Q&A - How quickly should an improviser advance?

Hi David,

I'm currently practicing the IFR exercise Seven Worlds and I'm not sure how much time I should spend in each harmonic environment before advancing to the next. Is there any guideline?

Thank you for all your support.


David's response:

Hi Mike,

This is a tricky question because musical growth is not a linear process. The idea of a linear timetable doesn't really make sense in the arts because our learning is not just about the steady accumulation of knowledge. Musical learning is a much more subjective experience, because ultimately we have to decide for ourselves what's important and what we find beautiful.

drawing of a metronomeYou're going to keep having new insights about all of this material for the rest of your life. The deeper you go, the more vivid the world of harmony becomes. The possibilities are literally infinite, and part of being a creative musician is learning to be at peace with this infinity.

But it's definitely true that experiencing different harmonic environments is an important part of your learning. There are some things that we can only notice after leaving one harmonic environment behind and moving on to another one. Imagine eating nothing but apples your entire life, and then suddenly discovering an orange. In that moment, you understand BOTH apples and oranges much more deeply.

I think the best guideline is to always focus on the sounds that seem the most interesting and beautiful to you right now. Your own curiosity is almost always the best guide because it naturally gravitates toward the lessons that you're ready for right now. As long as these sounds remain interesting and fascinating to you, then just keep exploring them and discovering the music you can make with them.

Then after you've explored these sounds thoroughly and you're craving something new, that's the right moment to move on to the next harmonic environment. But you don't need to be in any rush about it either. Just take pleasure in knowing that IFR gives you a lifelong path of beautiful sounds to explore, so you can just progress at whatever pace is the most rewarding for your own personal creative practice.

Happy exploring,