As musicians, we are always looking for the best way to practice and improve our skills. Improvisation should be a part of your routine from now on.
There was a distinctive pattern of both activations and deactivations in certain parts of the brain that occurred during improvisation and playing from memory. What’s cool, is that these patterns were essentially the reciprocal of each other. Meaning, the areas of the brain that were activated during improvisation were deactivated during the play-from-memory condition, and vice versa.
Specifically, a region of the top front part of the brain which is thought to be involved in problem-solving and conscious monitoring of our performance (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) quiets down during improvisation. Meanwhile, a central region in the very front-most part of the brain (medial prefrontal cortex) which seems to play a key role in self-expression and making up a story or describing a memory becomes more active.
Taken together, it seems that deactivating the self-monitoring, evaluating part of our brain frees us up to be more creative and allows us to spontaneously produce unplanned, novel musical ideas and gestures which might otherwise be inhibited.
Another interesting takeaway, is that this pattern of activation/deactivation was true across both the simple improvisation task (scales), and the complex task (jazz).
So perhaps we don’t have to freak out and be intimidated by the word “improvisation.” It sounds like even practicing improvisation on a very simple, basic level has value, and that the key thing is to simply get started.
Just try it. Take a moment after warming up to do some free improv. Pick a theme, and make up some variations. Riff off a scale. Play around with ornamentations.
At some point of course, you’ll want to practice improvisation in a more structured, systematic way, because improvising well is a skill that takes practice.
[Reprinted From: http://makingmusicmag.com/]