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You have probably heard the saying that “when life gives you lemons-make lemonade.” I know it is a cliché, but it is one that has some value to those that improvise. I wrote a post a few weeks back called Fight Through that talked about regardless of what circumstances life has given you; we still have to fight through and make music. In this post I wanted to talk about something similar and make the correlation between the unexpected things in life and how we can use that in our improvisations.

Let’s face it, there are some things in life we thought would be a “sure thing.” Ask a child what they want to be when they grow up and you will get a number of different answers. Follow those children 20 years later and ask if they are doing what they wanted to do. For some…maybe. For most…probably not. Life gives us some unexpected twists and turns. Improvisation has a way of doing the same thing. We can plan and plot, but when we finally get in the moment unexpected things can happen. Someone in the rhythm section plays something unexpected and before you know it your improvisation goes in a new direction.

Most of the time when this happens it is fun and exciting. Hopefully you know the song and harmonic progression well enough that you can go to that unexpected place together. Much like life; your attitude towards the unexpected will help determine your level of enjoyment and success. Remember you are involved in the improvisation process just as much as those you are playing with. Your input helps determine the destination.

A while back there was a video of Stefon Harris doing a TED talk floating around social media sites. He and his group of musicians did an excellent job of talking about how reacting to the unexpected creates (or detracts) from the art of improvisation. Check out the video below:


I hope you have enjoyed this week’s tip and that it has added some value and benefit to your playing in some way. The holidays are fast approaching and if you are looking for gift ideas for some musicians please go to my Digital Store today and check out my books and recently CD. I am very thankful to all of you that have made a purchase or download!



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