Why even classical musicians should be improvising

Musicians who take up the tradition of jazz music expect to improvise. Likewise, an electric guitar guru may spend 4 minutes riffing during a show to the audience’s delight. As a classical musician, however, you’re probably more accustomed to playing the notes of Bach or Beethoven as they were written.

Well, guess what?

It turns out improvisation can benefit classical musicians just as much as masters of more modern disciplines. There are proven benefits to the brain, and you might find your technical and creative skills get a much-needed boost as well. Here are just some of the reasons why you should starting weaving improv into your classical music practice today.

Physiological Benefits

You might assume that you only use one part of your brain when you’re producing and playing music. However, the part of your brain that is activated when you play a rehearsed piece is actually quite different than the parts of your brain that become most active while you improvise.

Specifically, the part of your brain that controls conscious monitoring of your own behavior takes a backseat while you improvise, and the portion of your brain that handles storytelling and language steps to the fore.

The dorsal premotor cortex in your brain is largely responsible for interpreting sensory input and spatial analysis. It’s the part of your mind that thrives when you’re going through a corn maze or just figuring out when it’s safe to cross the street. This part of the brain is already activated when you’re playing rehearsed music, but it really comes alive when you improvise and your mind has to work to figure out what your hands will do next. Suffice to say, when a classical musician improvises, they stretch and ignite their brain in a new way.

Creative Benefits

Because improvisation primes your brain to engage in new ways, you will notice creative benefits to your new mode of practice.

When you improvise, your brain also dims the part of itself that handles inhibition. With your mind less focused on failure, you’re free to explore your artistry and create without fear. Any classical artist can benefit from an amplified ability to stretch their storytelling and learn new ways to express themselves.

You may even find that upon returning to rehearsed pieces, the sense of freedom you enjoy during improvisation will stay with you. Your confidence to freestyle and inject your own personality into a piece of music can only help you bring new life into a classic.

Technical Benefits

On top of being fun and creative, improvisation can lend itself to increasing your technical skill.

The more familiar you become with all chords and notes, the better you will understand the full potential of your instrument. Musicians who practice improv may also have an easier time recovering from a mistake during a rehearsed piece.

Why is that?

Because your technique becomes more flexible with improv. That means facing a sudden slip-up is less likely to stop you in your tracks – you can more easily go with the flow instead of being derailed. Some musicians also notice they have a keener ear to harmonies when they start playing around with different melodies on a regular basis.

Even as a classical musician, you can still benefit from stretching your creativity and technical skill through improvisation. With this in mind, why not start incorporating improvisation into your usual practice and seeing what difference it makes?

Contact California Music Studios today to learn more about our music lessons with teachers who can help you develop your improvisational skills.