Classical Improv Jam #2 – (video) Drone + Harmonic Series

This time Lin and I trade solos over a drone; the soloist’s notes are limited to the notes of the natural horn, i.e. the harmonic series.


Smart Improvising, Or: Improv in the Key(s) of Florida

Topographic map of the State of Florida, USA (...

Spring break isn’t for a week, but I had the chance to come to the University of Northern Florida as a guest of pianist/composer/improviser professor Gary Smart to do some improv  workshops and performing and I leaped at it.

Gary and I go way, way back. There used to be (sigh) such a thing as a Ford Foundation grant for cities to have a composer in residence. A fantastic idea! I was in Anchorage (Alaska) playing in an army band (my clever way of getting out of the draft during the Viet Nam War was to enlist). It was a great time. I was doing a lot of music: playing in the Anchorage Symphony, singing in the community choir, taking lessons, giving lessons, horn choir, practicing hard eight days a week. Near the end of my tour I applied to grad school in horn (U of Wisconsin-Madison – John Barrows); it was too far to go to audition, so I had to make a tape. I hired a woman who had a DMA in piano performance. I gave her the notes some weeks before we had to record… and… she didn’t learn her part very well. Came time to tape, and it wasn’t good. It wouldn’t do at all. I was desperate. Time was running out. I had to send something in.

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Improv Game of the Day: Personal Spice

English: Spices in Mapusa Market, Goa, India.

2-4 players. Players use a common major scale – start with C major – but each is assigned a personal “spice” (i.e. dissonant) note as well. Players may use the spice tone at will, but remember that spices are powerful – a stew or other dish is usually best when spices are used judiciously.

Player 1: #4  (in C: F#)

Player 2: b6 (in C: Ab)

Player 3: b2 (in C: Db)

Player 4: #2 (in C: D#)

Variation: Restrict all players to the major pentatonic scale: 1 2 3 5 6 (in C: C D E G A) plus spice tone.

As usual: Repeat in all other keys.

And then: Repeat using other kinds of scales: dominant 7, minors, whole tone, diminished, etc.