Impro-Visor Uses

Bob Keller
Harvey Mudd College
Last update: 26 December 2011

  1. The main intended use of Impro-Visor originally was, and still is, to provide a convenient framework in which musicians can improve their understanding of tunes based on chord changes and work out soloing ideas on such tunes. This is done by the soloist writing out his or her own solo, listening to the result, and possibly tweaking it, multiple times.

    Some aids are provided for novice soloists. For example, there is a database of lick ideas and scale suggestions in the advice menu. Note coloration is used to indicate whether notes are consonant with the chord or outside it. A lick generator can be used to create novel ideas that the soloist can adapt to suit.

    It is not necessary that the soloist memorize or play the solo in order to achieve benefit. The thought processes in working out the solo are what matters most. Because Impro-Visor plays each note in its chordal context, the solo writer gets aural as well as visual feedback.

  2. A lot of people use Impro-Visor for play-along, since it can provide backing tracks in the absence of melody. While the sound is not the same as a recording of live musicians, one can get enough of the effect to practice and learn from it. Tempos can be varied easily, and is possible to loop any section of a tune for practice on that section. There is a count-in feature. Also, styles can be varied easily, and it is simple to set transposition for transposing instruments. Here is an example of vibraphonist stefdave using it for Play-along on YouTube.

  3. For personal enjoyment, I sometimes listen to solos I have written in the past. It helps me appreciate ideas I think are good, and also makes me aware of ideas I would not like to repeat. I have several posted as MIDI files on a web page, along with the notation for each. For example, here is a solo on Sam Rivers' tune Beatrice. I have included some choruses where Impro-Visor is generating whole choruses or "trading" fours or twos with me.

  4. For classroom use, I have students write out one or two choruses of a tune currently being studied in the Jazz Improvisation course I teach at Harvey Mudd College. They submit the solos to me via an email (since the solo is captured as a text file). I composite the solos of the entire class into one file with multiple choruses. We play the choruses in class and provide constructive criticism of each other's ideas. Please see Classroom Use for more detail and examples.

  5. Impro-Visor can be used to create exercises, similar to those found in many books, such as jazz patterns books. Then the tool can play along with an instrumentalist or vocalist who is working on those exercises.

  6. As a notation program, Impro-Visor can be used to transcribe solos of other players. Impro-Visor makes it easy to stay "on track" in entering solos by point-and-click compared to other notation programs, as it intentionally supports only a monophonic melody line. One cannot accidentally create chords when notes are intended. Here is an a transcription of Dave Liebman's solos, authorized by him from a book of his transcriptions. Here is an example of an Impro-Visor generated solo from a grammar that Impro-Visor learned from Dave's transcribed solo. Can you detect the stylistic similarities?

  7. Many people are fond of posting their transcriptions on the web, and I do so along with MIDI files that Impro-Visor generates, so that the solo can be heard as well as viewed.

  8. Recording one's own solo using audio recording, then transcribing what was played, can be very instructive. Any audio recording device, or a digital tool such as Audacity, can be used.

  9. Impro-Visor can be used as a composition vehicle, to compose new tunes. I have a few examples of original tunes on the web.

  10. By adjusting the grammar to introduce rests when generating a solo, one can trade fours, eights, etc. with Impro-Visor. By using it in recurrent mode, it will tirelessly trade with the soloist for as many choruses as desired. (It does not react to what the soloist is playing, however.)

  11. By turning off the automatically-generated bassline, one can use Impro-Visor as a vehicle for creating and studying basslines.

  12. Impro-Visor includes a chord-voicing tool, so that the sound of voicings can be studied. New voicings can be introduced using a keyboard tool for entry, which are then used in auto-accompaniment.

  13. At least one other user reports that he uses Impro-Visor for sight-reading exercise. I presume that he has it generate a fresh solo, which he then tries to play. Various parameters can be set to control the range of generated solos, and a forthcoming release will allow other features to be controlled as well.

  14. The textual notation used by Impro-Visor provides an easy way to archive collections of leadsheets and chord changes. The Imaginary Book is one example of this.

  15. Impro-Visor can be used to export MusicXML, which can be read by other music programs.

  16. Impro-Visor can record from a MIDI instrument into an Impro-Visor leadsheet file. This is the least well developed feature at the current time, and quality of results may vary. More work needs to be done in this area. (Note: Count-in does not work properly with MIDI recording.)


Below are list a couple of early references. Please see the main Impro-Visor website for more resources.