MUS429 – Entry #1

Because I was self-taught for so many years before deciding to enroll in an official collegiate music program, a lot of how I learned/played was completely improvised. When one doesn’t have the technical understanding nor the theoretical education, it’s often difficult to comprehend why things sound good. Instead, if something works it becomes a muscle memory application, or another trick in one’s musical bag.

For the longest time, this is (more or less) how I approached practicing and performing. Sure, I poured over transcriptions of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin songs, but I never truly understood what was happening on a theoretical level. Now that I have a full year of theory under my belt and have come to understand some of the inner workings of what makes music, I’m anxious to get involved in this class and study improvisation from a completely different perspective.

Phish, Frank Zappa, the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers Band, various Jazz musicians are all amongst my many varied influences and all thrive on improvisation. Having studied this music endlessly, I’ve naturally co-opted some of their methods and techniques into my own playing. While this is great when I am attempting to capture that same sort of sound as one of my heroes, it doesn’t do much in guiding and shaping my own improvisational playing.

My hope for this class has already been addressed. Prof. Gluck has explicitly stated that he will attempt to get each musician in the seminar to step out of their comfort zone and approach musical improvisation in ways, we may not have yet considered. I am glad he did not give away much of what is to come in this semester, because invariably, I probably would have tried any/all exercises he suggested.

Rather, in class, I hope to work with some good musicians, come to understand their improvisational approaches to the various styles they call their ‘favorite’ and see what mechanisms, tricks, techniques, styles etc. drive their desire to improvise. I’ve already discussed collaborating with two classmates each of who have very different musical backgrounds than my own. This synergy, I hope, will bring about some very good growth for each of us.

Lastly, this class appears to have some good and specific freedoms. Being a multi-instrumentalist, I plan on working on all of the different instruments I play. In the end, I’d like to say this class made me a better jazz pianist, guitar jammer, bluegrass mandolin player and funk bassist.

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