Learn to improvise. 2003-2004. Lesson 21: improvising on a given song.

For improvising usually one takes a known song to start with. The first thing you do is to take everything out, like a room you're going to fit up. Do as follows:
  1. Choose a suitable song. Nose about in songbooks for a song you have heard before and know a little. Make sure it has not only the melody, but also the chords and text. You must have feeling for the song in order to be able to make practical simplifications. Text comes in handy to indicate where the chords change.
  2. Use only the chorus, as you intend to improvise every repetition differently.
  3. Remove the chords which are too much for improvisation. You must be able to feel the sub stream which determines the broad outline of the harmony. It is convenient to have no chord changes halfway down a measure.
  4. Replace complex chords by primary ones.
  5. Transpose the chords to your best initial key (to sing or play). We choose C for didactical reasons.
  6. Write the result down clear and big. This way all your attention can be given to your personal musical contribution.
  7. Learn these chords by heart, in the beginning the sheet you have made, but you will only be able to improvise completely freely if the flow of the harmony is burned into your musical mind as an automatism.
Simplification 1 (no notes): [Eb] Shine [Ebm] a[Ebdim]way [Fm7] your [Bb7] bluesies...
Simplification 2 (remove some chords): [Eb] Shine a[Ebdim]way your [Bb7] bluesies...
Simplification 3 (no chord halfway a measure): [Eb] Shine away your [Bb7] bluesies...
Simplification 4 (to an easy initial key): [C] Shine away your [G7] bluesies...
To improvise we will use the chords of simplification 4, of course.
It is decent to start an improvisation with the original melody,
Click to hear the melody of Shine (in Eb)
and to deviate from it only in the following turns.
Click to hear improvisation on Shine (in C)
When the original melody is sung along with the improvisation the harmony must be correct.
To prevent to leave the tracks it is advisable to play a recognizable peace (e.g. measure) of the original melody from time to time. The beginnings of a sentence are often suitable for that.
Shine, suitable to write down clear and big for improvisation:
[C] Shine away your [G7] bluesies.
[C] Shine start with your [G7] shoesies.
[E7] Shine each place up [Am] make it look like new
[D7] Shine your face up [G7] wear a smile or two.
[C] Shine your these and [G7] thosies.
You'll [E7] find that everything will [Am] turn out fine.
[F] Folks will shine up to ya
[C] Everyone will [A7] how-dy-do ya.
You'll [D7] make the [G7] whole world [C] shine!
HOMEWORK: Choose a song and prepare it to improvise on it the next weeks.
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