On improvising and composing, part 3


Try avoiding being stuck with narrow-mindedness! (Why not start with losing that tie, it might strangle you…)
This image can be interpreted as becoming a victim of a negative chain-reaction.
(I also put a deeper interpretation last on this text page)

To create positive chain-reactions for your craft and creativity,
allow yourself to start learning new things on a lower level!

Hone your strengths too, but if you ONLY stick to your strengths, and what you’re used to, consider this:

You’re most likely gonna miss out on becoming more intuitively diverse and fluid with your craft.
I’ve read multiple retail tutorials online recently, saying similar things. But I’ve said it for decades offline myself…

Practicing drills doesn’t have to limit you to become a robotic musician/composer/person, ya know. Do you have patience with such?
If you do NOT think about what you’re doing, there’s always a risk of numbing yourself with drills, especially if it’s put upon you without suggesting that you can contemplate about the benefits yourself.
But you’re hopefully not considering yourself a slave under drills and scheduled practice…

If you can see the point and the benefits with it, it can become much easier to justify keep doing it… The motivation could increase tenfold:

When drills have become second nature, you can use it way more effortless even in creative situations!
This is a well known belief, both by music teachers, pro musicians, and also described in many pro athlete fields and much more.

Think of racquet sports champions, the ball/puck control by forwards in team sports like soccer or hockey, Martial Arts professionals, pro dancers, or elite race drivers to name a few.

Whenever you see on the highest level, having full control over their creativity,
think of the amount of drills they’d have to endure during practice, to at all obtain the confidence to try it out when it matters the most.

The drills themselves might be super boring and repetitive till death, yet they can intuitively choose to implement the technique and tactical or artistic benefits from any such drill when needed, and it would be acknowledged as artistry on a high level.
Again, if the individuals understood the meaning of practicing the drills, the motivation of achieving those goals probably boosted their patience and relentlessness with it for longer periods.

For example:
*A tennis drop shot from nowhere, wrong-footing the opponent at a crucial moment;
*A rare kind of deke in NHL resulting in the goalie buying hot dogs at the stands, as we say in Sweden;
*Creating an element of total surprise or higher artistic fluidity with new moves or chain of moves.
Dancing, Martial arts and Pro fights comes to mind;

*A daredevil race track overtake, that nobody expected.

The audience goes ooohhh!!!, and usually salute the athlete as having magic hands/skills or being a true artist.
…Acknowledging the athlete to have a great creative & playful, yet courageous master mindset.

But in most cases, the athlete proved to have practice this very move over and over again before mastering it. Often for several years.
This is a common claim also by professional musicians, coaches, teachers and authors, and it would fit several motivation posters.
Determination, you know…


One has to start somewhere!
Even if simply learning some things that you never tried before, chances are you actually can start using it in your new musical ideas pretty soon. Because you already have related skills and understanding that should make most drills easier to execute and understand.
Usually, it wouldn’t take years for that. Also, it’s not like millions of people are watching live while you try it out in your compositions or while improvising.

But don’t forget to always contemplate on WHY you chose to do certain drills etc. Is it only for show-off later on? Or will it help you in other areas as well?

Physical precision or Timing precision? Both?
Physical strength or Stamina? Is it about improving relaxation & reducing tension?
Will it help you Music Theory-wise? Creativity-wise?
Mentally? Emotionally? Seeing big pictures? etc. etc.

For “Periods of time”, focusing on either drills, music theory, improvisations or looking for new influences usually all help.
The lengths of the periods may vary hugely, depending on personality, aim and situation.


Early on, my own composing and improvisation individuality expanded a lot more after having spent periods of all the aspects that I’ve mentioned so far.
But also when I stopped spending so much time listening to other composers.

For a period of time, listening relentlessly to favorite composers or artists can certainly help to get started, but I’d say it’s easy to get stuck with it, and it can be difficult to undo. Almost like a detox needed.
Unless you’re happy with where you are right now, you’d want to progress more fluidly and diverse by adding other methods of learning.

So to sum it up:

Having learned from more influences and having more understanding of genres & Music theory will result in having more tools to choose from. Both when creating something specific and something abstract or highly personal.

As long as you are aware of how you can benefit from drills, it might be worth it. Especially if doing it efficiently.
Some need help with understanding it, some figure it out on their own. For me, it was a bit of both to begin with, but more and more the latter, as I gained understanding of composing and improvisation techniques, and as a musician.

Sometimes the aim to create something highly personal requires making specific choices about your musical influences,
as well as the way you choose to practice and study.


And if you read my previous blog post, I mentioned that inspiration can come from many other non-musical kinds of sources and mind sets, rather than following a single genre, tradition, belief system or similar.

On the same notion, I suggest that you don’t take anybody’s word for granted blindly!
Neither mine nor the big “authorities” even on certain subjects.
I encourage people to listen to such, but to question them too.

There are plenty of cases where authorities promote ideas or info that you simply won’t be able to grasp/agree with/implement or benefit from… But also plenty of cases when you will benefit from listening in depth to authorities as well. As long as you don’t do it blindly, you should be fine.

Look me up on my Facebook and Soundcloud pages with feedback, questions, suggestions, or go to my Contact info page if you wish to use my services.

In the meantime, best wishes for your creativity and aims! (I avoided to mention luck in that phrase.) 😉


PS. About the top image, for the allegory that I referred to there:

It’s all in paying attention to different aspects and details.
Here, all that would be needed to avoid the situation would be to address the seemingly insignificant cog, or “the lesser of evils”, see?
Makes me associate to the Lord of the Rings and the role of the Hobbits. The ones of the Fellowship and Gollum as well.
Like two sides of a similar coin… That book/movie has some serious wisdom in it, I feel.

Also, I recently noticed there’s an organization devoted to educate people about mistreatment of certain exotic animals. Koalas for export?
Tickeling Australian koalas is claimed to make them stretching their arms upwards, just like the teddy dude in the image. Only that the koalas are claimed to do it as a reflex of fear.
(again, perhaps just like the teddy dude in the image) DS.


2 thoughts on “On improvising and composing, part 3

  1. Once again all good advice Fred I like the bit about loosening the tie and I always like to try and be as comfortable as possible when playing any instrument and it will always reflect in the performance too.

    Mistakes are more commonly made when one is not seated right, or even the cuffs on your shirt are too tight preventing your arms and hands not to move so freely and feel more relaxed and comfortable.

    All of these things will have an effect on the overall performance.

    Regarding playing the piano I think it’s always best to take lessons, and in reality I only wished I could afford to have had them. I think they well help you get there much quicker by having the right guidance.

    I myself took the much cheaper option and brought the Play it Today series that was advertised on the TV. I knew you was never gonna be able to play anything in day, but I did find those books useful particularly in learning finger exercises and music. Before I studied these books I was more or less playing the chords on the piano as did with a guitar and always using the same 3 fingers to play them with as well :)))) I never even knew anything about inversions and how quickly it was to move a couple of fingers to get from one chord to the next.

    Fingering technique is very useful to learn for the piano. But as you mentioned in your earlier blog it’s also good to try and change your fingering technique to something that perhaps is more comfortable for your fingers to play, and this is something a lot of teachers or these books do not really teach you.

    To be honest I have come across better teachers these days on YouTube. Some of those people will take the right time to teach you and offer different variations in fingering techniques to make it that much more comfortable for you to play.

    I myself play mostly by ear and to be honest I prefer to do so as well because it’s much more of a natural thing to do. I personally do not think everything needs to be played by the book, not even regarding what fingers you are using to play the piece. So the use of different fingering techniques I feel is very important and if you can use your own and they work just as well. Then that is really the way to go in doing it in the way that feels the most comfortable for you to play.

    Another great part of this blog my friend and I enjoyed reading it too…

    • Thank you so much for the in-depth thoughts and advice on these topics, buddy!

      You really make some good points who I didn’t mention myself yet.

      And the strangled feel certainly goes for the freedom of movement too!
      When I play instruments, I must remove distracting elements like too long sleeves etc.

      When I used to compete in tennis, I always wore loose clothes, which allowed me to perform better than with trendy and tight athlete outfits.

      In general, tighten up muscles is the common way a lot of musicians do it to strive for precision and control, and I used to be one of them.

      but the far superior way for a long-lasting durability (and maybe even for emotionally connecting with the performance) is to have obtained relaxed kind of precision, which also is far more difficult to master, I’d say. Bigger and more fluid motions, yet with even better precision in the long run.

      Many World class musicians have obtained that skills I think, and I hear some talk about it when they educate others, while a lot of educators don’t, it seems.
      Which I think is a shame, since it’s a responsibility all instrumental teachers should take even on entry levels, IMO.
      Definitely on intermediate levels.


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