My book Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians (354 p,. 2008, GIA Publ.) has been out for a while and has enjoyed a certain modest success among classical musicians who would like to start creating their own music (aka improvising). But it has lacked one thing: video/audio examples of what this classical improv thing is. There is of course no one right answer – what it sounds like will depend on whose playing, and even the same players may have wildly different versions of any particular game. Nevertheless, it’s nice to have some examples of a few possibilities of some of the games. Continue reading
Thanks to Daniel Roca for sending the link to this wonderful video of an improvised piano performance by Juan Manuel Cisneros.
Stunning piano improvisation by pianist/composer Noam Sivan on a theme sung moments before by an audience member. Amazing! And beautiful!
The best way for beginners to start improvising is to play simple percussion. You can start right now, tapping on anything, although it is nice to have a mentor to show you ways to acquire skills and provide examples of interesting rhythms and use of accents, meters, timbres, etc. YouTube has an endless supply of all kinds of instruments, rhythms, timbres, ensembles, etc. You don’t need anything fancy – a tabletop or some cardboard boxes will do just fine, but it is also a pleasure to have some real instruments to play as well.
My second favorite percussion instrument (first place: the djembe) is the tongue (or slit) drum. They are not terribly cheap, but you can make fascinating rhythmic patterns with them very easily – the different “tones” add a touch of pitch variety. Note: I am referring here only to wooden ones; there is another class of metal tongue drums – we’ll take that up another time.
Listen to this nicely recorded performance of Tyrone Douglas playing 3 tongue drums:
Chmiller912 gives a terrific performance on a single tongue drum tuned to F minor pentatonic (3:10):
Steve Carmichael show us how to make your own tongue drum in this video (17:30). Thanks, Steve!
Last week was very busy; I gave lectures, presentations, and led improv games at the Arizona State University (John Ericson was the perfect host), then came back home (after a lot of airline delays) to segue into a tour with the Iowa Brass Quintet in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois (no improv there, unless you count the little jazz cadenza I got to do in our Porgy and Bess medley). Then came a three-day residency at the University of North Dakota (which still has huge piles of snow…) where I did in equal measure brass and improv workshops and presentations. Great people there, great attitudes – lots of new BFFs. Many thanks to my wonderful UND host, Kayla Nelson.
I got to do two improv concerts. The first one was partly based around something new to me. Dr. Mike Witgraaf had me play into a microphone; then he processed the sound with a software program (KYMA) and effected further changes using two hand-held Wii (the game) controllers via Bluetooth. The result was played through speakers, which mixed with my live sound. You can listen to the results here
1 http://youtu.be/k4F-ELZD4Yo 4:05
2 http://youtu.be/NwRogbxIbyM 4:07
3 http://youtu.be/lFBQV7wQXsI 5:59
4 http://youtu.be/sRMazAfJVeM 4:53
The second concert was also a lot of fun. I started off with a Daily Arkady (just start playing and see what happens). Then came an improv trio – me, Jim Popejoy on vibes, and a student djembe player (her name escapes me now to my great embarrassment, but she played wonderfully). We just did the classical improv thing – start playing, listen to each other, adjust/adapt to have a balance of unity and variety (the predictable and the unpredictable). Man, that was fun. We finished up with a Soundpainting. The ensemble had just learned about 30 or so SP gestures earlier in the day, but they did terrific on such short notice.
OK, it’s not exactly improv. But close enough with an idea this brilliant. It’s improv for the audience!
Read about the fresh improvisatory approach of Brazilian pianist André Mehmari here (article in the Miami New Times), and listen/watch his sparkling rendition of the Beatles’ Penny Lane in the video below: