I am looking for improvisation theory ressources. I mainly focus on free jazz and improvised music but I am also interested in dance, drama and pictural improvisation. I want to know if a classification of interactions in an improvisation group already exists.

Every book, talk, thesis, documentary or article are very welcome, do not hesitate to submit your thoughts about this subject.

  • 2
    Can you add some more criteria, and give us an idea of your current abilities? As-is I can see you getting a list of vague answers. – user28 Sep 12 '11 at 15:30
  • @MatthewRead You are right, I am working on a graphic vocabulary in order to extand the improvisation field for a graphic performance. – rooofl Sep 27 '11 at 15:11

There are theories that apply to more than one of 'improvised music ... dance, drama and pictural improvisation':

excerpts from the above links:

"The main ingredients of improvisation ...

  • Presence and projection are the premises of trust and collaboration. Commit.
  • Improvisers are sponges feeding on their surroundings. Listen.
  • The best ... tend to emerge between - rather than within - people. Adjust."

"The process can become effortless with practice but without listening there is nothing to adjust to. ... Listening gives them a common space in which to play. Without commitment, there is no one to listen to ... Improvisation requires players to engage fully with each other."

"In any ... combinations ... , some aspects or elements will sound more prominent while others will seem to recede. We use the spatial terms foreground, middleground and background to help us differentiate the various elements ... can constantly change and shift. They do not necessarily have to be fixed."

"A pecking order is the stabilised ranking of individuals in a given social group. The agreement save the time and energy [that] would otherwise be spent on conflicts over access to ressources and privilege. ... The notion is relevant to improvisers on many levels: ... As a person ... As a player ... As a character ... As a storyteller"

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Jamey Abersold is an acknowleged master teacher in this area. Read his free handbook:


It contains a lot of foundational music theory but there's also a lot of his philosophy on jazz, improvisation, and music in general.

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Do you know about "Improvising Jazz" by Jerry Coker ? Also by the same author: "The Complete Method for Improvisation".

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There is another book by John Mehegan titled "Improvising, Jazz Piano". It covers a lot of musical theory but sets an starting point to start improvising.

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On the academic research side of things, the journal Perspectives of New Music1 from time to time publishes articles on improvisation.

A few examples for you to look at and see if they fit what you're looking for or warrant further searching:

1Disclosure: I have professional involvement with the journal.

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