Improvisation – the better way to learn the language of music

‘Memorize and practice’, a method used by those whose music will always be meaningless, has been referred to as ‘parroting’, like a parrot who, after enough repetitions will say a phrase, but with no understanding of what it is saying.1Paraphrased from Josef Lhevinne, the legendary pianist/teacher at the Juilliard School in New York

‘Popular’ music2The definition of ‘popular’ is one that refers to the general public, not the specialist. is one of the better ways to learn the language of music. It may be compared to a conversation with a friend. The post, ‘Learning the Language of Music’ with the Bach Prelude nr 1 in C major from the WTC, and a companion post, ‘Rudiments’ is essential as they contain the basics3Music theory manuals do not contain the basics referred to here. Music theory is a “system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.” …from the dictionary on the web. The italics are mine. that must be learned. Now we put it to use with the popular song.

‘Lead-sheets’ of songs are what we work with as they give the melody and the chord indications, and from there various arrangements may be created along with how to transpose via function and identity. The previous post on ‘Learning the Language of Music’ is necessary to understand the principles offered here.

The song, ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ is an ideal song to learn some of the basics since it is one of the easier and less complicated songs to learn. It may be purchased from musicnotes.com for just a few dollars.  Please get it in the key of C major, the original is in the key of E-flat major.

Video 1 – Writing the melody with functional indications, then transposing it using those functions.

Video 2 – The song’s Circle progression with characteristic intervals. These provide far more learning than the ‘memorize and practice’ method.

Video 3 – Using different arrangements for the song. This is the initial effort toward improvisation. And, there are some beautiful sounds to be made!

Video 4 – With this video we find out ways of getting ‘from here to there’ musically. And with this we now have a ‘repertoire’ of ways of playing the song.  We are not stuck in one arrangement.  These are ‘professional’ arrangements  …and you are creating them!

If you enjoy these videos, you may purchase and download them by using the button below, or you may send a donation in any amount via PayPal to ralph.hedges@gmail.com.

Avoid the ‘memorize and practice’ method with no idea what there is in the music. Don’t be afraid to do try different arrangements and ways of playing, called ‘improvising’.  One learns by improvising (changing)…not by ‘memorize and practice’. 

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Best,

Ralph Hedges

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