate the harmonies get. Hope this helps!