In these entries, I will be referring to improvisation in a jazz context, but I have used many of these concepts while playing in other styles, and I have used things I have learned studying other styles in jazz. All things in music are connected. If you can’t accept that concept, you probably have no business improvising.
#1 – Licks and Such Tricks
Pros: easily quantifiable, a huge number of resources available for learning new licks, increasing theory knowledge can increase the mileage a single lick gets significantly
Cons: can remove all of the creativity from the music being performed, can make the musician overly predictable and numb to musical interaction between themselves and the other members of the group
Perhaps one of the easiest ways for any musician to begin improvising would be a licks-based approach. This is especially good for musicians who were trained classically before attempting to study improvisation. There are no vague terms, no gray areas about when certain notes work and when they don’t, and no mystical mediation on a mountain to find yourself. Just memorizing and shredding licks in all keys.
If interested in taking a licks-based approach, it requires a basic knowledge of your major and minor scales, as well as the “basic” scale that connects to each of the commonly-used chords (major, minor, dominant, half-diminished, and diminished). These are things you should probably learn for any method of improvising, but not knowing these things will make a licks-based approach much more difficult aside from a few easy tunes in only a few common keys.
Licks can be pulled from recordings you like (of any genre), any books with written music in it, and even any musician friends you have who play the same three things over and over.
1.) “Hip Licks for Saxophone” by Greg Fishman
2.) Transcription Books Like This
3.) YouTube Videos Like This
Sax Meditation: http://pad2.whstatic.com/images/thumb/3/3a/Meditation-1.jpg/251px-Meditation-1.jpg
Bach Shreds: http://www.wnyc.org/i/200/0/c/80/1/bach_bass.jpg
Sax Pic: http://advocacy.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/images/preparation-access/undocumented-students-and-dream-act/sam-profile-undocumented-sax-player/sam.jpg?1363038361
Cantina Band: http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/hmv5xyMyt_w/hqdefault.jpg