Learn to improvise. 2003-2004. Lesson 14: simplify.

There is a difference between a musician and a music lover. The first one accepts the imperfection of his music, the second one has more self-criticism than skill. To improvise one has to simplify ones music to a playable level. If we really want to use all the chords, voicing, initial keys, temporary keys, scales, chord schemes, modulations, melodies and rhythms of which we understand the existence, in our playing, we will keep on exercising and will never really play. So, we will have to simplify.

Chords: we can limit ourselves to the primary chords (major, minor, seventh, diminished, augmented).

Voicing: we can restrict every chord we use to 1 or 2 grasps, of which we have figured out once, that they are easy to play, also when changing from one chord to another.

Initial keys: we can specialize in 1 or 2 initial keys (B-flat or E-flat if we often play with wind instrumentalists; E or A are common for guitar, C, F and G for harmonica; C is best for understanding the structure of music and F is a compromise, acceptable for most instruments)

Temporary keys: when we choose a song for improvisation we can see to it, that it doesn't contain temporary keys we are not familiar with.

Scales: the common major and harmonic minor scales are sufficient. Later on one can add other scales (like church modes, gipsy scales, etc).

Chord schemes: for improvisation the schemes may be simpler than the examples in the previous lessons. Those were meant to illustrate the eloquence of a mere scheme. In reality much can be left to the melody.

Modulations: it is not necessary to have lots of them. The effect of a modulation depends greatly on the introduction it gets by the melody.
Introduction of modulation.

Melodies: repetitions are easy to do and agreeable to hear. That holds for any length: a measure, a sentence or a chorus. They may be distorted: backwards, in another scale, etc, as long as there is something that reminds one of the original phrase.
Hear repetitions.

Rhythms: restrict yourself to the complexity you can handle. Improvising a rhythm is easier than playing it from notes, particularly when it comes to extreme short fragments (of milliseconds). The improviser with feeling for rhythm can mask much simplicity of other musical aspects.

Sheet music: if you take ideas from sheet music it is useful to pay attention to what you can simplify in it, in order to be able to improvise better with it.
The advantage of the simplification of the several musical aspects during the preparation is a better combination of these aspects during playing.
'Shine', having a simple design, making it suitably for improvisation.

Also one can change his attention for a certain aspect during playing. By simplifying the accompaniment, the melody gets more attention. This can be both easy to play and musically to hear.
HOMEWORK: Spend an hour on determining what will be your favorite musical aspects (initial key, chords, voicing, etc) to restrict your attention to in the next months.
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