Practical Improvisation Workshop

Laurie ReeseImprovisation is fun! Often musicians find improvisation difficult or intimidating, hard to get started on. The Practical Improvisation workshops introduce this topic in an easy to understand way, guiding students to accomplish this musical language easily. This workshop introduces students to the joy of music improvisation. Using easy to understand exercises, even timid musicians are able to improvise using these methods & ideas.

Led by improvising cellist Laurie Haines Reese, the Practical Improvisation Workshop is for beginning to intermediate musicians who want to learn how to improvise on their instrument. This is an easy to follow session, using language all musicians can understand. The level progresses in difficulty as the students are ready. Using rhythms and simple melodic figures, ideas are generated and played by all participants in a success-building flow.

Open to string players of all ages & instruments — no experience necessary

Sheet Music available

Tunes include Irish jigs, jazz swing tunes and others. Please visit our download page to view and print the files used in the class. Several versions of each tune can most likely be found on YouTube. If you can’t find a song, let me know and I may be able to help.


We have informal meetings scheduled on demand. The next session is open for registration. Course content is developed for age and skill levels of the students. All ages & levels (beginner to advanced).

Cost is $35 per session, at The Lancaster Conservatory of Music, 940 Marshall Ave, Lancaster, PA  17604. If you are bringing a youngster, there is a lovely waiting room if you want to wait, or lots of shopping and restaurants nearby.

For musicians on all string instruments (for other instruments, please let us know which instrument in the Comments section).


Methods of Improvisation

We cover methods of improvisation, history, theory, composition, an overview of jazz, blues, bluegrass & other improvisational music, with an in-depth look at the various styles of jazz and the modes used in improvisation. The importance of improvised music as well as written music is discussed. Basic listening skills are taught, including recognizing how different modes and chord structures effect emotional and physiological responses. Students learn basic jazz harmony, theories & terminology, and symbols for notation, including Major 7th chords, Minor 7th chords, and more. Advanced harmonies will be discussed, depending on level of class.


Practical Improvisation includes the history and evolution of the idiom from early 20th Century to present. Students will listen to vintage recordings, as well as stylistic examples played by the instructors. We’ll look at how improvisation is included in bluegrass, folk, jazz, rock & roll, avant-garde, and even Baroque music.

Fundamentals of Improvisation

Students will learn the fundamentals of improvisation by playing over rhythmic patterns typical of jazz idioms (swing, jazz waltz, latin, funk/rock, etc.). Students will analyze entire chord progressions and identify the appropriate mode to be used with each individual chord. Achieving a full understanding of the modes & scales and how to use them gives students the foundation to play improvised solos that appropriately outline all the harmonic implications of a given piece (i.e., “playing the changes”).


Short term goals are to develop appreciation for improvised music in both young musician and listener, and to give music students basic improvisational skills. Long term goals include self-expression through improvisation, greater artistic awareness, and understanding the creative process. Students will develop the tools needed to succeed as a professional jazz musician.  This workshop will help to produce better local jazz players and a greater awareness of the idiom, thereby producing more support for jazz events. By studying the history of jazz, we see how it mirrors the prevailing cultural events and attitudes of each era.

This workshop will create an awareness of improvisational styles among musicians and listeners. In addition, it will aid in developing the musical skills needed for professional performance.

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