I recently sent a survey to my trombone playing subscribers in which one question asked, What aspect of your improvisation do you most wish to improve?
I’m writing a book called Trombone Improvisation Savvy. The answer to that question is pretty important for a book on improvisation. It turns out that the answers to that question have influenced a good bit of the book. In fact, I would probably not have included nearly as much harmonic theory in the book were it not for the fact that the greatest number of responses by a huge margin answered: Knowing how to associate the notes I play with the chord changes.
I realize that harmonic theory is valuable to a fundamental understanding of improvisation, but there are so many good books already written on the subject. I am striving to create something different. Part of my motivation is the fact that I believe many improvisers have been overly influenced by scale theory. The result is too many young improvisers who confuse scales with melody.
I hope that this book will motivate players to think primarily in terms of melody, and I believe that better musicianship and improvisation will result.
40.6% Knowing how to associate the notes I play with the chord changes
16% Playing within the more difficult keys
10.4% Knowing my scales
7.5% Developing my own unique style
3.8% Having a nice groove to my playing
2% Playing melodically
Other answers included:
- Playing more interestingly
- Playing better over more complex harmonies and playing faster
- Better at playing by ear
- Being less handcuffed with ideas because of limited range and speed
- All of the above – aaarrrrrgggghhhhh – where do I start?
- I don’t know where to begin.
- Creating longer and more melodic lines with coherent construction and development
- Being more comfortable
- Playing improv with more confidence.
- More melodic
- and many that wrote “all of the above“
Yes, I see that “playing melodically” is dead last on the wish list, but I persevere. My hope is that trombone players will gain from this book because playing melodically will help them develop their own style, help them create a nice groove, help them be more comfortable and give them a good place to start – all things people said they want.
Feel free to give me your thoughts in the comments. I promise I’ll do my best to include your thoughts in the book.