for classical musicians

Welcome to an improvisation website with a psychological basis!

My name is Dr Jonathan Ayerst and I'm a professional organist, pianist, and improviser. 

I didn't always improvise though. I was trained in interpretive performance and made my musical career as a performer (mainly of contemporary music). However, this still left me feeling frustrated as I wanted to be more creative as a musician. Improvisation had always fascinated me and, after attaining a Masters (Postgraduate) degree in Psychology of Music at the University of Sheffield, I decided that I would make a psychological study of myself learning to improvise!

A full account of this adventure can be seen here: (PhD thesis) Learning to improvise as a Western classical musician: a psychological self-study

What does it mean to be a psychological improviser? Psychology means a study of thinking and this is really useful for improvising, because instead of just focusing on the music (is it good, bad, correct, etc?) we can study the background processes which result in improvisation, affect our performance, our feelings of creativity or agency. Ultimately, by studying our thoughts while improvising we can make improvising more expressive, have a more rewarding learning experience and feel more in control over the performance.

Feel free to use the exercises and templates; also psychological questionnaires.

If you'd like to contact me personally please use this form