Depending upon its sociocultural function, the term improvisation incorporates a multiplicity of musical meanings, behaviors, and practices. A feature common to all improvisation, however, is that the creative decisions of its performers are made within the real time restrictions of performance itself. Improvisation is therefore considered to be a performance art par excellence, requiring not only a lifetime of preparation across a broad range of musical and nonmusical formative experiences, but also a sophisticated and eclectic skills base. This chapter reflects on psychological models and their attempts to simulate improvising processes and constraints; the means by which improvisers acquire performance skills; improvisation as part of a larger, co-collaborative creative endeavor; recent studies highlighting the benefits of improvisation in a learning situation; and improvisation as a means of revitalizing Western education. Practical implications and an integrated model for learning to improvise are discussed in the final section.
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