How Much of Fusion is Improvised?

IsaacIsaac Posts: 3,088
I've been listening to Shakti's first album and some Lane/Hellborg stuff, and i'm wondering, how much of this music is impov? the Shakti album certainly strikes me as so, but with me just getting into this whole type of music, and branching out from rock/metal, which in one way or another can be formulated, I really can't tell. What seems like improv and stretching out of melodic ideas right then and there, could just as easily be composed, given that i know very little about this type of music, it's theory, it's melodies, etc.


  • BaddstuffBaddstuff Posts: 1,305
    I would say that some of it is actually worked out beginning to end but I'm sure there's also lots of improvising that goes on,
    especially during live performances. I'm a big fan of fusion and instrumental music, I've seen a lot of instrumental bands and
    a lot of times when someone is taking a solo you will see him give the band a cue as to when he's done. I'm sure the solo and
    the length may vary from show to show. Lots of cues are given in shows like that because they are not locked down to a
    specific arrangement, unlike a lot of rock bands that don't give many if any cues because they tend to play pretty much the
    same arrangements night after night. Not that that's a bad thing mind you, it's just that jazz and fusion bands tend to leave
    a lot more room for improvising. It's the nature of the beast.
    That's just my observation mind you, I'm far from being an authority on the matter.  :smile:
  • jebbuddajebbudda Posts: 5,030
    It really depends .

    Shakti for example has " composed " sections . The big giveaway obviously is when they are playing in unison . Many times there is a cue of some sort a composed part that JM starts playing when he's ready to stop and Shankar joins in the line in unison . But for the most part what your hearing solo-wise in Shakti is done right there on the spot . Whats amazing is the near telepathic comminication that exists between all the musicians .

    Hellborg and Lane are both musical super geniuses capable of picking up each others licks instantaneously . I've read that they would never practice together so every performance would be fresh and many of the motifs or hooks were composed the second they played it .

    Allan Holdsworth is touring with Terry Bozzio and Tony Levin . Every song they play is totally improvised from start to finish . Somebody starts and everybody joins in whenever . The problem is if somebody is having a off night it can be a trainwreck . Even some die hard Holdsworth fanatics are walking out of these shows . Other folks love it . It all depends on what kinda mood AH is in . But some people don't want to hear AH play whatever he wants , when he wants , when he feels like it etc . He may be having a superb night but it still sounds like shit .

    John Mclaughlin is quoted as saying " Nothing is as good as the first time you play it " . I agree . Being in the moment is awesome . Letting yourself play on auto pilot is exciting . Having other people dig it is an entirely different issue however .

    Playing a " worked out " solo is safer and often a better idea for some players . If I'm having a good night 90% of my solos are improv . I have some safe " composed " solos for most of what I do if I'm not 100% there, or nervous etc I can pull out the canned solo and everybody is happy . But playing the same solo every night gets old but easy to nail . Certin songs require note for note renditions but as a rule " fusion " players can't wait take their turn with the improv . I can think of only a few guys that play composed solos on a regular basis . Steve Morse and Vinnie Moore come to mind . Both of them play their solos note for note like the recording . Satriani ? 50% I'm guessing EVH 25% . Iommi ? perhaps never .
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