Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Music (Honours)


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Mr David Wickham


For centuries improvisation has been an integral part of European classical music culture. Until the nineteenth century most musicians were composers, improvisers and performers. Today, improvisation is less common in the classical music scene with most classical musicians being either performers or composers and only a minority of them having the ability to improvise. Is improvisation relevant to the classical musician whose main concern is the performance of written repertoire?

Learning how to improvise and practicing improvisation requires a musician to develop particular skills which can be directly applied in the performance and interpretation of precomposed music. This make improvisation a valuable tool for the classical musician. The musician who improvises will have a deeper understanding of the music they are performing, an enhanced capacity to critically listen to the sound that they are producing and the ability to compose intuitively; becoming an inventor of the music as opposed to a reproducer of notes that they are reading or have memorised. Furthermore, the musician seeking to interpret repertoire from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries should have an understanding of the thriving tradition of improvisation that existed throughout those eras and perform this repertoire with an awareness of that tradition.

There are classical musicians today who perform improvisation and this is a practice that should be encouraged. However, even if a musician is not engaging with improvisation in this way, the process of learning to improvise and regular practice of it will assist musicians when interpreting repertoire and preparing for a performance. The final chapter of this paper provides an overview of how classical musicians might incorporate improvisation into their practice.