The thing about music is it needs to be played, and heard, and played some more.
I went to Paris because I wanted to play.
All through my life I learnt pieces from books, analysed harmonies, took exams and once in a while played for an audience. This is the general protocol for classical musicians in our country. But along with all of this, I did something more. I listened to a lot of jazz.
Even though I simply enjoyed listening to jazz, it seemed like a mystery to me. I wondered ‘how do these musicians play the way they do?’ Their instruments and their playing styles were just an extension of their personality. They spoke their minds with every chorus they improvised on. And all this seemed to come as naturally to them, as having conversations. Conversations so radical, they took me by awe each time I heard them and each time made me wonder, how!
I went ahead and decided to ‘learn’ how to improvise. I wanted to be able to speak through my playing. Express. Take existing ideas and experiment with them. Come up with new ideas.
I realised most jazz musicians and teachers in our country are self taught. So there isn’t a clear structure to their method.
After going to Paris, I realised improvising isn’t such a mysterious thing after all. There are several tools one can use to master it. And moreover, the teachers at Bill Evans Piano Academy emphasised on going out there and playing. Playing for an audience or for one’s self, playing with people or by one’s self.
They advised me to set aside some time to practise technique and different elements one can use to improvise and use sometime in every practice session, to just play.
Now this may seem vague. So if I were to draw a parallel to this, it would mean, a student trying to learn how to speak in English should set aside sometime to practise spellings, grammar, reading, writing, listening and all those things. But it’s equally important for that student to just speak!
So to sum up my experience in a nutshell, Paris has helped me ‘unravel the mystery’ behind improvisation. It’s helped me find a voice of my own which I think is necessary for every musician or artist for that matter.
And most importantly, it’s taught me to have fun with the music I play.
Because like one of the teachers at BEPA said, “It’s important to have fun!”