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Improvisation...why do so many struggle with it ?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by glocke1, Jan 6, 2017.

  1. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002
    For me, the real joy in playing comes with the improvisational side of music.

    I'm not talking about mindless jamming or noodling, but true improv base off a melody or pattern that is passed around from player to player.

    This is why I've always sought out bands that are in the jam band genre, but sadly most of these I've fallen in with seem to consist of people that lack this skill and the improv sections of these tunes would consist of everybody playing something separately, instead of playing as a cohesive
    unit and following/listening.

    Last band I was in was a jam band, (GD cover band), and often times I
    would try to get the guys to do a warm up jam by starting a pattern or melody on bass, only to get looked at as if I had three heads...band leader would look at me and than call out and count off a tune.

    ptg likes this.
  2. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    Why don't you play jazz?
    rapidfirerob likes this.
  3. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002
    I have...Played in a swing band and smaller combos in the past.

    Where I live now those options just aren't available to me without doing a great deal of driving and I don't have the bandwidth to do that kind of traveling for rehearsals and jam sessions any more.
  4. lfmn16

    lfmn16 SUSPENDED Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Improvisation...why do so many struggle with it ?

    Because it's hard to do well and most musicians are lazy.
  5. 10cc


    Oct 28, 2013
    For the same reasons many bands do not write their own music. They can't.
  6. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    I have found this out also and I'm not a jam band guy but like to jam out on occasion. Allot of player I have played with just learn songs that's it. If you get them off a song structure they freeze. Heck I do sometimes as well but am decent at improvising and enjoy it.
  7. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Not everyone is capable of creativity. I'm definitely not. I can try and put notes together musically but it's not gonna be musical.
    Killed_by_Death likes this.
  8. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    why can't some people tell when they sing harmony whether they're on or not? same reasons - different skill sets, different musical experience, amount of confidence or lack thereof in their abilities.
  9. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    Some people can think quickly on their feet, others can't. I fall into the latter, btw. I can learn cover tunes off a CD but struggle to write my own material without it sounding simple and boring.
  10. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    Some of it is laziness/lack of time.
    Some is natural ability/lack of ability.
    Some is lack of opportunity to practice improvising. Yeah there's lots of apps but you gotta get out and play with live humans beings at some point.
  11. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    It's certainly true, as others have pointed out, that one issue is that of ability: Improvising requires a skill set and an ear that most players don't have. But to be fair, a lot of folks just don't want to. One of my bands had a drummer for a couple of years like that: It turned out that when the rest of us went off on improvised tangents, she (yes, she) was actually very good at it, but then when the jam was over and everybody else was sharing high-fives about how good it was, she would say, "Yeah, that was pretty good, but I'd rather just play songs." And I play with a guitarist in a hobby band now who is the same way. While I'm sure it's probably true that many folks who say they don't like to improvise do so mainly because they don't know how -- or at least how to do it well -- let's not be too quick to assume that that's necessarily the reason why somebody would rather just play songs.

    As for the ability/skill issue, I think the main issue for a lot of folks is that the main skill required for (good) improvisation in a band is the ability to listen. Most of us hacks are focused while we're playing on ourselves: We're just trying to get our own part right and not screw up. Ensemble improvisation requires everyone to break out of that mindset and really listen to what everyone else is doing, and then adjust accordingly. I suspect that a lotta folks who believe they can't do this really could if they could just adopt that mindset and focus, but it isn't easy to do.
    jamro217, GregC and blue4 like this.
  12. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    A lot of people are playing in cover bands living the rock star.

    I played in a jazz band early because it was the only context I could find where I could do a solo and be lyric. It is still something I have in me. Now I play a lot with a Boss Loop station, really cool for creating.
    gjohnson441496 likes this.
  13. rapidfirerob

    rapidfirerob Fusion rules!

    I've always been drawn towards listening and playing improvised music. I'm a big fusion fan and had my own for awhile. I have an Allman Brothers tribute band. I think it takes interest, time and ability to make it happen. Not everyone wants to play improvised music. Look at how few people listen to jazz in the US. Most people want something they can dance to that isn't too challenging. Thank goodness there are others who enjoy more challenging music, both as a listener and a musician.
    10cc likes this.
  14. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002

    I've seen a lot of that. Even in the Dead cover bands and other cover bands I was in, the majority of the people not only just wanted to play the songs and skip the improv parts, but were too far into the "rock star" aspect of it for my own comfort level, even to the point of adopting the "look" of their idols. I can't count the number of lead guitar players who seemed to go out of their way to get fat can copy Jerrys unhealthy look. Thats a topic for another thread though I guess.
  15. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    A. People don't practice improvisation, so they don't do it well.
    B. People confuse "song" with "recording" and so they think the only notes to play are what were played on whichever recording the are familiar with.
  16. Grumry


    Jul 6, 2016
    The last real project I was in, 8-10 years ago, was just a jam and experimental setting. I played guitar and a buddy was on drums. We would meet up, hit record, and go for 10-20 minutes. After a few months of doing this weekly we would have a signature riff in each of the tunes that we could always recognize and fall back on, but we always made it different. I enjoy a very wet signal, so the variety of soundscapes I could create were endless.

    In reality, we just got stoned and made noise. We loved it.

    Lobster11 likes this.
  17. JusttheBassics

    JusttheBassics Guest

    Jun 23, 2016
    Agree. Improv takes PRACTICE! Most people don't understand that the greatest jazz solos in history are simply a series of learned licks strung together. These licks were practiced and improved over time. Like language, these practiced licks become the vocabulary used to form musical statements.

    Also, as another poster said, you need to be a good listener. Practicing chord shapes and scales over padded chords can really help. I have also found that singing or humming improv lines over a tune and then playing them with the instrument can provide a good learning experience to get new licks under your fingers.
    Ikkir likes this.
  18. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 Groove it

    all it takes is PRACTICE
    ImNotJoel likes this.
  19. ImNotJoel


    Jan 12, 2014
    I gotta agree like many no ALL components of music it takes PRACTICE. To get good at improvising you have to practice it. Just like songs, scales, techniques, etc. Why can't so many musicians improvise because that will rip you right out of your comfort zone and many don't even try. As humans we are creatures of habit so one musician may look up tabs or sit and learn a song that is their routine so when they go and play with people they have learned the material and are prepared. If a jam is happening they don't get to sit and learn the jam because it is being created. Now a musician like that only knows to copy what is made so even sitting and creating is out of their comfort zone so improvising on the spot is like getting shot out of a cannon.

    I always try and break my comfort zone at a young age I decided I wanted to be able to play as many genres as I could and adapt to any situation. The best way to do it is find a group of musicians maybe friends and just ****ing jam. That's it just play make mistakes make lots of mistakes and don't even sweat it. It will be rough at first. I had a group of friends we just jammed and we would attempt things and give each other feed back. But we never worried if we made a mistake or it didn't sound right because eventually it all sounded right. I have gone years not playing with these guys and when we meet the pocket is just as deep. Not to mention it is fun. When you get your ideas in the jam you walk away smiling because that riff you made in that basement is yours to take home.

    People just get so scared improvising and not sounding good. The fear of not sounding good will cripple you. Improvising is skill you can use all over music it makes you creative. I had a guitar teacher who summed it up to me. I brought in a cd to learn a song he said "Do you want to be a musician" I replied "yes" he said then go figure out that song at home. He told me learning songs teaches you to copy. Our lessons consisted of creating on the spot. Nothing wrong with covers because in the same hand sometimes you need to learn things note for note. Anyone wanting to improvise find a group of people keep it fun and laid back and build your style and have fun.
    Tom Bomb likes this.
  20. BassFishingInAmerica


    Jul 24, 2014
    Although I have just recently become pretty good at improvisation, I do not enjoy it. I am very obsessive, and much prefer consistency in music. I like everything being the same every time, developing a strict tightness between all members. When someone says, "Let's jam and see what we can come up with," I just cringe.

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