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Improvisation and all that Jazz

My best songs always sprung from unplanned inspiration. Same applies to certain fitness classes, where one starts off following a pre-planned session but then we end up changing the programme just because. How many times we have to improvise in our daily tasks, anyway? Developing this skill is not only useful, but life-saving.

jazz

In order to be able to improvise one needs to be fear-free. I learned this in my Jazz student years. I was terrified to dare to hit the road with an unplanned melody, in real time. What?! Following my intuition and create an improvised song on the go? How on earth was I going to produce one of those virtuosistic solos just like that? Despite my theoretic knowledge of scales and tonalities, despite having written a thousand and one melodies, despite knowing by heart Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Billie Holiday, etc, what if I sang something out of place, out of key? ME? “Start off with a simple motive, just two notes, maybe one. Get comfortable with it, sit down on the harmony, allow it to be at home, then develop it by adding another note, and another. Now try to modify the rhythm. One thing at a time.” – explained my teacher. It didn’t sound so bad put this way, and it wasn’t!😊. Before I knew it I was swimming in the blissful waters of improvised song, and it became part of my natural expression.

We often fear the unknown because of our expectations of how something should be. Maybe going with the flow, as it comes, isn’t that scary after all. Cheers to Jazz for this!🥂 When we travel a new road, we may use sat nav, a map, or our intuition to guide us. In the modern life very few people use the latter. I like to walk and get lost in paths that I’ve never been before, it makes me feel alive and it keeps all my senses alert. It gives me hope, excitement, and a sense of power, because I am in charge of my own destiny (thanks again, Jazz!😃). It’s a unique creation that won’t be repeated, and that very moment will never come again, for both the singer/walker and listener/landscape🙂. Improvisation creates a unique work of art in real time. It’s the wealth of your knowledge and your acquired skills put to the test. And when that happens, it’s not just your brain who takes over, but your heart, because what you say not only needs to make sense within context, but it also needs to be meaningful, it needs to convey a message.

Quite often I modify the exercises in my sessions. When I plan, I don’t take in account who is going to attend the class (whether there are fitter people or complete beginners, injuries, strengths, fatigue levels…), or just how the air is smelling at that time😅, the mood of the participants, etc. As long as the main points of the class are addressed, there are countless ways of creating something useful. The same happens when I teach my Music students. The area we are meant to be touching might not be what they are prepared for on the day, and so we have to find an alternative that’s going to be equally enriching. Keeping your senses awake helps you to create in present time something more efficient than pre-planned.

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How many times we have to improvise in life? If we don’t, we might die. After all, being able to drive on a flat road doesn’t say much about your driving skills🙂.

Let me tell you something: if you don’t try, you’ll never know😊.


 

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