The Definitive Guide To Mastering Music Improvisation
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The Definitive Guide To Mastering Music Improvisation

A new approach to demystifying the topic that music educators neglect. You won't find these secrets anywhere else!
4.6 (15 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
89 students enrolled
Created by Jeffrey Chappell
Last updated 7/2015
Price: $50
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
  • 3.5 hours on-demand video
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • Demonstrate facility in over 60 improvisation techniques
  • Improvise music easily
  • Express yourself without limits
  • Create improvisations that sound good to you
  • Instill feeling, authority, and confidence into your music
  • Generate shape and coherence in your improvisations
  • Produce diverse musical ideas
  • Play improvisations in any style
  • Be original and establish your very own style
  • Devise improvisations without using music theory
  • Accelerate the growth of your playing level
  • Enjoy making music even when your time is limited
  • Become more of a total musician
View Curriculum
  • All you need to take this course is a musical instrument, including voice or percussion.

The Definitive Guide To Mastering Music Improvisation is unique.

I tell you things in this course that nobody else is talking about, such as:

  • how to use improvisation to transform your emotions
  • how to instill comfort and confidence into your playing
  • how to identify your highest priority when creating music

Of course, you will also learn basics, like creating coherence in your improvisations and matching what you hear mentally to what you play on your instrument.

The Definitive Guide To Mastering Music Improvisation develops your abilities in a natural series of steps. First, you gain total understanding of the benefits of improvisation. Then you master the techniques of improvisation. Finally, you conquer the most common barriers that people come up against.

Improvisation is the quickest, most fundamental way to prove to yourself that you are musical. Yet it requires:

  • no reading
  • no memorizing
  • no practicing
  • no technical difficulties
  • no theoretical knowledge

And because you aren't playing from a printed page, there are

  • no mistakes

What could be better?

You are improvising right now. It's what you do most of the time. Maybe you're having a conversation, or making a sandwich, or driving a car. You don't know what will happen next. You don't have a script. Yet, all day long, you successfully respond to all kinds of situations.

How can you plug this everyday functioning into playing music? Since you already are an improviser, all you need is the right information. I can give that to you. The rest is easy. And fun.

You can start right now. Sign up for The Definitive Guide To Mastering Music Improvisation and open the door to knowing your magnificent musical self.

I look forward to working with you!

Who is the target audience?
  • The Definitive Guide To Mastering Music Improvisation is for newcomers who want to learn how to improvise and for accomplished improvisers who want to progress beyond their current stage. It is for all instruments and all styles of music, and it is especially suitable for:
  • musicians who feel that improvisation is an inaccessible mystery
  • musicians who feel that their creativity is not being fulfilled only by playing written music
  • anyone who has been told that they are not musical
  • anyone who gave up on music lessons
  • anyone seeking to add a new dimension to their musicality and to fulfill more of their potential
Students Who Viewed This Course Also Viewed
Curriculum For This Course
40 Lectures
4 Lectures 19:23

This course fills the gap that was created by our system of music education, which mostly ignores improvisation. It provides a complete picture of improvising music: the benefits, the techniques, and the solutions to the common barriers that most people encounter.

Preview 04:56

The reason to take this course is to know what to do when you improvise music and to put that into action. The goal is to experience the freedom of being a total musician. You will make progress toward that goal by making a commitment to try out every exercise.

Making The Most Of This Course

Everybody has their own personal way of responding to music, which is called musicality.

There are four pathways for putting musicality into action: improvising, composing, arranging, and interpreting.

The purpose of music study is the development of human potential.

The Music Everybody Principles

Each exercise in this course is engineered to work for any instrument and any level of ability.

This is not a jazz course. It is about improvising in any style. However, the information it contains is extremely valuable for jazz improvisers.

Although it is structured in a natural sequence, it is not crucial to follow this course in order from beginning to end. You may skip directly to the parts that draw your interest.

Getting Started
Improvisation Benefits
7 Lectures 24:23

When you improvise music, there is no reading, no memorizing, no practicing, no mistakes, and no technical difficulty.

This video ends with an improvisation demonstration.

No Mistakes, No Practicing

Improvising music brings you freedom from having other people's standards and restrictions being imposed upon you.

This video ends with an improvisation demonstration.

Freedom From Standards And Restrictions

Improvising music increases your confidence and resourcefulness in other areas of your life. It also stimulates your imagination, sharpens problem-solving skills, and promotes creativity.

This video ends with an improvisation demonstration.

Confidence And Resourcefulness

Whether you are already composing or just beginning to try it out, improvising music is a great source of ideas for your compositions.

This video ends with a demonstration of how an improvised idea can turn into a composition.

Find Ideas For Your Compositions

Here are the reasons why improvising music gives you access to unlimited self-expression and an instant connection to your personal musicality.

This video ends with an improvisation demonstration.

Preview 04:04

When you improvise music, it can transform and clarify the state of your emotions as you play.

This video ends with an improvisation demonstration.

Emotional Transformation

Improvising music reinforces your experience of freedom, honesty, and spontaneity in the present moment.

This video ends with an improvisation demonstration.

Freedom In The Present Moment
Improvisation Techniques
20 Lectures 01:58:14

These techniques apply to every instrument, every style of music, every level of ability, and every amount of prior musical knowledge. As a basic concept, there are are three stages of experience when you learn improvisation: experimenting, exploring, and discovering.

Introduction To Techniques, Part One: Experiment, Explore, Discover

I will demonstrate these techniques at the beginner level, but you will play them at your own level. After I play each demonstration, I'll say, "Do something like what I did." That's how we solve the problem of not actually being in the same room together.

Introduction To Techniques, Part Two: How to Use The Techniques

You can play your very first improvisation by using only one note, then two notes, and then three notes. Afterwards, you graduate to using all the notes of a scale, making your own choices about how long the notes last and what order they come in.

For The Total Beginner

Some of the quickest and easiest exercises for coming up with musical ideas are: do things twice in a row; play the same notes in different rhythms; and play the same rhythms on different notes.

Quick And Easy

You create shape by creating change. For example, you give shape to your improvisation if you change the sound by having some parts loud and other parts soft; or by having some high notes and some low notes; or by having some thin textures and some thick textures.

Creating Shape And Coherence With Sound

Here are the definitions of terms such as: step, scale, chord, key, tonal, atonal, diatonic, chromatic, consonant, and dissonant. I also discuss how to construct chords and how to create chord vocabulary. You can skip this chapter if you know all of this already.

An Explanation Of Harmony

You create shape using harmony by changing from one chord to another. You can just change to a different chord, including the addition of sharps or flats; or change from major to minor, or vice versa; or go outside of the key that you're in. Any kind of change will work, and I demonstrate this.

Creating Shape And Coherence With Harmony, Part One

The most common progression from one chord to the next is the descending fifths progression, which is B E A D G C F. For example, if you are on a B chord, you can confidently go to an E chord next. You can use this when you are improvising to predict good-sounding results. This works even for instruments that only play single notes.

Creating Shape And Coherence With Harmony, Part Two

The shape of a melody comes from its direction and distance: it goes up or down, and it goes a short distance or a long distance. You can take inventory of the shape of your melody when you improvise and then develop that while you play. I demonstrate this technique in the video.

For coherence, you can also "orbit" around a chosen note: play it, leave it to play other notes, and then return to it. I also demonstrate this technique in the video.

Creating Shape And Coherence With Melody

Rhythm results from different lengths of time between sounds. It is measured by beats, and you can have a flexible beat or an inflexible beat. Meter is how you count the beats, and you can have a flexible meter or an inflexible meter. Surface rhythm is the rhythm that is played on top of the beats, and surface rhythm can be flexible or inflexible. Tempo is the speed of the music, and tempo also can be flexible or inflexible.

Creating Shape And Coherence With Rhythm

Form is created by having different sections in a piece of music. Each section can have a different sound, harmony, melody, rhythm, or length than another section. We label each section with letters of the alphabet. I demonstrate with an improvisation that has an A B A form.

Creating Shape And Coherence With Form, Part One

When you improvise a piece, you can use three possible techniques to get from the beginning to the end: repetition (exactly the same), contrast (completely different), and development (partly the same, partly different). These apply to sound, harmony, melody, and rhythm. I demonstrate all of these options.

Creating Shape And Coherence With Form, Part Two

The musical elements of sound, harmony, melody, rhythm, and form are the objective aspects of your music--they are what you are doing. Expression is the subjective aspect of your music--it is why you are doing it. You can express a feeling in your improvisation by figuring out how it would correspond to the musical elements.

Music is the sound of feelings.

Creating Shape And Coherence With Expression

Now that you know how to identify the elements of sound, harmony, melody, rhythm, growth, and expression, you can model your improvisation on any piece of music, and then you will be playing in that style. I demonstrate this with compositions by Bach and Mozart.

Improvising In Any Style

This is a formula for telling a story: I begin 6 sentences and you finish them. The first time that we try this, you will finish the sentences by using words. Then you will finish them by improvising music instead.

As another technique, you can improvise a soundtrack while someone tells a story.

Telling A Story

Alternating qualities in your improvisation means to do whatever you're doing but then to do its opposite. In this lecture, I give 8 demonstrations of how to do this by using the musical elements.

Preview 08:05

Improvisers usually alternate between playing things that they have played before and playing things they haven't played before. "Vocabulary" is things that they have done before. As an improviser, you will accumulate vocabulary by repeating the sounds and patterns that you like best. You will find these in your own improvisations, in the music that you hear other people play, and in the music that you read. Over time, this becomes part of your style.

Building Vocabulary

Using "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", I demonstrate how to embellish a melody by using repeated notes, grace notes, appoggiaturas, and neighboring tones (all definitions provided), as well as filling in skips with steps.

Embellishing A Melody

During my decades of teaching improvisation, I have found that these two techniques have the most powerful ability to transform an improviser's playing. The first is a type of vocalizing. I demonstrate the details of this, and I explain why it works and how it will work for different instruments. The second is to close your eyes. Finally, for the most powerful effect, combine both techniques.

The Two Most Powerful Techniques

These are techniques that are based on your state of mind, which means choosing a particular attitude toward what you are playing. They include: using everything that happens, listening and responding, playing at the right time, practicing comfort, and taking command.

Improvisation As A State Of Mind
Breaking Through Common Barriers
8 Lectures 48:29

Everybody wants to sound good when they improvise. But that can mean different things to different people. And it can create barriers such as: having unrealistically high expectations; not being objective about how good your music is; and misunderstanding the real priorities in music.

Wanting To Sound Good, Part One

These techniques show you how to create pleasing sound combinations. They include: creating melodies that consist only of the notes of chords; creating melodies from scales that contain the notes of the chords they are played with; creating melodies that use the chromatic scale; using intervals (pairs of notes) that blend well; and using silence.

Wanting To Sound Good, Part Two

The most powerful technique for sounding good is to try to play a bad improvisation on purpose. This shows again that doing things on purpose has a transformative effect: it puts you in control and makes it harder to sound bad. The technique also underlines the fact that the priority of doing things on purpose is higher than the priority of sounding good.

Wanting To Sound Good, Part Three

If you ask this question when you are a newcomer to improvisation, it could be because you are used to playing from written music. This makes you expect to be able to predict what you will do next. But the nature of improvisation is that what you will do next is unforeseen. The technique for working with this is to listen and respond.

"What Am I Supposed To Do?"

We are trained to avoid playing wrong notes. But in improvisation, you aren't trying to match what is written on a page, so there are no wrong notes of that kind. However, you can intend to do one thing and instead unintentionally do something else. The techniques for handling that include: repeating the unintended result; ignoring the unintended result; and moving a half step away from a "wrong" note;

Unintended Results

It's actually easy to come up with musical ideas. A musical idea is a group of notes that has a pattern. By taking inventory of the notes you play, you can find some kind of order in them and then use that to organize your improvisation. To demonstrate that, I revisit techniques from Lecture 15, but you can use any method.

Improvisers sometimes end up playing a piece that they already know instead of something original. Sometimes this is unconscious, and sometimes it is just a reflex when they play their instrument. The solution is to modify the piece's sound, harmony, melody, or rhythm.

Lack Of Ideas And Lack Of Originality

A mental technique: instead of getting nervous because the audience's attention is coming in your direction, reverse that perception and send your attention in the direction of the audience.

A physical technique: before going onstage, be afraid on purpose by shaking your body and making vocal sounds. Now you are the one who is making the fear happen instead of having it happen to you. This gives you a sense of control over the fear, breaks the cycle of anxiety, and leaves you feeling calmer.

Performance Anxiety

Some people have the misconception that they need to know music theory in order to improvise. That is like saying that you need to learn to spell words in order to speak them, but that is not how you learned language. Therefore, this is not an actual barrier.

Some people believe that they need to improve their instrumental technique in order to improvise. Actually, you can make beautiful, significant musical statements at your current level of ability. So this is also not an actual barrier. Even so, in this lecture I give you techniques for improving your instrumental technique.

Some people say that they don't have time to practice music. But this is not an actual barrier either. You can practice anywhere, any time, even without your instrument. This is because music isn't on a page, and it's not in your instrument. You are the music.

Lack Of Theory, Technique, Or Time
1 Lecture 00:35

Congratulations on completing this course and on gaining the experience and understanding of this topic. Now you can put your musicality into action through improvisation.

About the Instructor
Jeffrey Chappell
4.6 Average rating
15 Reviews
89 Students
1 Course
Professor of Music

JEFFREY CHAPPELL is a gifted, innovative teacher who is renowned for his ability to connect with music students of every age, instrument, and level of ability. He teaches improvisation as the Director of Jazz Studies at Goucher College in Baltimore, as a faculty member of the Levine School of Music in Washington, D.C., and in master classes and private lessons. He also teaches improvisation to music teachers as a popular lecturer at schools, universities, and music teacher association meetings. He has frequently improvised for silent films at the National Gallery of Art and was a member of The Lenox Ensemble, an improvisation group of classical musicians. He brings an amazing diversity of experience to his teaching: he has performed throughout the world as a classical concert pianist, and he is also a jazz musician, a recording artist, a prizewinning composer, and the author of articles for music magazines as well as “Answers From Silence”, an internationally bestselling book about spirituality. He was a scholarship student at the Curtis Institute, the Peabody Conservatory, and the BMI Musical Theater Workshop.