Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter overviews the process of improvisation, emphasizing that there has been a dramatic increase of interest around improvisation over the past twenty years. Improvisation is conceptualized as a real-time compositional and decision-making process that is uniquely collaborative, creative, and universally accessible. It is also proposed as a defining aspect of music making. The chapter draws parallels between what might be called everyday improvising, such as turn taking in conversations, and the musical improvising that may take place during the performance of a jazz standard. An overview of ethnographic and cognitive studies is presented. Issues around identities and improvisation are also foregrounded alongside a series of studies investigating how musicians talk
about improvising, and in particular how musicians make decisions about what to play when improvising. A case is made for broadening the definition of musical virtuosity to include new virtuosities: social, creative, collaborative, and listening virtuosities. Techniques such as graphic scores, improvised conduction, and text-based approaches are proposed as ways of developing proficiencies and confidence in improvisation. The chapter also suggests that learning to improvise fosters the development of transferable skills,The ability to collaborate, co-operate, compromise, and help reach solutions quickly.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Music Performance, Volume 1
EditorsGary McPherson
Place of PublicationNYC
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9780190056285
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

Publication series

NameOxford Handbooks


  • improvisation
  • new virtuosities
  • identity
  • collaboration
  • creativity


Dive into the research topics of 'Improvisation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • Identity and the performing musician

    Oakland, J. & MacDonald, R., 2022, (Accepted/In press) The Oxford Handbook of Music Performance, Volume 1 . MacPherson, G. (ed.). 1 ed. NYC: Oxford University Press, Vol. 1. 19 p. (Oxford Handbooks).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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