Today on the show we have the pleasure of interviewing one of our favourite people in the world of music education, Jeffrey Agrell. He has pioneered a game-based approach to learning improvisation and written 9 books on the topic, including “Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians” which by itself features over 500 games you can use to learn to improvise in an easy and enjoyable way.

Jeffrey was a professional French horn player, to the level of becoming a college professor in horn at the University of Iowa in 2000 – before realising that his heart just wasn’t in it for years and decades of repeating the same classical music repertoire and performances. That led to his exploring and developing ways for classical music players to begin improvising, not by switching their attention to jazz, but in ways that were fully compatible with their classical music perspective but set them free of the sheet music.

When we interviewed Jeffrey for back in 2016, we called the post “Game Your Way To Impressive Improvising” – because we wanted to make the point that a game-based approach to learning to improvise is not just a frivolous way to have fun but a highly effective way to learn to improvise. Improvising is not a distraction or diversion from becoming a great musician, but in fact could be a critical and generally-missing part of it.

Jeffrey is a master of metaphors and analogies and this conversation is packed with taxi drivers, fish on bicycles, talking babies, brontosaurus anatomy, 10,000 eggs and more. He paints vivid pictures of the limitations and problems with traditional classical music training and what learning to improvise can look like.

He shares:

  • A simple idea and range of examples of how you can transform practicing scales into something enjoyable, creative, and ultimately even more effective for improving your technique.
  • Exactly how much theory knowledge, instrument technique and aural skills are required to improvise music.
  • How and why to learn improv with a musical friend, even if neither of you have any knowledge or experience of improvisation before starting.

Whatever your relationship with improvising, whether non-existent or highly developed, you’re going to discover some fresh inspiration and guidance in this episode for how to more fully express the musician you have inside through the art of improvisation.

Watch the episode:

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Jeffrey Agrell, pioneer of a game-based approach to improvisation, teaches how and why to learn improv - and how much theory and technique are required.