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What A Spontaneous Jam Session Can Teach Us About Improv

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Sometimes the best music can happen inside a concert hall.

And other times the best musical moments are unplanned.

That’s what happened recently in Texas when an aspiring musician strumming his guitar outside a grocery store was joined by two strangers. A third stranger recorded their impromptu session and posted it on YouTube and Facebook. The rest is Internet history.

The video is has since gone viral, boosting the popularity of the three men so much that they  were flown to Los Angeles to perform on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Not only were the three strangers reunited but they also were joined by rappers Trey Songz, Juicy J and Aloe Blacc.

While the video is entertaining, it is also very educational. Improvisation appears deceptively simple but it is a very difficult skill because it requires music knowledge and creativity.

Here are some basic improvisation tips we observed from the video:

 

Wait: Notice how the singer in the blue jersey takes in the song before joining in. He may or may not consciously know it, but he’s listening to the song’s scale and the rhythms, figuring a way he can contribute.

 

Simplify: You’ll notice that the guitarist’s song is more complicated in the beginning but when he is accompanied by other musicians, everyone works to simplify the song. Eventually, they all seem to agree on an ostinato – a brief, repeated pattern that is at the heart of improvisation. The ostinato the men create are the hooks: “I don’t know what you came to do” and “Tell them that I just don’t know.”

 

Be Fearless: The creativity needed to improvise a song can be daunting. Musicians, however, need to be fearless and experiment with music-making. If your music education has been focused on scales and reading music, The Music Junction educators can work with you to enhance your improvisation skills.

 

The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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