street fighter's guide to improvisation


This is supplied as a taster of how the book is written and the first scale. The review is supplied by courtesy of Crescendo & Jazz Music Magazine. First a note from Duncan...

Musicians are quite often intrigued by my rather cavalier attitude to harmony! I find, especially in America, they ask questions such as What do you think about when you’re playing? – Do you have a system? – Did you study with George Russell?
My usual tongue – in – cheek answer was “If in doubt, go up a semitone” Then one day I sat down and analysed my sense of harmony and devised a set of scales and arpeggios which would let anyone find their own voice. This prompted me to write a book called The Street Fighter’s Guide to Improvisation.
The book started as scales and exercises and wound up also covering arranging, composition, how to be an instant film composer, musician’s survival tips, ear training and how to play the piano in half an hour! I was thinking of including a snake bite remedy but thought twice about it!!
Basically the book is about freeing yourself and having options. The following small excerpt will explain more fully. The book is in its final draft and should be available by the time you read this.


I have admired Duncan Lamont’s constantly fresh approach to improvisation ever since I first heard him play some twenty years ago. In this book he not only explains how to go about achieving this sort of creative freedom, but also sets out his thoughts on composition, arranging and how to survive in the music business in general.

The first eight chapters include many amusing and thought-provoking anecdotes about Duncan’s experiences throughout his career (related as only he can!) whilst setting out the basic philosophy of the ‘Street Fighter’s Guide’. It makes use of a selection of polyphonic scales (which can be played over any chord) to break down the preconceived barriers of harmony and consonance and to avoid the ‘boring’ notes and the overused clichés. For me, just the first scale alone suggested a wealth of new musical sounds and ideas that I would love to have at my disposal and, much to my amazement, it really does work over any chord! Like Duncan’s many cartoon soundtracks (Mr Benn, King Rollo, Spot the Dog et al) this concept is ingenious in its simplicity.

Chapter Nine sets out all the different scales and patterns, providing hours of meaty practice material that is also great for ear training. The scales are written out in every key although I personally think that maximum benefit is gained from only reading the first one then transposing it in your head. Next comes a very useful chapter on how the scales can be used over standard chord sequences, and the final three chapters apply the principle to composition and arranging. The relative ease with which you can create dense and rich textures I found fascinating.

Duncan says that although he is not trying to set any ‘laws down in stone’, he would be very happy if just one phrase or sentence from his book stuck with us helped us become a better musician. Quite apart from musically, I can honestly say that there are lots of stories and one-liners that I have learned from and will carry with me. Definitely essential reading for the open-minded musician.

Mark Nightingale

Courtesy of Crescendo & Jazz Music Magazine.

Read an excerpt or buy now

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