Well I mean there are apparently a couple of different thoughts on this.
When I was in music school, the teachers as well as the superstars who came to visit our school and do clinics all said the same thing really. That when you are improvising, you are really putting licks and phrases you already know all together in context of the song you are playing.
This would be akin to talking to your friends. You don’t really practice before talking to friends, you are simply using words and phrases you have used previously in order to have conversation. In other words, we are all improvising all of the time.
So for example, I would learn some licks and phrases from Albert King. Then I would practice playing the same licks in a different key, and I would change the rhythm and phrasing….or even change from Minor to Major. Still…..its coming from Albert King…..and its something I’ve played a lot. And then suddenly that phrase just comes out in the moment while improvising.
Of course I’ve met some dudes who feel that this isn’t true improvisation. That real improvisation is NOT playing licks and phrases you already know……but rather just exploring the notes during the song and just playing whatever as long as its not phrases you are already comfortable with and already know.
Hey man…….that’s cool. But if you ask me….ultimately I’m playing for an audience. And if I’m just searching for notes while playing in order to TRULY improvise……well then I feel its like me putting together a bunch of random words in hopes that will become a sentence someone else understands.
And I may do just that. But fuck man…..if I love Albert King, I don’t have a problem showing that off in my improvisation. If my licks and phrases make an audience feel good and they can comfortably consume it, I’m quite happy with it.
One thing Im not doing is rehearsing everything to death and simplifying it until the music is freeze dried….read to thaw and serve to the masses for mass consumption. Nothing special about freeze dried food.