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  • Fe Robinson

Do you have a structure to improvise within?

I've been reflecting on the perceived opposite of discipline and spontaneity this week.

On the surface, it can seem as if having structure and the discipline to stick to it can be the enemy of being free and spontaneous. Different people have different preferences in this regard, some mostly love the rhythm of predictability and find comfort in the repetition of the same activities in the same time-frames. Others may predominantly prefer to be unstructured and to feel free to choose what to do when, unfettered by routine or consistent rhythm.

It made me smile to recall the time, many years ago, when an NLP teacher invited me to learn how to improvise. I was a skilled saxophonist, who to that point had chosen to play only classical music, revelling in the opportunity to interpret and bring to life other's melodies rather than to create my own.

My perception of improvisation, of spontaneity, was one of a big empty space, an emptiness I somehow had to fill. It was terrifying!

Imagine my bemusement then when I had a lesson from a jazz musician and discovered I needed to learn a whole lot more music theory, and that there was a lot of thinking involved in improvising. I discovered a world far more structured than the classical one I had ventured out from.

My learning was that to be free to express myself there was a structure that helped me to be both melodic and to harmonise with others. To share a sense of being in rhythm and to have coherence that underlying structure was crucial.

I came to know that there is no freedom without discipline, and vice versa. They are not opposites, they are mutually supportive and complementary concepts.

Want to feel free to do what you want and feel good? Then put in place the self care structures that will keep you well, and then make music in the freedom you create.


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