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A man playing a sitar on the floor. A man playing a sitar on the floor.

What is an improviser?

2 min read

Understand the role an improviser plays in songwriting.

An improviser creates a musical work 'on the spot'.

An creates or music at the same time as they it. The activity can be immediate and spontaneous and can respond to other or improvisers doing the same. For example, a jazz musician inventing or a rapper freestyling lyrics.

When a improvises a piece of music or lyrics, nothing about the music or lyrics they have just created and performed may have existed before, so proving ownership of an improvisation without any recording of it can be difficult. This is also the case when the improvisation adds to a pre-existing , for example, a solo in a jazz or blues standard or an improvised cadenza in a violin concerto.

Copyright ownership for improvisers

Under , improvisers can be considered if their contribution to the musical work is . This means they can own a share of the in the musical work or its variation with their improvisations.

In certain countries, the work and thus also the improvisations need to be in some form for protection to apply. But in many countries, musical works and, therefore, improvisations are automatically protected under when created.

By definition, an improvisation requires a performance. As an improviser, you are therefore also a and if the work containing your improvisation is recorded, you will have a share in both the ownership of the musical work as an improviser, and the sound recording as a performer.

Delve deeper into how this works in the Recording topic. To understand authors' rights in more detail, visit the Music Creators’ Rights topic.

Image credit: Amin Santosh, Parapix