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Techniques and improvisation in jazz (Jazz-4)

Jazz music is not just playing instruments, but above all the ability to spontaneously create and improvise. In this article we will dive into the world of improvisational techniques in jazz, understand the role of improvement in this genre and look at the scales and chords used by jazzmen. In addition, we will discover some examples of excellent jazz improvisations.

The role of improvisation in jazz

Improvisation is the heart of jazz. It is a process of creating real-time music that allows musicians to express their emotions, creativity, and individuality. Improvisation is an integral part of any jazz performance, regardless of style.

In jazz, improvisation is a tool that allows musicians to develop and expand a musical theme during play. It is also a form of dialogue between musicians who respond to each other through their solo songs. Thanks to improvisation, jazz is alive and always different.

Igor Stravinsky

“Jazz has nothing to do with composed music and when it seeks to be influenced by contemporary music it isn’t jazz and it isn’t good.”

Improvisational techniques in playing instruments

Improvisation on instruments is one of the most important elements in jazz. Jazz musicians use different techniques to express themselves and their musical thoughts during solos. Here are some of the main improvisation techniques:

  • Scale and arpeggio: Jazz musicians are familiar with various musical scales and arpeggio (Italian arpeggio – a way of performing synonyms with the character of a decorator, marked by a vertical wavy line preceding the chord), which are performed during improvisation. Thanks to them, they can create melodic lines and sound sequences. Themes and phrases: Improvisation is often based on the creation of themes and sentences that are repeated and developed during the solo.
  • Themes and phrases: Improvisation is often based on the creation of themes and sentences that are repeated and developed during the solo.
  • Use of rhythmic techniques: Rhythm plays a key role in jazz. Jazz musicians are attributed to a variety of rhythmic techniques, such as syncope, swing or intermittent rhythmic phrases.
  • Instrumental effects: In jazz, instrumental effects such as glissando on a saxophone or wah-wah on a trumpet are sometimes used to introduce diversity in improvisation.

Scales and chords used in improvisation

Jazz music uses many kinds of scales and chords. Some of the popular scales used in improvisation are the bluescale, the Doric, the Frygian, the Miksolidian scale (a scale with a dur character – dominant – built on the fifth degree of the dur scale) and many others. Jazz musicians are attributed to the ability to transform these scales into different harmonious contexts, which allows for the creation of diverse and exciting solo songs.

Various kinds of chords are also used in improvisation, including septymic, ninth and eleventh chords. Understanding the structure of chords and their harmonic function is essential for jazz musicians during improvisation.

Willis Conover

quoted by Leonard Feather, The Book of Jazz, 1976

„Jazz is a language. It is people living in sound. Jazz is people talking, laughing, crying, building, painting, mathematicizing, abstracting, extracting, giving to, taking from, making of. In other words, living.”

Examples of well-known jazz improvisations

In the history of jazz there are many unforgettable improvisations. Here are some examples of well-known jazz solo songs:

  • Miles Davis in „So What”: Davis impresses with his improvisation on the trumpet, using the modal scale in the recording from the album “Kind of Blue”.
  • John Coltrane in „My Favorite Things”: Coltranne presents virtuoso improvisation on a soprano saxophone, exploring a variety of scale and rhythmic themes.
  • Charlie Parker in „Now’s the Time”: Parker, called “Bird”, revolutionizes improvisation in bebop, using fast rhythms and complex harmonies.
  • Herbie Hancock in „Chameleon”: In this fusion composition, he experiments with synthesizers, creating improvisation that combines jazz with electronic music.

These examples illustrate the diversity and creativity of jazz improvisations that remain the inspiration for new generations of musicians.


Improvisation is an inherent part of jazz that makes this musical genre so unique and exciting. It is the art of expressing oneself through sound, creating new musical stories and dialogue between musicians on stage.

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