by Dave Frank:

JoyOfImprov was written to serve the needs of aspiring improvisors, who generally fall into one of two groups, independent of culture, instrument or style:

1 Those who have had a traditional or classical background exclusively, or
2 Those who have had some foundation level training and/or improv experience.

JoyOfImprov will help students in both groups develop and complete the necessary musical foundation upon which to begin the study of improvisation. It is recommended for any musician, playing any instrument, who has had 1-2 years experience playing in any style, and who has some music reading experience. In the JoyOfImprov, having a good ear can compensate for a slower music reading ability, because all the lessons are recorded on the CD’s.

Book One begins the Foundation Level. It focuses on developing basic technique, common chord voicings, basic chord progressions, and the swing feel. With Book One, you will acquire a basic vocabulary for improvisation through the study of Blues and Jazz lines.

Book Two extends and completes the Foundation Level work begun in Book One. It includes instruction in advanced technique, advanced voicings, and contains more technically challenging lines.

For those with a traditional background, the JoyOfImprov can serve as a bridge to another dimension of playing, and for those with some foundational training and/or improv experience, it can serve to fill in many conscious or unconscious musical gaps. Such gaps in theory, technique, or ear-training act as blocks to the creative process,and impede the flow of improvisation. Once your foundation is complete, the process of improvisation can develop freely, and an unlimited source of musical ideas can begin to flow through you.

JoyOfImprov can also be useful for advanced students of improvisation; many of the exercises, lines, voicings, and concepts will serve to strengthen various aspects of playing, and provide clues and spurs to further development.

We hope that the JoyOfImprov series serves as an important key to begin to unlock your creativity, and that it will lead you to discover the joy of improvisation!

How the JoyOfImprov came to be:
by John Amaral:

As a Berklee College of Music colleague, Dave’s playing struck me as extraordinary among extraordinary musicians. He has monster technical chops and is in touch with a boundless source of improvisatory energy. We did a little demo recording, and it became lodged in my mind to find out from him who his teachers had been. I was not surprised to learn that among his primary teachers were Lennie Tristano and Charlie Banacos.

Even as far away as California, where I grew up, I had heard about a phenomenal teacher of improvisation based in New York City who was harmonically ahead of just about everyone; a player’s player and a teacher’s teacher who was supposed to have had secret techniques for unlocking a student’s musical gifts. I am a collector of such techniques, and Dave’s stories about Lennie’s methods did not disappoint me. In the JoyOfImprov are published for the first time two of Lennie’s most useful teaching methods: singing along with master solos, and the comping chord lists.

I was also not surprised that Dave was studying with Charlie Banacos, another legendary teacher, who has generously acted as an advisor to the project on various matters.

I have enjoyed working with Dave in distilling 25 years of his teaching; I believe that we have created a succinct, friendly presentation that will delight students of improvisation everywhere.

Benefits of JoyOfImprov

JoyOfImprov™ is a 12 to 24 month foundation course for music improvisation on all instruments.

The 52 lessons emphasize practice rather than theory. As a preparation for music improvisation, it strengthens all aspects of playing, including technique, theory and ear training. Based on many years of study of the methods of master teachers, and further research, development and testing with hundreds of students, JOI™ has been organized for beginning and intermediate players, where "beginning" is defined as having some basic music reading skills, and at least a year of experience playing any musical style, or a player of one instrument who wants to play another.

Improvisation is the creation of new music; the spontaneous expression of the depth and variety of human emotion. The JoyOfImprov provides a clear, practical program for the study of improvisation, and develops all the foundational abilities needed to improvise in the Blues and Jazz idioms, but is not limited to these styles. The course simultaneously develops various aspects of playing: technique, theory, ear training, and time feel. Such a balanced approach will lead to the synthesis of your musical skills, so that improvisation proceeds as a natural impulse.

The JoyOfImprov Foundation Level ( Books One, Two, Three and Four) imparts a solid basis in technique, rhythm, chord theory, ear training, and improv concepts. At the end of the Foundation Level, you will have an innate understanding of how the basics interconnect, as well as the experience of the real-time synthesis of feeling, hearing, and playing. You will accomplish this goal through a combination of the material in the lessons and the InnerEar™ Chord and Line Methods introduced in the text. JOI has been designed for players of all instruments and vocalists as well.

Books Three and Four are a supplement to Books One and Two containing transpositions of the JOI Blues and Jazz Tunes for Bass, Guitar/Flute, and Bf/Ef instruments. Thus, players of all instruments can participate in the JoyOfImprov, whether in ensemble, or alone.

Tools for further development of improvisational and technical skills are available to continue the process begun in the Foundation Level (see "Where to Go From Here").

JoyOfImprov can provide the basis for classroom, ensemble, and private lesson programs, and as a player’s aid for rusty chops! The consistent format of each lesson may be easily adapted for class or individual assignment, and will provide a balanced program for improving many aspects of playing as a preparation for improvisation.

Important notes about the notation:
The notation used in the JoyOfImprov is compatible with traditional music studies. A key signature-less format is used in most of the studies, which is intended to make the learning process more direct. Courtesy accidentals are used to help clarify the tonality.

Key signatures are used in special instances (ie: some voicing exercises) where their omission would result in crowding the music too much with accidentals. In the voicing exercises, non-key signature accidentals apply to each chord separately.

In the Jazz Solo Patterns, Blues and Tunes, basic seventh chord symbols have been used wherever possible; tensions are indicated primarily when they are not expected in the tonality or for color chords at the end of a piece. Chord symbols such as Eb/G, indicate that G is the bass note.

Introduction to Book One
Every human being has the potential to improvise music! Within you, an infinite stream of music can flow, as endless as an ocean and as individual as a fingerprint. The creative possibilities within even the simplest musical forms are limitless; these infinite possibilities exist at your fingertips, awaiting your discovery! The ability to improvise will open the door to a lifetime of creative fulfillment and artistic expression.

Improvisation has been an integral part of many musical traditions. Many of the great composers in the Western musical tradition were also great improvisers. (Until the 1800’s, improvisation was an expected part of any performance.) Indian and other world musical traditions place a great importance on improvisation as a means of emotional and spiritual expression. With the advent of Jazz and Blues, the art of improvisation has once again become a vital force in the Western musical tradition, and musicians worldwide are seeking the tools to help develop their improv potential.

For those of us who have had a traditional background, the emphasis has been on interpreting the works of Beethoven, Bach, etc. Improvisation, on the other hand, is more akin to being Beethoven, than it is to playing Beethoven! The JoyOfImprov will help you break free because in this approach, the emphasis is placed on the process of creation rather than on the attainment of a perfect performance.

Improvisation unifies feeling, hearing and playing as an expression of your heart, ears and hands. It’s the simultaneous action of your spirit, mind and body, energized by inspiration, joy and swing. The source of the music is found within you, rather than on the printed page. Improv is about breaking free from pre-composed music, in order to express your own feelings, with your own musical voice. It is the joy of creativity expressed in the spark of the present moment, the


Improvising is a natural human impulse in which we tap into our own limitless supply of original music. It is a process which can be learned by anyone, not just those that seem to possess a natural gift for it. While the impulse to improvise is natural, the realization of this ability can be complex. What is needed to address this complexity is a method; an approach which develops the special abilities required to access and express your musical identity. A strong foundation, including ear training, technique and theory is necessary before the freedom to improvise can truly be realized. The first Books of the JoyOfImprov are designed to develop this foundation, in order to help you make the transition from the interpretive world of a traditional musician, to the creative world of a player.