Musical improvisation

Musical improvisation (also known as musical extemporization) is the creative activity of immediate ("in the moment") musical composition, which combines performance with communication of emotions and instrumental technique as well as spontaneous response to other musicians.[1] Sometimes musical ideas in improvisation are spontaneous, but may be based on chord changes in classical music[1] and many other kinds of music. One definition is a "performance given extempore without planning or preparation."[2] Another definition is to "play or sing (music) extemporaneously, by inventing variations on a melody or creating new melodies, rhythms and harmonies."[3] Encyclopædia Britannica defines it as "the extemporaneous composition or free performance of a musical passage, usually in a manner conforming to certain stylistic norms but unfettered by the prescriptive features of a specific musical text. Improvisation is often done within (or based on) a pre-existing harmonic framework or chord progression. Improvisation is a major part of some types of 20th-century music, such as blues, jazz, and jazz fusion, in which instrumental performers improvise solos, melody lines and accompaniment parts.

Throughout the eras of the Western art music tradition, including the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods, improvisation was a valued skill. J.S. Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, and many other famous composers and musicians were known especially for their improvisational skills. Improvisation might have played an important role in the monophonic period. The earliest treatises on polyphony, such as the Musica enchiriadis (ninth century), indicate that added parts were improvised for centuries before the first notated examples. However, it was only in the fifteenth century that theorists began making a hard distinction between improvised and written music.[4]

Some classical music forms contained sections for improvisation, such as the cadenza in solo concertos, or the preludes to some keyboard suites by Bach and Handel, which consist of elaborations of a progression of chords, which performers are to use as the basis for their improvisation. Handel, Scarlatti, and Bach all belonged to a tradition of solo keyboard improvisation, in which they improvised on the harpsichord or pipe organ. In the Baroque era, performers improvised ornaments and basso continuo keyboard players improvised chord voicings based on figured bass notation. However, in the 20th and early 21st century, as "common practice" Western art music performance became institutionalized in symphony orchestras, opera houses and ballets, improvisation has played a smaller role. At the same time, some contemporary composers from the 20th and 21st century have increasingly included improvisation in their creative work.

In Indian classical music, improvisation is a core component and an essential criterion of performances. In Indian, Afghani, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi classical music, raga is the "tonal framework for composition and improvisation."[5] The Encyclopædia Britannica defines a raga as "a melodic framework for improvisation and composition.[6]

Johnny Hodges edit
Improvisation plays a central role in jazz; musicians learn progressions using scale and chord tones (Pictured is Johnny Hodges)

In Western music

Medieval period

Although melodic improvisation was an important factor in European music from the earliest times, the first detailed information on improvisation technique appears in ninth-century treatises instructing singers on how to add another melody to a pre-existent liturgical chant, in a style called organum.[4] Throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, improvised counterpoint over a cantus firmus (a practice found both in church music and in popular dance music) constituted a part of every musician's education, and is regarded as the most important kind of unwritten music before the Baroque period.[7]

Renaissance period

Following the invention of music printing at the beginning of the sixteenth century, there is more detailed documentation of improvisational practice, in the form of published instruction manuals, mainly in Italy.[8] In addition to improvising counterpoint over a cantus firmus, singers and instrumentalists improvised melodies over ostinato chord patterns, made elaborate embellishments of melodic lines, and invented music extemporaneously without any predetermined schemata.[9] Keyboard players likewise performed extempore, freely formed pieces.[10]

Baroque period

The kinds of improvisation practised during the Renaissance—principally either the embellishing of an existing part or the creation of an entirely new part or parts—continued into the early Baroque, though important modifications were introduced. Ornamentation began to be brought more under the control of composers, in some cases by writing out embellishments, and more broadly by introducing symbols or abbreviations for certain ornamental patterns. Two of the earliest important sources for vocal ornamentation of this sort are Giovanni Battista Bovicelli’s Regole, passaggi di musica (1594), and the preface to Giulio Caccini’s collection, Le nuove musiche (1601/2)[11]

Melodic instruments

Eighteenth-century manuals make it clear that performers on the flute, oboe, violin, and other melodic instruments were expected not only to ornament previously composed pieces, but also spontaneously to improvise preludes.[12]

Keyboard, lute, and guitar

The pattern of chords in many baroque preludes, for example, can be played on keyboard and guitar over a pedal tone or repeated bass notes. Such progressions can be used in many other structures and contexts, and are still found in Mozart, but most preludes begin with the treble supported by a simple bass. J.S. Bach, for example, was particularly fond of the sound produced by the dominant seventh harmony played over, i.e., suspended against, the tonic pedal tone.[13]

There is little or no Alberti bass in baroque keyboard music, and instead the accompanying hand supports the moving lines mostly by contrasting them with longer note values, which themselves have a melodic shape and are mostly placed in consonant harmony. This polarity can be reversed—another useful technique for improvisation—by changing the longer note values to the right hand and playing moving lines in the left at intervals—or with moving lines in both hands, occasionally. This shift of roles between treble and bass is another definitive characteristic. Finally, in keeping with this polarity, the kind of question and answer which appears in baroque music has the appearance of fugue or canon. This method was a favorite in compositions by Scarlatti and Handel especially at the beginning of a piece, even when not forming a fugue.[14]

Organ improvisation and church music

see Category:Organ improvisers

According to Encyclopædia Britannica, the "monodic textures that originated about 1600 … were ready-made, indeed in large measure intended, for improvisational enhancement, not only of the treble parts but also, almost by definition, of the bass, which was figured to suggest no more than a minimal chordal outline."[15] Improvised accompaniment over a figured bass was a common practice during the Baroque era, and to some extent the following periods. Improvisation remains a feature of organ playing in some church services and are regularly also performed at concerts.

Dietrich Buxtehude and Johann Sebastian Bach were regarded in the Baroque period as highly skilled organ improvisers. During the 20th century, some musicians known as great improvisers such as Marcel Dupré, Pierre Cochereau and Pierre Pincemaille continued this form of music, in the tradition of the French organ school. Maurice Duruflé, a great improviser himself, transcribed improvisations by Louis Vierne and Charles Tournemire. Olivier Latry later wrote his improvisations as a compositions, for example Salve Regina.

Classical period

Keyboard improvisation

Classical music departs from baroque style in that sometimes several voices may move together as chords involving both hands, to form brief phrases without any passing tones. Though such motifs were used sparingly by Mozart, they were taken up much more liberally by Beethoven and Schubert. Such chords also appeared to some extent in baroque keyboard music, such as the 3rd movement theme in Bach's Italian Concerto. But at that time such a chord often appeared only in one clef at a time, (or one hand on the keyboard) and did not form the independent phrases found more in later music. Adorno mentions this movement of the Italian Concerto as a more flexible, improvisatory form, in comparison to Mozart, suggesting the gradual diminishment of improvisation well before its decline became obvious.[16]

The introductory gesture of "tonic, subdominant, dominant, tonic," however, much like its baroque form, continues to appear at the beginning of high-classical and romantic piano pieces (and much other music) as in Haydn's sonata Hob.16/No. 52 and Beethoven's sonata opus 78.

Beethoven and Mozart cultivated mood markings such as con amore, appassionato, cantabile, and expressivo. In fact, it is perhaps because improvisation is spontaneous that it is akin to the communication of love.[17]

Beethoven and Mozart left excellent examples of what their improvisations were like, in the sets of variations and the sonatas which they published, and in their written out cadenzas (which illustrate what their improvisations would have sounded like). As a keyboard player, Mozart competed at least once in improvisation, with Muzio Clementi.[18] Beethoven won many tough improvisatory battles over such rivals as Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Daniel Steibelt, and Joseph Woelfl.[19]

Romantic period


Extemporization, both in the form of introductions to pieces, and links between pieces, continued to be a feature of keyboard concertising until the early 20th-century. Amongst those who practised such improvisation were Franz Liszt, Felix Mendelssohn, Anton Rubinstein, Paderewski, Percy Grainger and Pachmann. Improvisation in the area of 'art music' seems to have declined with the growth of recording.[20]


After studying over 1,200 early Verdi recordings, Will Crutchfield concludes that "The solo cavatina was the most obvious and enduring locus of soloistic discretion in nineteenth-century opera".[21] He goes on to identify seven main types of vocal improvisation used by opera singers in this repertory:[22]

  • 1. The Verdian "full-stop" cadenza
  • 2. Arias without "full-stop": ballate, canzoni, and romanze
  • 3. Ornamentation of internal cadences
  • 4. Melodic variants (interpolated high notes, acciaccature, rising two-note "slide")
  • 5. Strophic variation and the problem of the cabaletta
  • 6. Facilitations (puntature, simplification of fioratura, etc.)
  • 7. Recitative

Modern opinions

Theodor Adorno

Toward the end of the section of Aesthetic Theory entitled "Art Beauty" (in the English edition), Theodor Adorno included a brief argument on improvisation's aesthetic value. Claiming that artworks must have a "thing-character" through which their spiritual content breaks, Adorno pointed out that the thing-character is in question in the improvised, yet present. [23] It may be assumed Adorno meant classical improvisation, not jazz, which he mostly excoriated. He held jazz, for example, to be antithetical to Beethoven.[23]:116

There is more extensive treatment, essentially about traditional jazz, in Prisms[24] and The Jargon of Authenticity.[25]



Improvisation is one of the basic elements that sets jazz apart from other types of music. The unifying moments in improvisation that take place in live performance are understood to encompass the performer, the listener, and the physical space that the performance takes place in.[26] Even if improvisation is also found outside of jazz, it may be that no other music relies so much on the art of "composing in the moment", demanding that every musician rise to a certain level of creativity that may put the performer in touch with his or her unconscious as well as conscious states.[27] The educational use of improvised jazz recordings is widely acknowledged. They offer a clear value as documentation of performances despite their perceived limitations. With these available, generations of jazz musicians are able to implicate styles and influences in their performed new improvisations.[28] Many varied scales and their modes can be used in improvisation. They are often not written down in the process, but they help musicians practice the jazz idiom.

A common view of what a jazz soloist does could be expressed thus: as the harmonies go by, he selects notes from each chord, out of which he fashions a melody. He is free to embellish by means of passing and neighbor tones, and he may add extensions to the chords, but at all times a good improviser must follow the changes. ... [However], a jazz musician really has several options: he may reflect the chord progression exactly, he may "skim over" the progression and simply elaborate the background harmony, or he may fashion his own voice-leading which may clash at some points with the chords the rhythm section is playing.[29]

Contemporary classical music

With the notable exception of liturgical improvisation on the organ, the first half of the twentieth century is marked by an almost total absence of actual improvisation in art music.[30] Since the 1950s, some contemporary composers have placed fewer restrictions on the improvising performer, using techniques such as vague notation (for example, indicating only that a certain number of notes must sound within a defined period of time). New Music ensembles formed around improvisation were founded, such as the Scratch Orchestra in England; Musica Elettronica Viva in Italy; Lukas Foss Improvisation Chamber Ensemble at the University of California, Los Angeles; Larry Austin's New Music Ensemble at the University of California, Davis; the ONCE Group at Ann Arbor; the Sonic Arts Group; and Sonics, the latter three funding themselves through concerts, tours, and grants. Significant pieces include Foss Time Cycles (1960) and Echoi (1963).[31]

Other composers working with improvisation include Richard Barrett, Benjamin Boretz, Pierre Boulez, Joseph Brent, Sylvano Bussotti, Cornelius Cardew, Jani Christou, Douglas J. Cuomo, Alvin Curran, Stuart Dempster, Hugh Davies, Karlheinz Essl, Mohammed Fairouz, Rolf Gehlhaar, Vinko Globokar, Richard Grayson, Hans-Joachim Hespos, Barton McLean, Priscilla McLean, Stephen Nachmanovitch, Pauline Oliveros, Henri Pousseur, Todd Reynolds, Terry Riley, Frederic Rzewski, Saman Samadi, William O. Smith, Manfred Stahnke, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Toru Takemitsu, Richard Teitelbaum, Vangelis, Michael Vetter, Christian Wolff, Iannis Xenakis, Yitzhak Yedid, La Monte Young, Frank Zappa, Hans Zender, and John Zorn.

Contemporary popular music

Psychedelic- and progressive-rock music

British and American psychedelic rock acts of the 1960s and 1970s used improvisations to express themselves in a musical language.[32] The progressive rock genre also began exploring improvisation as a musical expression, e.g. Henry Cow.[33]

Silent-film music

In the realm of silent film-music performance, there were musicians (theatre organ players and piano players) whose improvised performances accompanying these film has been recognized as exceptional by critics, scholars, and audiences alike.[34][35] Neil Brand was a composer who also performed improvisationally.[36] Brand, along with Guenter A. Buchwald, Philip Carli, Stephen Horne, Donald Sosin, John Sweeney, and Gabriel Thibaudeau, all performed at the annual conference on silent film in Pordenone, Italy, "Le Giornate del Cinema Muto." In improvising for silent film, performers have to play music that matches the mood, style and pacing of the films they accompany. In some cases, musicians had to accompany films at first sight, without preparation. Improvisers needed to know a wide range of musical styles and have the stamina to play for sequences of films which occasionally ran over three hours. In addition to the performances, some pianists also taught master classes for those who wanted to develop their skill in improvising for films. When talkiesmotion pictures with sound–were introduced, these talented improvising musicians had to find other jobs. In the 2010s, there are a small number of film societies which present vintage silent films, using live improvising musicians to accompany the film.


Worldwide there are many venues dedicated to supporting live improvisation. In Melbourne since 1998, the Make It Up Club (held every Tuesday evening at Bar Open on Brunswick Street, Melbourne) has been presenting a weekly concert series dedicated to promoting avant-garde improvised music and sound performance of the highest conceptual and performative standards (regardless of idiom, genre, or instrumentation). The Make It Up Club has become an institution in Australian improvised music and consistently features artists from all over the world.

Music education

A number of approaches to teaching improvisation have emerged in jazz pedagogy, popular music pedagogy, the Dalcroze method, Orff-Schulwerk, and Satis Coleman's creative music. Current research in music education includes investigating how often improvisation is taught,[37] how confident music majors and teachers are at teaching improvisation,[38] neuroscience and psychological aspects of improvisation,[39] and free-improvisation as a pedagogical approach.[40]

Eastern music

A raga is one of the melodic modes used in Indian classical music. Joep Bor of the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music has defined Raga as "tonal framework for composition and improvisation."[5] Nazir Jairazbhoy, chairman of UCLA's department of ethnomusicology, characterized ragas as separated by scale, line of ascent and descent, transilience, emphasized notes and register, and intonation and ornaments.[41] A raga uses a series of five or more musical notes upon which a melody is constructed. However, the way the notes are approached and rendered in musical phrases and the mood they convey are more important in defining a raga than the notes themselves. In the Indian musical tradition, rāgas are associated with different times of the day, or with seasons. Indian classical music is always set in a rāga. Non-classical music such as popular Indian film songs and ghazals sometimes use rāgas in their compositions.

According to Encyclopædia Britannica, a raga, also spelled rag (in northern India) or ragam (in southern India), (from Sanskrit, meaning "colour" or "passion"), in the classical music of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan" is "a melodic framework for improvisation and composition. A raga is based on a scale with a given set of notes, a typical order in which they appear in melodies, and characteristic musical motifs. The basic components of a raga can be written down in the form of a scale (in some cases differing in ascent and descent). By using only these notes, by emphasizing certain degrees of the scale, and by going from note to note in ways characteristic to the raga, the performer sets out to create a mood or atmosphere (rasa) that is unique to the raga in question. There are several hundred ragas in present use, and thousands are possible in theory."[6]

Alapa (Sanskrit: "conversation") are "improvised melody structures that reveal the musical characteristics of a raga."[6] "Alapa ordinarily constitutes the first section of the performance of a raga. Vocal or instrumental, it is accompanied by a drone (sustained-tone) instrument and often also by a melodic instrument that repeats the soloist's phrases after a lag of a few seconds. The principal portion of alapa is not metric but rhythmically free; in Hindustani music it moves gradually to a section known as jor, which uses a rhythmic pulse though no tala (metric cycle). The performer of the alapa gradually introduces the essential notes and melodic turns of the raga to be performed. Only when the soloist is satisfied that he has set forth the full range of melodic possibilities of the raga and has established its unique mood and personality will he proceed, without interruption, to the metrically organized section of the piece. If a drummer is present, as is usual in formal concert, his first beats serve as a signal to the listener that the alapa is concluded."[42]

See also


  1. ^ a b Gorow 2002, 212.
  2. ^ "Improvisiation". In WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003–2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc. Available online at:
  3. ^ "Improvise - definition of improvise by The Free Dictionary". Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  4. ^ a b Horsley 2001.
  5. ^ a b Rao, Suvarnalata; Van der Meer, Wim; Harvey, Jane (2002). Bor, Joep, ed. The raga guide : a survey of 74 Hindustani ragas. Monmouth: Wystone Estate. p. 181. ISBN 0-9543976-0-6.
  6. ^ a b c Nettl, Bruno. "Raga | Indian musical genre". Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  7. ^ Brown 1976, viii; Fuller 2002.
  8. ^ E.g., Ganassi 1535; Ortiz 1553; Dalla Casa 1584.
  9. ^ Brown 1976, viii–x.
  10. ^ Thomas de Sancta Maria 1565.
  11. ^ Collins, Carter, Garden, and Seletsky 2001, (i); Foreman 2001.
  12. ^ Hotteterre 1719.
  13. ^ For example, near the beginning of the Toccata of BWV 565. Bach's Cantata BWV 54 also uses this suspension as the opening chord in E-flat Major.
  14. ^ For examples of both 'reversed polarity' and 'question and answer' see, e.g., Scarlatti Sonata in A minor K 54
  15. ^ Editors, The. "Improvisation | music". Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  16. ^ Adorno 1997, 221.
  17. ^ It has been suggested that the opening chords of Beethoven's Sonata Opus 78 communicate feelings for a young lady then in Beethoven's life, possibly Josephine von Brunswick. (In Heinrich Schenker's remarks in his edition of Beethoven's Sonatas, vol. 2, Dover Publications.)
  18. ^ Abert 2007, 624–25.
  19. ^ Solomon 1998, 78–79.
  20. ^ Hamilton 2008, 101–38.
  21. ^ Crutchfield 1983, 7
  22. ^ Crutchfield 1983, 5–13
  23. ^ a b Adorno 1997, 99–100: "For artworks are things in space and time; whether this holds for hybrid musical forms such as improvisation, once extinct and now resuscitated, is hard to decide; in artworks the element that precedes their fixation as things constantly breaks through the thing-character. Yet even in improvisation much speaks for their status as a thing: their appearance in empirical time and, even more important, the fact that they demonstrate objectivated, mostly conventional patterns. For insofar as art works are works they are things in themselves, objectified by virtue of their particular law of form."
  24. ^ Adorno 1981
  25. ^ Adorno 1973
  26. ^ Savage, S.(2011). Bytes and Backbeats- Repurposing Music in the Digital Age. The University of Michigan Press. p.116.
  27. ^ Szwed 2000, 43.
  28. ^ Savage, S.(2011).Bytes and Backbeats- Repurposing Music in the Digital Age. The University of Michigan Press. p.118.
  29. ^ Winkler 1978, 16–18.
  30. ^ Griffiths 2001.
  31. ^ Von Gunden 1983, 32.
  32. ^ O'Brien, Lucy M. "Psychedelic rock | music". Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  33. ^ Boisen, Myles. "Henry Cow". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  34. ^ "British Silent Cinema – Broadway Cinema Nottingham UK – silent music and musicians". Archived from the original on 17 December 2007. Retrieved 16 June 2008.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  35. ^ Altman, Rick. Silent Film Sound.
  36. ^ Kobel, Peter. Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture.
  37. ^ "Composition and Improvisation in Instrumental Methods Courses: Instrumental Music Teacher Educators' Perspectives," Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education 205, 2015.
  38. ^ "A national survey of music education majors’ confidence in teaching improvisation," International Journal of Music Education 34, no. 4, 2015.
  39. ^ "The Neuroscience of Improvisation," Music Educators Journal 103, no. 3, 2017.
  40. ^ "The effects of group free improvisation instruction on improvisation achievement and improvisation confidence," Music Education Research 18, no. 2, 2016.
  41. ^ Jairazbhoy, Nazir Ali (1995). The Rāgs of North Indian music. Popular Prakashan. p. 45. ISBN 81-7154-395-2.
  42. ^ Editors, The. "Alapa | Indian music". Retrieved 2017-12-26.


  • Abert, Hermann. 2007. W. A. Mozart, translated from the German by Stewart Spencer, edited by Cliff Eisen. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-07223-5.
  • Adorno, Theodor W. 1973. The Jargon of Authenticity, translated by Knut Tarnowski and Frederic Will. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press. ISBN 0-8101-0407-5.
  • Adorno, Theodor W. 1981. Prisms, translated from the German by Samuel and Shierry Weber. Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-51025-1 ISBN 026201064X.
  • Adorno, Theodor W. 1997. Aesthetic Theory, translated by Robert Hullot-Kentor. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-1799-6.
  • Brown, Howard Mayer. 1976. Embellishing Sixteenth-Century Music. Early Music Series 1. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-323175-1.
  • Collins, Michael, Stewart A. Carter, Greer Garden, and Robert E. Seletsky. 2001. "Improvisation II: Western Art Music 3: The Baroque Period". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Crutchfield, Will. 1983. "Vocal Ornamentation in Verdi: The Phonographic Evidence ". 19th-Century Music 7, no. 1:3–54. JSTOR 746545 (subscription required)
  • Dalla Casa, Girolamo. 1584. Il vero modo di diminuir, con tutte le sorti di stromenti di fiato, & corda, & di voce humana. 2 vols. Venice: Angelo Gardano. Facsimile reprint, in one volume, Bibliotheca musica Bononiensis, sezione 2, no. 23 (Bologna: Arnoldi Forni Editore).
  • Foreman, Edward. 2001. Late Renaissance Singing: Giovanni Camillo Maffei, Discourse on the Voice and the Method of Learning to Sing Ornamentation, without a Teacher (1562); Lodovico Zacconi, The Practice of Music, book one, chapters LVIII-LXXX (1592); Giovanni Battista Bovicelli, Rules, Passages of Music (1594); Giovanni Luca Conforto, Brief and Easy Method ... (1603?) with English translation, [s.l.]: Pro Music Press.
  • Fuller, Sarah. 2002. "Organum, Discantus, Contrapunctus in the Middle Ages". In The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory, edited by Thomas Christensen, 477–502. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-62371-5.
  • Ganassi, Silvestro. 1535. Opera Intitulata Fontegara: Laquale insegna a sonare di flauto ch'o tutta l'arte opportuna a esso instrumento massime il diminuire ilquale sara utile ad ogni istrumeno di fiato et chorde: et anchora a chi si dileta di canto. Venice: per Syluestro di Ganassi dal Fontego, Sonator dalla illustrissima signoria di Venetia hautor pprio. Facsimile reprints, Collezione di trattati e musiche antiche edite in fac-simile (Milan: Bollettino bibliografico musicale, 1934) and Bibliotheca musica Bononiensis, Sezione II, no. 18 (Bologna: Forni, 1969). German edition, translated and edited by Hildemarie Peter (Berlin-Lichterfeld: Robert Lienau, 1956). English edition with translation by Dorothy Swainson of Peter's German text (Berlin-Lichterfeld: Robert Lienau, 1959).
  • Gorow, Ron. 2002. Hearing and Writing Music: Professional Training for Today's Musician, 2nd ed. Gardena, CA: September Publishing. ISBN 0-9629496-7-1.
  • Griffiths, Paul. 2001. "Improvisation §II: Western Art Music 6: The 20th Century". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell. London: Macmillan.
  • Hamilton, Kenneth. 2008. After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-195-17826-5.
  • Horsley, Imogene. 2001. "Improvisation II: Western Art Music 2: History to 1600". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Hotteterre, Jacques-Martin. 1719. L’art de préluder: sur la flûte traversière, sur la flûte à bec, sur le hautbois et autres instrumens de dessus, op. 7. Paris: Boivin. Facsimile reprints: recueillie par Michel Sanvoisin (Paris: A. Zurfluh, 1966), (Geneva: Minkoff, 1978) ISBN 2-8266-0672-7, and Archivum musicum: L’art de la flûte traversière 55 (Florence: SPES, 1999). ISBN 88-7242-779-7 Musical pieces edited by Erich Doflein and Nikolaus Delius as 48 Préludes in 24 Tonarten aus op. VII, 1719, für Altblockflöte (Querflöte, Oboe). Mainz: B. Schott’s Söhne; New York: Schott Music Corp., 1972.
  • Ortiz, Diego. 1553. Trattado de glosas sobre clausulas y otros generos depuntos en la musica de violones. Nuevamente puestos en Luz (also in Italian, as El primo libro nel quale si tratta delle glose sopra le cadenze et altre sorte de punti in la musica del violone). 2 vols. Rome: Dorico. Facsimile reprint of the Italian edition, Archivum musicum 57 (Florence: Studio per edizioni scelte, 1984). Transcription, edition, and German translation by Max Schneider (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1936).
  • Solomon, Maynard. 1998. Beethoven, second, revised edition. New York: Schirmer Books; London: Prentice Hall International. ISBN 0-02-864717-3. Second printing, 2001, ISBN 0-8256-7268-6.
  • Szwed, John F. 2000. Jazz 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Jazz. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 0-7868-8496-7.
  • Thomas de Sancta Maria, fray. 1565. Libro llamado Arte de tañer fantasia: assi para tecla como para vihuela, y todo instrumento, en que se pudiere tañer a tres, y a quatro vozes, y a mas ... Elqual por mandado del muy alto Consejo real fue examinado, y aprouado por el eminente musico de Su Magestad Antonio de Cabeçon, y por Iuan de Cabeçon, su hermano. Valladolid: F. Fernandez de Cordova. Facsimile editions: with an introduction in English by Denis Stevens (Farnborough, UK: Gregg International Publishers, 1972) ISBN 0-576-28229-4; Monumentos de la música española 75, edited by Luis Antonio González Marín, with the collaboration of Antonio Ezquerro Estaban, et al. (Barcelona: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Institución "Milà i Fontanals," Departamento de Musicología, 2007). ISBN 978-84-00-08541-4 ISBN 8400085418 English translation by Warren E. Hultberg and Almonte C. Howell, Jr, as The Art of Playing the Fantasia (Pittsburgh, Pa.: Latin American Literary Review Press, 1991) ISBN 0-935480-52-8
  • Von Gunden, Heidi. 1983. The Music of Pauline Oliveros. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-1600-8.
  • Winkler, Peter (1978). "Toward a Theory of Pop Harmony". In Theory Only. 4 (2): 3–26.

Further reading

  • Alperson, Philip. 1984. "On Musical Improvisation". The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 43, no. 1 (Fall): 17–29.
  • Bailey, Derek. 1992. Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music, revised edition. London: British Library National Sound Archive. ISBN 0-7123-0506-8.
  • Berliner, Paul. 1994. Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-04380-0 (cloth); ISBN 0-226-04381-9 (pbk).
  • Crutchfield, Will. 2001. "Improvisation: II. Western Art Music: 5. The Nineteenth Century: (ii) Vocal music". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Czerny, Carl. 1833. L’art de préluder: mis en pratique pour le piano par 120 examples de préludes, modulations, cadenses et fantaisien de tous genres. Paris: M. Schlesinger.
  • Duckles, Vincent (1957). "Florid Embellishment in English Song of the Late 16th and Early 17th Centuries". Annales musicologiques. 5: 329–45.
  • Ferand, Ernest T. 1938. Die Improvisation in der Musik; eine Entwicklungsgeschichtliche und Psychologische Untersuchung. Zürich: Rhein-Verlag.
  • Ferand, Ernest T. (1956). "Improvised Vocal Counterpoint in the Late Renaissance and Early Baroque". Annales Musicologiques. 4: 129–74.
  • Friedrich, Otto. 1989. Glenn Gould: A Life and Variations. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-394-57771-X.
  • Guido d'Arezzo. 1978. "Micrologus" [ca. 1027], translated by Warren Babb. In Hucbald, Guido, and John on Music: Three Medieval Treatises, edited, with introductions, by Claude V. Palisca; index of chants by Alejandro Enrique Planchart, 57–83. Music Theory Translation Series 3. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-02040-6.
  • Hall, Lucy. 2002. "They're Just Making It Up—Whatever Happened to Improvisation in Classical Music?" The Guardian (12 June).
  • Heartz, Daniel. 1958–63. "The Basse Dance, Its Evolution Circa 1450 to 1550". Annales Musicologiques 6:287–340.
  • Kertz-Welzel, Alexandra. 2004. "Piano Improvisation Develops Musicianship." Orff-Echo 37, no. 1:11–14.
  • Koenig, Wolf, and Roman Kroitor (prod./dir.). 1959a. Glenn Gould: Off the Record. Film, 30 mins. [Canada]: National Film Board of Canada.
  • Koenig, Wolf, and Roman Kroitor (prod./dir.). 1959b. Glenn Gould: On the Record. Film, 30 mins. [Canada]: National Film Board of Canada.
  • Kutschke, B. (1999). "Improvisation: An Always-Accessible Instrument of Innovation". Perspectives of New Music. 37 (2): 147–162. JSTOR 833513.
  • Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. 1953. Concerto No. 24 In C Minor for Piano, edited by Franz Kullak. New York: G. Schirmer.
  • Nachmanovitch, Stephen. 1990. Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, Inc.; New York: Distributed by St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-87477-578-7 (cloth); ISBN 0-87477-631-7 (pbk); New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 0-87477-631-7.
  • Paras, Jason. 1986. The Music for Viola Bastarda, edited by George Houle and Glenna Houle. Music—Scholarship and Performance. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-38824-4
  • Polk, Keith. 1966. "Flemish Wind Bands in the Late Middle Ages: A Study of Improvisatory Instrumental Practices". Ph.D. dissertation. Berkeley: University of California.
  • R., Ken (2012). Dog Ear: Tritone Substitution for Jazz Guitar. Amazon Digital Services, Inc., ASIN: B008FRWNIW
  • Schopenhauer, Arthur. 1958. The World as Will and Representation. Translated from the German by E. F. J. Payne, 2 vols. [Indian Hills, Colorado]: Falcon's Wing Press.
  • Sancho-Velazquez, Angeles. 2005. "The Legacy of Genius: Improvisation, Romantic Imagination, and the Western Musical Canon," Ph. D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles.
  • Solis, Gabriel, and Bruno Nettl (eds.). 2009. Musical Improvisation: Art, Education, and Society. Champaign: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-03462-6 (cloth) ISBN 978-0-252-07654-1 (pbk)
  • Thiollet, Jean-Pierre. 2017. Improvisation so piano. Paris: Neva Editions. ISBN 978-2-35055-228-6

External links

Charlie Parker Omnibook

The Charlie Parker Omnibook is a collection of transcriptions of compositions and improvised solos by jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker. It is available for E-flat, B-flat, C and bass-clef instruments. It includes 60 pieces, transcribed by Jamey Aebersold and Ken Slone, information about the records, and practice suggestions.

Charlie Parker (1920–1955) was one of the pioneers of the Bebop style of jazz. This idiom is characterized by fast tempos, instrumental virtuosity, and improvisation over set harmonic structures. Parker’s style of playing and his harmonic treatment particularly in improvisation continues to be influential across multiple genres and instruments. In particular, he innovated rapid passing chords, new variants of altered chords, and chord substitutions. His realization that the 12 notes of the chromatic scale can lead melodically to any key led to him escaping from the confines of previously practiced improvisation methods.

The Omnibook has become a major reference for students of jazz improvisation in many genres of jazz music not just bebop. Portions of Parker’s improvised solos continue to be quoted by other improvising jazz musicians today. The transcriptions are not intended to be studied by saxophonists new to the instrument but rather by advanced students with some prior jazz idiom knowledge and considerable instrumental skill. Very few articulation marks are notated.When studied along with the original recordings by Parker, the Omnibook serves as an invaluable tool for developing an understanding of the musical language of bebop.

Cue note

In musical notation, a cue note is or cue notes are indications informing players, "of important passages being played by other instruments, [such as an] entrance after a long period of rest." A cue may also function as a guideline for another instrument for musical improvisation or if there are many bars rest to help the performer find where to come in.

"Cue notes may be given as guidance only, to assist a performer's entrance after numerous measures of rest....[Their size, and all elements associated with them] is somewhat smaller than normal note size, but still large enough to be legible (65-75% of normal note size)."The cued instrument is indicated with text and the cue notes are smaller than the rest. The stems of cue notes all go in the same direction and cue notes are transposed into the key of the part entering.


GRIM (Groupe de recherche et d'improvisation musicales, roughly translated Group of Research and Musical Innovation), based in Marseille, France, is a non-profit institute for improvised music and experimental music. GRIM bases its activities at Montévidéo, a site of contemporary creation in Marseille.GRIM is a voluntary association (association loi de 1901) funded by the city of Marseille and focused on organising musical events. The organisation hosts concerts, workshops, lectures, artist in residence projects, recording sessions and has a multimedia public library with books and music related to avant garde music, experimental music, improvised music, sound art and contemporary music. GRIM was founded in 1978 by guitarist and composer Jean-Marc Montera. It also organises or co-organises the festivals Nuit d'Hiver, and Sonic Protest. GRIM has a recording studio, a library, and two concert halls, a small one and a big one.

Great Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542

The Great Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542, is an organ prelude and fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach. It acquired that name to distinguish it from the earlier Little Fugue in G minor, which is shorter. This piece is not to be confused with the Prelude and Fugue in A minor, which is also for organ and also sometimes called "the Great".Bach's biographer Spitta and some later scholars think that the Fugue was improvised in 1720 during Bach's audition for an organist post at St. James' Church in Hamburg. Assuming this is correct, the theme or subject of the Fugue, a Dutch popular tune (called 'Ik ben gegroet van…'), would have been given to Bach for him to demonstrate his talents as an improviser.

It has been suggested by musicologist Christoph Wolff that the choice of a Dutch tune was in homage to Johann Adam Reincken, the long-serving organist at St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg, who was born in Holland.

During his 1720 trip to Hamburg Bach is believed to have met Reincken, whose music he had known since his teens.The Fantasia may have been composed separately during Bach's time in Köthen (1717–23).

No autograph manuscript of either the Fantasia or the Fugue survives, and no manuscript of the Fantasia survives from the composer's lifetime. It is not clear whether the practice of coupling the Fantasia with the Fugue derives from the composer himself. William H. Bates writes: Only one eighteenth-century manuscript in its original state [...] places the two pieces side by side. Further, it is evident that the fugue circulated widely [in manuscript] without the fantasy [...]. In fact, known or likely fugue copies by Bach pupils or associates [...] are devoid of any association with the fantasy.

There are many variant textual readings in the manuscripts, perhaps most prominently in the final chord of the Fantasia, which is recorded as both G major and G minor. Some manuscripts preserve the fugue in the key of F minor rather than G minor; this transposition was probably performed in order to make the fugue playable on an organ whose pedals lacked a high D, and may well have been approved or even carried out by the composer himself.


Impro-Visor is an educational tool for creating and playing a lead sheet, with a particular orientation toward representing jazz solos.


An impromptu (, French: [ɛ̃pʁɔ̃pty], loosely meaning "offhand") is a free-form musical composition with the character of an ex tempore improvisation as if prompted by the spirit of the moment, usually for a solo instrument, such as piano. According to Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, Johann Baptist Cramer began publishing piano pieces under the (sub-)title of "impromptu." (AMZ, Mar. No II, 1815, col. 6), which seems to be the first recorded use of the term impromptu in this sense.


Improv may refer to:

Improvisation, an act of spontaneous invention

Improvisational theatre (includes improvisational comedy)

Musical improvisation

The Improv, a chain of U.S. comedy clubs

The Improv (India), a comedy show in Bangalore

Lotus Improv, a spreadsheet program

Intuitive music

Intuitive music is a form of musical improvisation based on instant creation in which fixed principles or rules may or may not have been given. It is a type of process music where instead of a traditional music score, verbal or graphic instructions and ideas are provided to the performers (Stockhausen 1989, 113–14). The concept was introduced in 1968 by the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen (Stockhausen 1993; Bergstrøm-Nielsen 1997), with specific reference to the collections of text-notated compositions Aus den sieben Tagen (1968) and Für kommende Zeiten (1968–70). The first public performance of intuitive-music text compositions, however, was in the collective work Musik für ein Haus, developed in Stockhausen's 1968 Darmstadt lectures and performed on 1 September 1968, several months before the first realisations of any of the pieces from Aus den sieben Tagen (Iddon 2004, 91, 99; Misch and Bandur 2001, 478; Stockhausen 2009, 3).

Intuitive music may appear to be synonymous with free improvisation or with improvised playing within open composition forms, but the collectively intuitive aspect, the emancipation from known music genres and the meditative dimension are especially emphasized by Stockhausen: "I try to avoid the word improvisation because it always means there are certain rules: of style, of rhythm, of harmony, of melody, of the order of sections, and so on" (Stockhausen 1989, 113). Nevertheless, one critic finds that intuitive music is not in essence irrational, but that for Stockhausen intuition must become a controllable ability, and therefore is an instrument of the project of modernity: "the investigation and instrumentalization of the world by controlled procedures" (Kutschke 1999, 155).

At the 1968 Darmstadt composition seminar where the intuitive-music concept was central for the group composition Musik für ein Haus, Stockhausen himself emphasised that it has nothing to do with indeterminacy: "I do not want a spiritualistic seance—I want music! I do not mean anything mystical, but everything absolutely direct, from concrete experience. What I have in mind is not indeterminacy, but intuitive determinacy!" (Ritzel 1970, 15; translated by Richard Toop in Kurtz 1992, 164).

Jam band

A jam band is a musical group whose live albums and concerts relate to a fan culture that began in the 1960s with the Grateful Dead, and continued with The Allman Brothers Band, and Phish which had lengthy jams at concerts. The performances of these bands typically feature extended musical improvisation ("jams") over rhythmic grooves and chord patterns, and long sets of music that can often cross genre boundaries. The Grateful Dead continued to grow their fanbase in the second half of the 1980s. In the mid-1980s, the bands Phish, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, Blues Traveler, Ozric Tentacles, Widespread Panic, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Spin Doctors, The String Cheese Incident, Col Bruce Hampton and Aquarium Rescue Unit began touring with jam band-style concerts. In the early 1990s and 2000s, a new generation of bands was spurred on by the Grateful Dead's touring and the increased exposure of The Black Crowes, My Morning Jacket, Dave Matthews Band, Widespread Panic and Aquarium Rescue Unit.

Many of today's jam bands have brought widely varied genres into the scene. A jam band festival may include bands with electronic, folk rock, blues rock, jazz fusion, psychedelic rock, Southern rock, progressive rock, acid jazz, hip hop, hard rock, and bluegrass sounds. The electronic trend has been led by such bands as The Disco Biscuits, Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9), Lotus, EOTO, The New Deal, and Dopapod. Bands like moe., Umphrey's McGee, Assembly of Dust, The Heavy Pets, Dispatch and The Breakfast have carried on the classic rock sound mixed with exploratory jams. Members of the Grateful Dead have continued touring in many different configurations as The Dead, Bob Weir & Ratdog, Phil Lesh and Friends, 7 Walkers, Furthur and Dead & Company. The contemporary jam scene has grown to encompass bands from a great diversity of musical genres.

While the seminal group the Grateful Dead are categorized as psychedelic rock, by the 1990s the term "jam band" was being used for groups playing a variety of rock-related genres, including blues, country music, folk music, and funk. Today the term even includes some groups completely outside rock, such as those playing world music, electronic music, progressive bluegrass, and jazz fusion. By the late 1990s, the types of jam bands had so grown that the term became quite broad. Although today the term may be used to describe nearly any cross-genre band, festival band, or improvisational band, the term retains an affinity to the fan culture inspired by the Grateful Dead and carried on by the likes of Phish. Some artists such as The Derek Trucks Band are known for resisting the jam band label.A feature of the jam band scene is fan taping or digital recording of live concerts. While many other styles of music term fan taping as "illegal bootlegging", jam bands often allow their fans to make tapes or recordings of their live shows. Fans trade recordings and collect recordings of different live shows because improvisational jam bands play their songs differently at each performance. By the 2000s, as internet downloading of MP3 music files became common, downloading of jam band songs became an extension of the cassette taping trend. Bands are also distributing their shows online, sometimes within days or hours.

Jam session

A jam session is a relatively informal musical event, process, or activity where musicians, typically instrumentalists, play improvised solos and vamp on tunes, songs and chord progressions. To "jam" is to improvise music without extensive preparation or predefined arrangements, except for when the group is playing well-known jazz standards or covers of existing popular songs. Original jam sessions, also 'free flow sessions', are often used by musicians to develop new material (music) and find suitable arrangements. Both styles can be used simply as a social gathering and communal practice session. Jam sessions may be based upon existing songs or forms, may be loosely based on an agreed chord progression or chart suggested by one participant, or may be wholly improvisational. Jam sessions can range from very loose gatherings of amateurs to evenings where a jam session coordinator or host acts as a "gatekeeper" to ensure that only appropriate-level performers take the stage, to sophisticated improvised recording sessions by professionals which are intended to be broadcast live on radio or TV or edited and released to the public.

Jazz improvisation

Jazz improvisation is the spontaneous invention of melodic solo lines or accompaniment parts. It is one of the defining elements of jazz. Improvisation is composing on the spot, when a singer or instrumentalist invents melodies and lines over a chord progression played by rhythm section instruments (piano, guitar, double bass) and accompanied by drums. Although blues, rock, and other genres use improvisation, it is done over relatively simple chord progressions which often remain in one key (or closely related keys using the circle of fifths, such as a song in C Major modulating to G Major).

Jazz improvisation is distinguished from this approach by chordal complexity, often with one or more chord changes per bar, altered chords, extended chords, tritone substitution, unusual chords (e.g., augmented chords), and extensive use of ii–V–I progression, all of which typically move through multiple keys within a single song. However, since the release of Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, jazz improvisation has come to be associated with modal harmony and improvisation over static key centers, while the emergence of free jazz has led to a variety of types of improvisation, such as "free blowing", in which soloists improvise freely and ignore the chord changes.


kREEPA are a group that perform electronic music and musical improvisation founded by John Richards and Hilary Jeffery in 2000. The group performs a type of industrial jazz and electro-noise.

Kansas City jazz

Kansas City jazz is a style of jazz that developed in Kansas City, Missouri during the 1920s and 1930s, which marked the transition from the structured big band style to the musical improvisation style of Bebop. The hard-swinging, bluesy transition style is bracketed by Count Basie who in 1929 signed with the Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra and Kansas City native Charlie Parker who ushered in the Bebop style in America. "While New Orleans was the birthplace of jazz, America's music grew up in Kansas City". Kansas City is known as one of the most popular "cradles of jazz". Other cities include New Orleans, Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New York City. Kansas City was known for the organized musicians of the Local 627 A.F.M., which controlled a number of venues in the city.

List of jam band music festivals

This is a list of jam band music festivals. This list may have some overlap with list of historic rock festivals and list of reggae festivals. Jam bands are musical groups who relate to a unique fan culture that began in the 1960s with Grateful Dead (see deadheads), and continued with The Allman Brothers Band, which had lengthy jams at concerts. The performances of these bands typically feature extended musical improvisation ("jams") over rhythmic grooves and chord patterns, and long sets of music that can often cross genre boundaries.While the seminal group Grateful Dead are categorized as psychedelic rock, by the 1990s the term "jam band" was being used for groups playing a variety of rock-related genres, and jam band festival lineups could include blues, country music, folk music, and funk. Today the term even includes some groups completely outside rock, such as those playing world music, electronic music, progressive bluegrass, and jazz fusion. A unique feature of the jam band scene is bands allowing fan taping or digital recording of live concerts.

Music of Moldova

Moldovan music is closely related to that of its neighbour and cultural kin, Romania. Moldovan folk is known for swift, complex rhythms (a characteristic shared with many Eastern European traditions), musical improvisation, syncopation and much melodic ornamentation. Pop, hip hop, rock and other modern genres have their own fans in Moldova as well. Modern pop stars include O-Zone, a Romanian and Moldovan band whose "Dragostea din tei" was a major 2004 European hit, guitarist and songwriter Vladimir Pogrebniuc, Natalia Barbu, who is well known in Germany, Romania and Ukraine, and Nelly Ciobanu. The band Flacai became well known in the 1970s across Moldova, turning their hometown of Cahul into an important center of music.

Musical performance

Musical performance may refer to:


Concert, the performance of multiple pieces by an ensemble or soloist

Recital, a performance which highlights a single performer, composer, or instrument


Gig (musical performance), slang for a live musical performance

Musical composition, and the interpretation by performers

Musical improvisation, as opposed to musical composition

Musical technique

Musical phrasing

Network musical performance, a real-time interaction over a computer network that enables musicians in different locations to perform together

Street performance or busking

Passing chord

In music, a passing chord is a chord that connects, or passes between, the notes of two diatonic chords. "Any chord that moves between one diatonic chord and another one nearby may be loosely termed a passing chord. A diatonic passing chord may be inserted into a pre-existing progression that moves by a major or minor third in order to create more movement." "'Inbetween chords' that help you get from one chord to another are called passing chords."For example, in the simple chord progression in the key of C Major, which goes from I7/iii7/ii7/V7:

|Cmaj7 |Em7 |Dm7 |G7 |

the diatonic (this means "from the scale of the tonic") passing chord (Dm7) may be inserted:

|Cmaj7 Dm7 |Em7 |Dm7 |G7 |

or the chromatic passing chord (Ebm7) may be inserted:

|Cmaj7 |Em7 Ebm7 |Dm7 |G7 |

or one or more secondary dominants may be inserted:

|Cmaj7 B7 |Em7 A7 |Dm7 |G7 | (in this example, the B7 is the secondary dominant of Em7 and the A7 is the secondary dominant of Dm7)

A chromatic passing chord is, "a chord that is not in the harmonized scale" For example, one or more diminished seventh chords may be inserted:

|Cmaj7 D# dim7' |Em7 C# dim7 |Dm7 |G7 | (in this example, the D# dim7 is the viio7 of Em7 and the C# dim7 is the viio7 of Dm7)

Passing chords may be consonant or dissonant and may include flat fifth substitution, scalewise substitution, dominant minor substitution, approach chords, and bass-line-directed substitution. Passing chords may be written into a lead sheet by a composer, songwriter, or arranger.

As well, particularly in smaller ensembles, such as the organ trio or jazz quartet, the "comping" (chord-playing) rhythm section instrumentalists (e.g., jazz guitar, jazz piano, Hammond organ) may improvise passing chords. With large ensembles, such as a big band, the comping players may have less freedom to improvise passing chords, because the composer/arranger may have already written in passing chords into the written horn parts, which might clash with improvised passing chords played by a comping musician. The freedom of comping musicians to improvise passing chords also depends on the tempo. In a very slow ballad, if a chord-playing musician adds in an improvised diminished chord for a half a bar, this may "clash" with the melody notes or chords played by other performers. On the other hand, in an extremely up-tempo (fast) Bebop tune, a comping musician could add improvised passing chords with more freedom, because each bar goes by so fast.

Standard (music)

In music, a standard is a musical composition of established popularity, considered part of the "standard repertoire" of one or several genres. Even though the standard repertoire of a given genre consists of a dynamic and partly subjective set of songs, these can be identified by having been performed or recorded by a variety of musical acts, often with different arrangements. In addition, standards are extensively quoted by other works and commonly serve as the basis for musical improvisation. Standards may "cross over" from one genre's repertoire to another's; for example, many jazz standards have entered the pop repertoire, and many blues standards have entered the rock repertoire.

Standards exist in the classical, popular and folk music traditions of all cultures. In the context of Western classical music, the standard repertoire constitutes most of what is considered the "teaching canon", i.e. the compositions that students learn in their academic training. The standard repertoire varies according to the different eras, movements and scenes within a genre, meaning that the extent to which a given composition is considered a standard or "repertoire piece" may vary greatly. However, some repertoires (e.g. concert piano) have become particularly static, giving rise to a divide between "standard-repertoire performers" and contemporary music advocates.


Taqsim (Arabic: تَقْسِيم‎ / ALA-LC: taqsīm; Greek: ταξίμι, translit. taksimi, Turkish: taksim) is a melodic musical improvisation that usually precedes the performance of a traditional Arabic, Greek, Middle Eastern, or Turkish musical composition.

Taqsim traditionally follows a certain melodic progression. Starting from the tonic of a particular Arabic maqam (or a Turkish makam), the first few measures of the improvisation remain in the lower ajnas of the maqam, thereby introducing the maqam to the listener. After this introduction, the performer is free to move anywhere in the maqam, and even to modulate to other maqams, as long as he or she returns to the original one.Taqsim is either a solo instrument performance, or one that is backed by a percussionist or other instrumentalist playing a drone on the tonic of the maqam.

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