Improvisation – Module 1


‘I want to be a better improvisor’ is on of the most common requests I have from students. This course teaches you the basics of improvisation. After completing it you will be much more confident at improvising in front of others, you might even be brave enough to take part in a jam session!


The Chicken

One of my favourite tunes to play when I was in college was ‘The Chicken’ by Jaco Pastorius. It has since become a favourite of many of my students, in particular when I worked with jazz ensembles of any age group.

The ‘Lick’

‘Licks’ are an important part of any improvisors vocabulary. When travelling in a foreign country if you don’t speak the local language you will often carry a ‘phrase’ book so that you can communicate with the locals.

Virtual DJ

Virtual DJ is one of those pieces of software that I use an incredible amount. It is a free piece of software for desktop or laptop computers and makes transcribing SO much easier!

Applying a ‘Hip Lick’

Learning ‘licks’ is a great way to learn the vocabulary of Jazz. If you want to learn to improvise well, you need to play musical phrases that fit the framework (usually harmonic) to which the music has been set.

ii V Licks over Blues

In this lesson I show you how to insert a ii V Lick into a 12 bar blues. One of the most common problems that people have when improvising is getting lost. Keeping track of the form and the ‘changes’ is one of the most challenging aspects when your improvising over multiple chords.

Applying a Minor Lick from Stan Getz

Here is a lesson that could be placed in at least three courses on Cambridge Saxophone. It deals with the Minor Pentatonic, it is derived from our ‘Girl from Ipanema’ Transcription Project and it will help you to be a better improvisor over Minor chords.

Major 7ths over Minor Chords

Here is a great idea for changing the harmonic feel of any chord. Starting on the root of chords is quite boring and doesn’t create much harmonic interest to the listener. ‘Flipping’ the harmony to a different type of chord whilst staying on the chord tones is a great way to create interest.


Dan Forshaw

I'm passionate about creating inspirational experiences through music and other arts. A life changing experience under the influence of the music of John Coltrane lead to study in New York and London. My thesis was on the Theology of John Coltrane as expressed through A Love Supreme. I perform across Europe with various jazz groups and teach through my innovative website, I'm a total Apple Geek, Cricket, Rugby, F1 and Football fan and I'm learning to listen opinions before giving my own!