Three Characteristics of a Good Jazz Improviser


Jazz is not jazz if there is no improvisation. It is what jazz music is all about. This is also what makes jazz interesting, unpredictable, and unique. You never know what you’re going to get, especially during live shows in hotels, bars, and other similar venues. Improvisation is not something you rehearse. It comes naturally to all good jazz musicians. There are specific characteristics, however, that make jazz musicians different from others. Here are three of those qualities.

1. They never take the basic tools of music for granted.

If you’re expecting mind blowing secrets like how to play the saxophone without breathing, you are definitely not in the right place. The best improvisers never fail to go back to the basics, the fundamentals. Things like scales, long tones, single chord progression, and time matter a lot to them. They do not dwell on the complicated but acknowledge that everything starts with the fundamentals. And this includes discipline, mental preparedness, work ethics, and proper technique. Being a good improviser is more than just musical acrobatics and complicated harmonies. It is about creating and weaving musical phrases that evoke emotions.


2. They don’t know all the tunes, but they make the most out of them.

Yes, some musicians and improvisers do not know every tune there is in the musical book. But they do not allow this to hamper their style and performance. Instead of cramming and panicking, they simply listen to the melody, find the interval, and identify chord progression and then they immediately know what to do – what to play and how to play it. It’s like turning music to magic.


3. They never stop learning. They continuously find ways to improve their artistry.

The best improvisers believe that learning is a continuous cycle. It is a lifelong process. They also believe that continuous learning is essential, especially if the goal is to improve their artistry.