José Valentino

Performer | Professor | Producer

A Response to Learning Improvisation

FOR MUSICIANS: Very frequently, I get private messages from performing artists asking me the question, "How do I expand and develop my improvisation skills?" To the surprise of many, my responses are not what they would expect. This is my most recent response yet. I hope it helps you. Read below.

"That is a question that is far too deep to answer with mere sentences. However, I would suggest for you to first reflect, analyze, and determine what your mission is in life. That can ascertain how you go about learning and transmitting music through your instrument, for the sake of others. Second, I would suggest you to do intense listening complimented with thinking about all kinds of music, even music that you do not like; listen to instruments/music/voices you are unfamiliar or un-interested in to see and learn as many approaches as possible to music. Read biographies from artists and learn why they are using their music to impact people's lives - what is their incentive? Then ask yourself what is your incentive for learning and performing music? Doing so may allot you more conviction and influence through your musical expression and communication, so long as you reflect on yourself as an artist. Remember that to be an artist is not to seek self glorification. It is to serve and to minister to people, to meet a need in and ameliorate humanity. Third, I suggest you do intensive listening complimented with diligent practice and playing with your instrument and without your instrument using mental imagery techniques - also record yourself playing with audio or video recording devices. That way you can be critical about your playing, assess your areas of weakness, and refine with thoughtful consideration until you're playing reaches a blissful state of consciousness, where your expression is akin to the comfort level of your ability to speak and communicate to others through language; unconscious knowing (check out the theory of levels of awareness by Anthony Wellington, back up bassist for Victor Wooten). Essentially, your aim should be to practice multidimensionally. You have to be true to yourself and you have to be truthful with yourself regarding where you are at as an artist. From there, you may only begin to walk a processing journey towards becoming a better musical artist and a better improviser. I hope that helps."

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