Here’s how to play the authentic improvised music that’s inside your head

I put out a challenge last week that was tied to a new lesson for my online course Improvisation Savvy. It involves singing an 8-bar improvisation over a provided rhythm track and then playing on one’s instrument a transcription of what was sung. The point is to hear your authentic music coming from your instrument.

I’ve received a bunch of responses, submissions, and appreciation for the approach.

But I’ve also heard from a lot of people who tell me that they’re just not ready to submit anything for this. They’re not good enough. They haven’t been improvising long enough, They don’t know enough about the technical things behind what they are doing, etc.

I understand that they may think that there is a certain threshold for submitting something even though I mentioned no such restrictions. It saddens me when I hear from people unwilling to embrace a new activity because of self-doubt or a belief that they are not ready to at least give it a try.

In fact, lacking improvisation skill is precisely the reason to embrace this challenge. It’s a tool to help players improve their skill. Specific to this challenge, it is a tool that gets your imagined music out through your instrument. Contrast that with strings of notes that are manufactured from scales and analytical thinking that often passes as jazz improvisation.

Those people who don’t think they’re ready are missing the whole point of this challenge along with the benefits of the many other tools and opportunities available to them.

Please don’t say or tell yourself, “I’m not a good jazz player”. It’s that broad generalization about yourself that limits you from doing activities that would be life-changing for you and would get you closer to becoming the jazz player you fantasize being.

I’m referring to things like sitting in at a local jam session or volunteering to take a solo in your group or emailing me a recording of your playing after participating in this exercise. How does it hurt other than it’s different and maybe a little scary?

Are you a very beginner? Congratulations, there’s nowhere to go but up!!

What truly hurts to the core and limits us is our cruel self-talk (and out loud talk) about what we’re not good at or can’t do. I think we can all do what we decide to dig in and accomplish.

None of us will be John Coltrane. That’s been taken. But you can be as good and unique a jazz player as you are willing to be, given the time, effort, and courage you’re ready to apply.

Here’s the video lesson I posted for the challenge:


Do the challenge, send me the recording of playing your instrument over the rhythm track to and I’ll give you a thorough assessment of your playing that will give you some things to consider and practice.

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Michael Lake

Michael Lake

Trombonist, author, composer, marketer

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This is just a fake book example for the type of website I can build for you. Just trying to use a little humor here!