Improvising in Complete Sentences


In college I primarily composed in Finale. Because of how that software works, I often composed one note at a time. I was a slow composer. Today, my design process involves improvising in “complete sentences”. I sit at my keyboard and make up entire songs, being sure to record my playing in MIDI so that every pitch, velocity, and duration is captured and can be used later edited or as is.

I have heard that some of my favorite books, such as Red Rising, were written improvisationally. With a clear outline and writing style in mind, Pierce Brown was able to improvise hundreds of pages in a matter of weeks. But before interesting ideas can flow out of a person, they must first struggle. For example, much of my growth as a keyboard improviser can be attributed to struggling through learning new songs that used chords and progressions I had never played before. During and after these struggles, these chords and progressions found their way into my improvisations. As time passed, their influence remained but drifted into the background. Whenever I improvise, I subconsciously remix all the music I have ever heard, played, and loved into something new. Similarly, this author was drawing on his experiences reading, writing, and thinking about these kinds of stories.

So for my students, what kinds of things could they, with practice, improvise in complete sentences? And what kinds of struggles and experiences would prepare them?