An important part of developing your musical skill lies greatly in the ability to improvise. In fact, improvisation allows musicians to engage their feelings with rhythms, explore different ideas, and contribute their art to the world. When you improvise, you create opportunities to evolve and innovate. This is one reason why there are so many different music genres today, from country, jazz, and blues to rock ‘n roll, ska, and hip-hop.  

We’ve gathered a list of famous quotes about musical improvisation. Read on and find the inspiration you need to grow your musical improv skills.

1. “Improvisation is…”

“Improvisation is the expression of the accumulated yearnings, dreams, and wisdom of the soul.” – Yehudi Menuhin

Improvisation encourages creativity. It’s an outlet for personal expression. It’s the way to develop and differentiate yourself from others. Think about phenomenal artists such as Leonard Cohen, Prince, and the Beatles: each of them has a distinctive style and a unique voice – and that’s exactly why we love them.

2. “Free improvisation…”

“Free improvisation, in addition to being a highly skilled musical craft, is open to use by almost anyone – beginners, children, and non-musicians.” – Derek Bailey

Like the freedom of improvisation itself, entrance to the world of improvisation is also free. Regardless of your age, experience, skill, background or occupation, you can improvise with whatever is available.

3. “I’ll play it first…”

“I’ll play it first and tell you what it’s called later.” – Miles Davis

Improvisation should be about exploration and invention, rather than boundary and accuracy. Don’t put things into boxes. Let your creativity soar.

4. “…I like the improvisation of jazz…”

“And more than anything, I like the improvisation of jazz. That’s the same thing with DJ-ing. There’s so much improvisation you can do with cuttin’ and scratchin’ that’s reminiscent of jazz music, because it’s all about how you feel. You’re capturing a vibe and just going with it.” – DJ Jazzy Jeff

Play your feelings. All else is secondary.

5. “How you play a note…”

“How you play a note is just as important as what the note is.” – Henry Kaiser

Sometimes, when we put too much emphasis on getting the right note, we forget to communicate with it. Learning how to improvise is how you can stay connected with the music you play.

6. “Composing will always be a memory of inspiration…”

“Composing will always be a memory of inspiration; improvising is live inspiration, something happening at that very moment. Do not fear mistakes. There are none.” – Miles Davis

We really love Miles Davis’ wisdom. (Can you tell? He’s mentioned in our list twice!) Improvising keeps you in the “now”. Mistakes are celebrated. Without them, there’s no growth.  

7. “Improvisation should be at the core…”

“Improvisation should be at the core of the music curriculum.
 It should come first 
and should remain at the core of music education
 throughout the later years of increasing expertise. 
Musicians educated with improvisation at the center 
will have a better-developed ability to think musically
 – to deeply understand music 
as well as be better prepared to interpret written scores.” – R. Keith Sawyer

The ability to try out ideas freely is the secret to growing and polishing your own voice as a musician.

8. “Improvisation is the only artform…”

“Improvisation is the only artform in which the same note can be played night after night but differently each time. It is the hidden things, the subconscious that lets you know you feel this, you play this.” – Ornette Coleman

More of you will come out every time you improvise. New patterns of thinking will open up.  

9. “I don’t put boundaries on myself…”

I don’t put boundaries on myself when I sit at the piano.” – Vanessa Carlton

There’s no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to improvisation, just the free, musical YOU.

10. “What we play…”

“What we play is life.” – Louis Armstrong

Ultimately, we are the music we create.


Great improvising skills take practice. But once you’ve learned to openly express yourself and to not worry about making mistakes, you’ll be exposed to new patterns and innovative ideas. This will enable you to play with anyone and create interesting, inspiring music.


What’s your favourite quote about musical improvisation?

Share with us in the comments!