While working at the Sibelius Academy in 2001 with eight other people, three of whom were teachers and five students, the musician and researcher Arja Joukamo Ampuja designed a questionnaire called “Creative Musicianship”. In response, the participants interviewed mainly spoke about positive experiences from the “Creative Musicianship Skills” course; in the interview they agreed that it increased creativity and expression as a musician. From this they acquired new skills and they enhanced their ability to interacting with a group. Also, during the course the participants gained a feeling of security and acceptance within the group, and they became free to experience and try out new things without fear.

According to Ampuja (Sibelius Academy in 2001), improvisation needs to be a regular practice, one that should also be done by classical musicians so they can increase their confidence and learn to accept mistakes. She claims that despite many classical musicians being unfamiliar with improvisation, its positive effect still need to be explored.




Freedom and spontaneity. Playing music without the written score releases our inhibitions about “wrong notes” and “perfect performances.”

Jane Buttars

The benefits of improvisations according to Jane Buttars are:

  • Connection. Improvising provides a direct, intimate connection between our emotions and feelings, our instrument, and the world of sound and music.


  • Opening our ears. Research has shown that while reading music, as well as words, our other senses function at 20% capacity. Playing without score makes listen deeply on what we are playing. We expand our inner ear and aural memory.


  • A composer’s perspective. Inventing our own music help us on the compositional process and unconsciously use tools from the pieces we played on our classical repertoire, as well as to understand more the feelings of the composer and what he wanted from the piece.


  • Confidence. A rewarding improvisation shows us that music belongs to us, not only to other composers or performers. It help us to find our own voices and movements and makes us identify as a total musician.


  • Complete learning. We understand fully such theoretical concepts as harmony, tonality, and form when we create music using these concepts, that will help on a written piece to understand better what it is going on to harmonically to interpret correctly the piece.


  • Reducing performance anxiety. The ability to listen in the moment, and the awareness to act and react spontaneously help us to focus during performance, and give us the hability to play more free.


  • Physical self-discovery. It is easier to descover some unknown technical problems playing our music because we develop higher awareness on our physical sensations. It helps to know better our instrument in the way of exploring the limits in all the range of our instrument, as the volume, the posture… and be more aware of our physical position.


  • Emotional and physical release and fulfillment. Expressing our feelings through the instrument we love brings calmness, openness, a meditative focus and improved concentration.


  • Authentic performance. The ability to express our emotions sincerely through sound, it is learned by the improvisation as well, and this emotion is more touching for the audience.


  • Enlivening composed repertoire. When we record a simple improvisation, write it down, then play it from score, we realize at once the nuances impossible to include in notation. Improvisation shows us sound possibilities beyond the written markings.


  • Quality rather than quantity. In the improvisation we focus on simplifying the material, that sometimes what it sound at the end is more important than playing as a robot what is written in the score.
  • Current music performance skills. Makes us feel more comfortable in our skills and prepare us for playing contemporary classical compositions, and relate it to popular idioms, world music, jazz, which use improvisation techniques.


  • Physical challenges. Improvisation provides a meaningful musical experience when we have hand and arm injuries, or visual impairments. It allows us to play music with confortable conditions than when we read from the score.


  • Teaching techniques. Improvisation opens a whole world of options and reach to learn different styles of music and techniques.


  • Discovering our own voice. Regularly inventing our own music builds our musical vocabulary and shows us our own unique style. Improvising reveals our hidden talents and creative abilities in other instruments, the voice, composition, and other arts.

Richard Barrett in his Research “Making in Music” says that “everyone involved in improvisational practice can be led to a deeper understanding of music in general and one’s own specialization in particular - whether these generally involve improvisation or indeed performance, or not”. […]


The theatre is one of the disciplines that includes and works with free improvisation. The theatre always helps to define and address such problems ass well as including dance and movement, as in the Magpie Music and Dance Company. Visual artists can get inspiration from the movement and the music. In addition is the literature and story telling, where an example would be the lyrics in jazz music.


Free improvisation is a method of creating a style, structure, and material from nothing made up before hand, and is often done individually or with a group. It is music created by spontaneous actions and reactions that develops the musical material and create an original sort of music; any sound may be combined with any other, without any dependence on received ideas about which sound necessarily fit best with others’ perspective which, as in traditional harmony combined with rhythmical thinking, allows for free encounters between sounds; ones that take place without being agreed upon in advance. Here everyone can become a composer, a work of free improvisation is thus not anymore a piece by one person or wrote for others to play. Instead, it exists as a type of music that can be determined by several composers who help to create a wide range of collaborative situations with other composers; a situation which understands the possible relationship that can be personally brought forward and can furthermore allow one to explore creativity and on one’s own instrument more deeply.

As Marcel Cobussen says: 

Improvised music it is not a simple and spontaneous action, but an interactive event between humans with multiple perspectives; thus, it contributes to provide us, not only with alternative ideas on ethics and morality, but also with concrete suggestions on ethics and moral behaviour.


In this way, every improvisation that comes from a musician, is on one hand being based on his/her personal and cultural story, and on the hand it is a structural evolution of a particular freely improvised composition. Moreover, playing with other people is a way to exchange this cultural music to approach other forms of music-making.


Additionally, the term free improvisation does not mean that everyone can just do whatever they want; it is free music, however, there are consequences for the other players involved, or, in my case, for the dancers who I was also playing with. This is because any kind of freedom comes with responsibility. And the freer we are, the more responsibility we have towards others. In short, everyone has to be able to take care and to ensure the freedom of others. This is something that, of course, I needed to practice.


In line with this, Jane Buttars suggests in her Piano Wellness Seminars and Workshops (2017) that many classical players, create sound from silence, from their own inner ears, without any specific reference to a composed piece, and this is, for them, a totally new experience. Buttars states that, when doing her improvisation sessions, a common exclamation she hears from beginning improvisers is, “I don’t know what to play!”. Buttars arrived at the conclusion that some of us respond better to more structure and traditional playing and are intimidated by the unknown. On the other hand, others feel restricted because their response depends on their mood on that day. For this reason, she suggests to set up just enough structure to inspire exploration but continue having spontaneity. For her, sometimes limits can help us to leave our comfort zone. For instance, she says that “If freedom is lost, however, by our preoccupation with a specific rhythm, form, or style, then we must return to less heady ideas to keep heart, ears, body, and mind in balance.”

Some tips Buttars gives in this same article is to start with free improvisation in the following way: “Breathe. Trust your intuition. Listen deeply and the music will tell you where to go next. One note is enough. There are no wrong notes—only missed opportunities. Don’t think; let your muse take over. Silence is your friend. Play, enjoy your sense of humour, have fun.”

Similarly, Richard Barrett also writes this about his daily life as a musician:

My activity in the free improvisation is an integrated part of my practice as a creative musician. It is a way to make interconnections that are not based in the traditional categories, particularly when electronic instruments are involved and indeed developing this in ways afresh for each instrumentation, perhaps for each performance.