Improvisation for Classical Musicians

Strategies for Creativity and Expression

"Buy Now" to view and securely purchase the available paperback / digital editions at our publishing partner Hal Leonard LLC.
  • Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
  • Format: Book/CD
  • Pages: 144
  • Dimensions: 9 x 12
  • ISBN: 0-97639-129-3
  • SKU: 50449637
  • Publication Date: June 29, 2012

Related Online Courses & Programs

Basic Improvisation

Learn a step-by-step approach to improvisation that applies to all styles and any instrument. Develop your solos by studying the riffs and licks of legendary players, and learn to incorporate the inflexions, feel, and nuances of the masters into your own playing!

Specialist Improvisation Certificate Program

This program will help you master the art of spontaneous expression to become a more confident and creative soloist. You’ll begin by refining how you hear music with ear training. Next, you’ll learn how some of your favorite musicians create the music you love by transcribing their solos.

Learn the creative mindset and technical tools necessary for improvisation.

These concepts and exercises will help you to discover a deeper source of music making, a greater quality of authenticity, and a discernible change in sound, phrasing and commitment to your performances of written music. You will learn to play by ear, apply musical theory to your instrument, and engage creatively with the elements of music, giving you a long menu of musical options. The accompanying recording includes demonstration and play-along tracks.

You will learn:

  • Tools to connect melodic imagination to your instrument, with an enhanced sense of physicality
  • How to use scales, chords, modes, progressions, and other structures in your improvisation
  • A broad rhythm vocabulary
  • Improvisation techniques for standard progressions, such as blues and II V’s
  • To create richer lines by using approach notes, neighbor tones, and embellishments into an improvised melodic line


“So many of us classically trained musicians are intimidated—even terrified—at the idea of making music without a score. Eugene Friesen, master cellist, improviser, and pedagogue, demystifies the tools in a well-structured, empathetic guide that not only opens the doors to greater personal creativity and collaboration, making music in the moment, but also opens the ears to a deeper insight into the interpretation of a centuries-old tradition. Without losing the sense of wonder and transcendence that music can achieve, Eugene Friesen breaks down and simplifies the basic components of improvisation. This invaluable resource is an important contribution to the evolving curriculum of classical music education in the 21st century.”

—Matt Haimovitz, GRAMMY®-nominated Cellist, Professor of cello at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University

“One of the great joys of being an improvising violinist, beyond the obvious immediate gratification garnered onstage, is the chance to share your craft with the many string players who play so beautifully in the European classical tradition yet relish the chance to get off the page. Given how hard it is to put into words, much less the printed page, it is natural to yearn for materials that can be of use. In this regard I feel this book is destined to be a classic in the field, because it so elegantly pinpoints the essential elements necessary for undertaking such a challenging journey without being trapped in any one stylistic framework.”

—David Balakrishnan, Founding Violinist with the GRAMMY Award-winning Turtle Island String Quartet

“Gene brings all the traits that make him a great musician, composer, and teacher to this method of teaching the art of improvisation. It is precise, humane/humorous, organized, and diverse, opening the mind and laying out techniques for improvising in whatever style the player chooses to explore. I think this is an invaluable and timeless work that will inspire classical musicians for generations to come.”

—Howard Levy, multiple GRAMMY Award-winning Composer, Pianist, and Harmonica player; Member of the Flecktones and Trio Globo

“Many accomplished musicians can play effortlessly and beautifully, but few can articulate the thoughts and processes that bring their fine playing to life. Eugene Friesen has both the musical instincts and the affection for the musical process, combined with the ability to articulate it in a straightforward and compassionate manner. He writes in a way that brings him right into the room with me, offering encouragement, support, critical fundamentals, and practical exercises and playing tools. This book is a great resource and guide for aspiring improvisers of all ages. I highly recommend it to my fellow musicians, and I know I will revisit it many times myself.”

—Jeremy Cohen, multiple GRAMMY-nominated Violinist, Composer, Arranger (Quartet San Francisco and Violinjazz)


Eugene Friesen

Eugene Friesen is active internationally as a cellist, composer, teacher, and recording artist. A graduate of the Yale School of…