What is Musical Improvisation?

Musical Improvisation is an artform in which a musician creates a musical piece without any pre-written sheet music. This piece can be inspired by a suggestion or completely made up on the spot. This allows the musician to express him- or herself entirely.

In Improvisational Theater, Musical Improvisation can play a vital part in the success. Often, the improvised music can be seen as the subconcious aid for the audience to provide a scene with more atmosphere and tension. A Musical Improviser should therefore always be connected with and invested in the scene or atmosphere that he or she is playing in. In my experience, this connection is the most important aspect of Musical Improvisation. Even beginning musicians can therefore be great Musical Improvisers and subsequently, not all experienced musicians are great Musical Improvisers. 

The connection between music and scene can occur in several ways. The three most important connections are summarized below:

- Firstly, a musical improviser should be able to sense the general emotion that a scene is played in. These can be basic emotions such as happiness, envy, sadness or anything you can feel.

- Secondly, a musical improviser should be able to contribute to the scene by highlighting the geographical area that the scene takes place. This can be achieved by adding certain sounds or melodic reminders based on cultural reference of the area (a bar in France sounds different than a bakery in Westeros). A Musical Improviser should be able to play any style. This is similar for improvised songs. As Musical Improviser, it is important to keep challenging yourself with any suggestion you might get.

- Thirdly, a Musical Improviser should be able to adapt instantly to physicalilty of a scene. Whether the actors are driving a car or standing still and having a fast-paced conversation. The physicality of a scene is important to accentuate. Often, changes in dynamics occur and these should be picked up by a musician. The change in dynamic in a scene will be more effective when the music follows this rhythm.

These are guidelines for the basics of musical improvisation. If you are interested in this topic, feel free to ask questions or discuss in the guestbook. More information will follow soon.

In 2016, The Music Maker began writing a book for musical improvisation for musicians and actors. Stay tuned for more updates.