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Improvisation

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The Pessimist View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Pessimist Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Improvisation
    Posted: August 09 2013 at 05:13
A question regarding this... How much improvisation do you like in your prog, and how important do you think it is for prog musicians to be able to improvise, even if it's on a small scale like a drummer improvising their fills? I appreciate this depends on the band entirely and the kind of music, but what about your tastes specifically?

Personally I think it's a key element to all music. I always prefer improvisation in everything as it makes me feel like I'm actually there... As a result I'm not a massive fan of multitracking LOL

So what do you guys think? I think it's an important question that I suppose we all think about at some point!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rdtprog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 05:45
I think that improvisation doesn't go well with prog rock, most of the good musicians in prog could improvise but it would give totally different results than a cd with  structured songs.King Crimson do that a lot in live performances and in different projects and i don't like it very much, a little improvisation could be interesting but it has to be based on some basic ideas where you can hear the melody lines in sort of unity and not a bunch of notes played randomly. Liquid Tension Experiment have found a good balance with improvisation and written songs.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Pessimist Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 05:57
I would argue though that with King Crimson the improvisation was the focal point, especially in songs like Starless, Indiscipline (Bruford's opening solo) and Level Five off the top of my head.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Mormegil Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 06:26
Not a huge fan of improv in prog. Reminds me too much of free-form jazz, which I could only take in small doses. I expect my prog to take me places, where the road, however winding, is smooth. Improv, overdone, IMHO, is like a road chock full of potholes - not my cup of tea.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Vibrationbaby Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 06:46
Well I have to beg to differ. A lot of progressive rock compositions were based on initial improvs. Hocus Pocus is a good example. But these guys also had a certain degree of formal musical training which made it so much more interesting. Sometimes Rush live bores me to tears because their live performances so much resemble the studio versions. I might as well stay at home and listen to 2112 cranked to eleven. I remember reading this once back in the 70s. Fripp proposed an album of King Crimson songs played  the way they are not supposed to be played. The record company did not go for it. I always love hearing variations on themes. Every time I have seen Crimson live it's been an enlightening experience. I love the off the top of their heads improvs. Listen to the Crimson jazz trio if you haven't already.

If you want to hear a band play everything note for note then stay home put the cat out and crank the stereo to eleven. Music should be exciting and adventurous. Even  classical music is interpreted differently depending on the orchestra and conductor.


Edited by Vibrationbaby - August 09 2013 at 07:06
                
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 06:58
Originally posted by The Pessimist

A question regarding this... How much improvisation do you like in your prog, and how important do you think it is for prog musicians to be able to improvise, even if it's on a small scale like a drummer improvising their fills? I appreciate this depends on the band entirely and the kind of music, but what about your tastes specifically?

Personally I think it's a key element to all music. I always prefer improvisation in everything as it makes me feel like I'm actually there... As a result I'm not a massive fan of multitracking LOL

So what do you guys think? I think it's an important question that I suppose we all think about at some point!

I would not want to say I prefer improvisation because then I am inferring that I cannot like anything without apparent improvisation and that is not true as far as my tastes go.   By the same token, I don't necessarily insist on everything being composed.  But either way, I prefer some direction in music.  It need not be very apparent but if it's just improv for the sake of it, I would prefer it in a live concert rather than on a recorded album.  LTIA pt-1 for instance resolves into a specific mood (and not just a general blues/jazz mood) and that is how I prefer it.  If it doesn't seem to resolve into anything at all, ok I might still enjoy listening to it the first time but there's no reason for me to return to it then.  

I also don't have any objection to multi-tracking or any other such 'studio' magic as long as it is, well, magical.  I love all the different layers of Thom Yorke in Everything in its right place.  But I don't like it if it's just an effect used to make it sound commercial/pop music, which you could probably find say in late 70s/80s recordings.  Any effect is fine if it goes to enhance the emotional resonance of a given piece of music.   
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 07:22
I can enjoy both, each within its context. J-R/F offers more room for improvisation and that is fine, but some underlying structure is needed. For classic symphonic played live I prefer the musicians to respect the musical form but I appreciate when they don't play just an exact replica of the studio version, some variations are always welcome.
Having said that, I feel that the vocal melody is usually the instrument which suffers more from variations. A different guitar or keys solo, different drum fills etc are likely to be as good as the studio version, just different, but when the singer changes the vocal phrases in live performance, usually they never sound as good as the studio one (partly because when they do so it's because they can't reach the original tone comfortably).
I personally love it when there is apparent improvisation but now and then they play some bars of coordinated notes which show that it was not as improvised as it might have seemed.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 07:39
Improvisation is the bread and butter of vocals in Indian classical and semi classical forms, i.e., Hindustani, Carnatic, ghazal, qawali so a vocalist can certainly improvise in a pleasing way and with control.  But I have not seen many prog rock vocalists who had/have that level of ability - for them, it's more about understanding the song (including often being involved in the songwriting) and possessing enough range to get through it.   
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 07:42
Jazz also incorporates vocal improvisations. 



But to do something like this in prog, the scope of the composition and especially its vocal melody needs to be really broad, whereas usually it's just a few verses interjected between long interludes. 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote HolyMoly Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 07:45
Can't really give a general answer, sometimes I like it and sometimes I don't.  I guess I like an even mix of composition and improvisation.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote twosteves Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 09:19
I think any good musician will improvise when he can---the groups I love live play around with certain parts to make the live experience "Live"---I'm not talking long improvised solo's--talking about changing things up within the framework of the song and not playing it note for note as recorded.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote chopper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 09:32
Originally posted by Vibrationbaby

Sometimes Rush live bores me to tears because their live performances so much resemble the studio versions.
I have to agree with you there, Peart often even plays the same drum parts as the studio version.s. They're a 3 piece - they should be able to improvise. La Villa Strangiato is begging to be improvised on!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Vibrationbaby Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 09:40
When I was in high school I played in the stage band. I would double on tuba and electric bass guitar sometimes during rehearsals I would jump on the drum kit as well. We had this really talented piano player named Andrea who had been playing since she was in diapers. But she stuck to the sheet music while I was making up my own parts. She had the bass lines to play with her left hand and she would always complain that I was throwing her off. She would always have the sheet music in front of her. Because of her rigid training she didn't really know what improvising was. She hated my guts. I really felt sorry for her. But the last I heard she went on to be a successful concert pianist. I guess I'm happy for her. I wonder if she remembers me and if she learned anything from me.
                
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Vibrationbaby Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 09:46
Originally posted by chopper

Originally posted by Vibrationbaby

Sometimes Rush live bores me to tears because their live performances so much resemble the studio versions.
I have to agree with you there, Peart often even plays the same drum parts as the studio version.s. They're a 3 piece - they should be able to improvise. La Villa Strangiato is begging to be improvised on!

This has been my ongoing argument about Peart. He does the same sh*t over and over and over. Why can't he do a differeny solo once in a while? When I was in the air force sometimes I would have to demonstrate the jet at airshows and would never stick to the program and caught a lot of sh*t for it. 
                
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Guldbamsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 10:23
I guess it's all down to who's doing it and the delivery itself. I'm a huge Krautrock fan, and while I wouldn't in a million years call this brand of music prog - it still remains one of the most progressive takes on rock music imo. Krautrock practically emerged from improvisation. It's the core of something like 99% of the early pioneers.
Yeti by Amon Düül ll fx features long freestyled jams that seem to have purpose and orchestrated powers, without ever having been written down beforehand. Personally I feel Yeti is one of the best examples of improvisation in rock bar none. The instrumentation is almost at a metaphysical level.

I also agree with those who've said that improvisation on stage is key to a successful gig. Be that ulterior drumming fills, prolonged sections and guitar solos where there shouldn't be any - give me some mo please! 

Lastly, all music comes from some form of improv - never forget that. It comes from playing around with notes and moods, and then at some point sowing things up nicely to form a piece of patterned sound.  
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The.Crimson.King Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 10:56
I think there's three types of improv in prog that are great.  

First, the King Crimson style where the entire piece is an improv by the whole band.  To pull that off you have to have musicians of the highest caliber who can both improvise, and stay in tune with the other players improvisation so they can add to the overall sound of the piece.  This is clearly the riskiest type of improv with the highest degree of difficulty and can easily turn into pointless noodling in less skillful hands.

Second, a band improv that yields a piece of music that they later turn into a song.  The first example that springs to mind is "Dance on a Volcano" that was born out of a jam, then structured into a coherent composition.

Third, improv of a guitar/keyboard/sax/whatever solo.  This is a staple of live music and keeps the songs from becoming stale and worn.  There are some solos that need to be played note perfect because they're tied to the structure of the song, (I'm thinking of Tony Banks synth solos on "In the Cage", "Colony of Slippermen", "Riding the Scree", etc) but usually it's built into the song that the solo is meant to be expanded on or changed...I want to hear the soloists skill in creating something new rather than just repeating licks like a jukebox.  Can you imagine Steve Howe playing the final solo in Starship Trooper note perfect to the studio version every night?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote CPicard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 11:41
Being used to free form music, I wouldn't mind some bands to be more adventurous on stage - or just trying not to sound like the records! I LOVE Iron Maiden, but I've always been puzzled (and a bit disappointed, too) hearing the guitarists playing their solos like on the records note by note...

Furthermore, since many progressive bands not only listened to classical European music, but also Jazz and even "classical" Indian music, one could expect to hear some musicians improvising: after all, Steve Howe was interviewed by free jazz guitarist Derek Bailey for a book about improvisation.

There were also bands like Henry Cow or This Heat which could rearrange their songs in drastic ways, if not taking the "risk" to try free improvisations without any pre-determined theme or rhythm (going further than King Crimson, by the way...)
So, I'm always a bit disappointed to hear bands playing on stage the same stuff that they played in studio: if a concert is just a mean to promote a record, then they could just have a "meet and greet" event!
They could even do the same thing as Kate Bush or the Sisters of Mercy around 1987-88: shoot videos instead of touring (okay, I may begin to sound a bit harsh...)

But, on the other hand, when a band touring for 40 years try to play most of its standards or hits, I can understad that the musicians "stick to the book" - otherwise, their concerts would last 3 or 4 hours! Just imagine Yes or Genesis playing two or three 20-minutes epics and a dozen of 5-minutes songs...
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Nogbad_The_Bad Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 11:48
Needs to be the right setting, if its Fusion, Krautrock, Electronic, Avant or King Crimson it seems to work really well. I can imagine Ozrics improvising to their hearts content and it fitting beautifully to their style.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Vibrationbaby Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 12:12
Or The Grateful Dead. Could you imagine a grateful Dead concert without well, firstly drugs and then improvisation. I think this short vid explains the whole Krautrock mindset .


I love the parts with Renate. She says they were doing crazy things on Phallus Dei. I wouldn't have known.


Edited by Vibrationbaby - August 09 2013 at 12:18
                
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Horizons Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 12:13
I rather have bands rip off from classical work and play keybaord solos all day long. note for note


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