… Creating real-time music through jazz improvisation …
by Bob Taylor
Author of Sightreading Jazz, Sightreading Chord Progressions
©2000 Taylor-James Publications
Teaching The Art of Improvisation
This section provides some guidelines and tips for using The Art of Improvisation in classroom or private teaching situations. It coversthe following topics: • • • Order and Balance in Private Study Classroom Approaches Support for National Music Standards
Order and Balance in Private Study When you take a student through The Art of Improvisation, here are some steps to follow: 1) Assess where the student is. The student can read through the exercises and try playing some of them for you so you can see where it would be best tostart. Remember: there may be large gaps between what a student knows and what he/she can actually play. 2) Focus on chapters that unlock the student’s creativity. What are the biggest roadblocks to the student? What topics would make a big difference in motivating a student and opening up a vision of improvisation? Following the chapters in order usually works well, but be aware of the student’sindividual needs. Devise a study order that works best for you. 3) Balance the seven elements (MR ED, CPA) in study. After the student gets started, make sure that the seven elements of improvisation get the proper care and attention, no matter what the skill level. 4) Review the creativity chapters every so often. At different stages, the student needs to re-visit the principles of creativity tosolve new problems or try new ideas. 5) Hear and describe the AOI concepts in recordings. For a start you can use the BRIDJJ transcribed solos in chapters 2J and 3J. Then analyze other transcribed solos, looking for solid examples of the concepts and techniques demonstrated in The Art of Improvisation. You should also locate and identify these concepts in recordings of jazz artists. But don’t letthe student settle for just copying notes; fully understanding and describing the ideas is the key to using them in many improv situations. Use, customize, and review the Exercises. Let the student set learning goals whenever appropriate, and be sure to supplement study with plenty of recorded examples.
Curriculum Design with AOI
For longer classes, you can use Levels 1-3 of The Art ofImprovisation as the first course, and Levels 4 and 5 as the second course. For shorter courses, you can use one Level (Starting, Apprentice, Intermediate, Strong, or Advanced) per course, perhaps with more time spent on exercises. You may want to leave time for quizzes, tests, listening to recordings, and watching jazz videos in class. For quizzes and tests, you’ll find material inside chapter headingsand in the reviews at the end of most chapters.
Classroom Approaches Here are 2 basic approaches to improv in the classroom:
Teaching The Art of Improvisation • 1
1) Getting everyone individually fluent in improvisation skills (classroom theory and playing) 2) Getting students to work together and interact strongly in improv settings (combos, masterclasses)
“Virtual” vs.Instrumental Classes
I’ve taught some improv classes where students play instruments in class and other improv classes where they don’t. My preference is without instruments, just with a piano and a sound system. The Art of Improvisation is geared towards the Virtual Practice Method, an effective way of learning improv in a “non-instrument” class. Using the non-instrument (Virtual Practice) method: •• • • Students can be exposed to more theory in less time, with opportunity for further practice outside of class. Students can improvise softly and simultaneously on many of the exercises. Students who aren’t used to vocal improv practice gain a new perspective when they return to their instruments. You can quickly customize exercises without needing transpositions or making instrumentalists...