Musicians and music educators who do not know how to improvise usually have the wrong idea about what it means to improvise. They think a jazz musician is making up new melodies on the spot. Do jazz musicians invent spontaneous, brand new musical ideas while improvising? Not really. Improvisation is not so much creating something new as it is creatively organizing melodic ideas that have been learned previously.
Here is a brief list if things a person must be able to do in order to improvise over a jazz standard:
1. Know how to interpret chord symbols
2. Be able to play all the scales that are called for
There are many, many important concepts that students must learn in order to improvise a good solo. However, there is one that I consider to be most critical. It represents a balancing point upon which all future effort to improvise depends. A student will thrive or fail as a jazz improviser based upon whether he tips the one way or the other. The concept is...
how to navigate chord interchanges.
Curtis Winters is a public school jazz educator at Orem Junior High, in Orem, UT. He has created the Improv Pathways method to effectively teach jazz improvisation in regular jazz band rehearsals.