(Big) Improv Quote of the Day: What Does Improvisation Do For a Musician?


(Photo credit: Emilie Ogez)

For one, it gives me a break from tackling my wrong notes, distasteful vibrato, and being torn between interpretations in the practice room. There are no wrong notes, no wrong inflections. I wouldn’t say that a note during improv with “distasteful” vibrato/intonation/whatever was necessarily done on purpose, but was made in the moment and without expectation. There is something very freeing and empowering about this. What happens on accident- a cracked note, or a gasping breath, can turn into inspiration for what is to come.

At the same time, I can tackle my classical music troubles through improv. Lately, I’ve had issues with controlling the style of my double tonguing. I’ll start moving my fingers, with no regard to scales or my piece, and focus solely on my double tonguing. This allows my mind to be entirely focused on the production of my tonguing, because I am not going to be distracted by the fingers in an awkward passage, or by the monotony of scales.

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Improv Game of the Day: Ostinatos Only


(Photo credit: bram_souffreau)

4+ players. Ordinarily an ostinato game would be classified as a rhythm game, but we want to use one here to wake up and warm up our sense of musical alertness, to re-calibrate our feeling for pulse and timbre, and get the rust off and dust off our rhythmic imaginations. Player One starts a simple obstinate (take a short idea and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it). Other players enter at staggered (but not necessarily regular) intervals. Players must share a pulse but not necessarily the meter (one player could be in 3/8, another in 7/8, another in 4/4, another in 3/4, etc.). It is a virtue to leave some space in each ostinato. Accents are fine. The use of different timbres is a distinct plus. Players should give special attention to placing their notes exactly in the pulse. When all have entered, let it go on for a while. Then players may gradually vary their ostinatos. Ending: make eye contact; Player One gives a nod and all stop at the same moment.

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