Thinking Outside the Pattern-Based Box in Jazz Improvisation

Ori Yossef, Roni Granot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Jazz improvisation has long been considered an art form centered around creativity: To successfully improvise in the genre, one must play creatively, while adhering to the stylistic traits of the jazz genre. The classic methods of teaching jazz improvisation lean, in one way or another, on pattern-based learning. Relying on patterns ensures “appropriate” improvisation but is insufficient for creating a successful solo. In this research, we conducted semi-structured interviews with jazz educators to understand how they address the tension between pattern-based teaching and cultivating improvisational creativity. Our analysis of the interviews revealed several themes. Here we focus on exercises the teachers give to their students that constrain the student in her use of the different musical elements. This was done either through musical repetition (exact repetition of a phrase, or one that changes the phrase over time), or through constraining specific musical elements such as the rhythm, melody, number of tones per bar, etc. We posit that these exercises could help students through reduction of cognitive and attentional load and by better defining a musical goal. We claim that methods combining pattern-based learning and constraining exercises will help cultivate the combination of the creative elements, which create the creative solo.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)64-81
Number of pages18
JournalJazz Education in Research and Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2023

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