Improv Game of the Day: Genre Festival!

The Kitchen Sink

The Kitchen Sink (Photo credit: .michael.newman.)

1-8 players. Composer Kevin McLeod offers a plethora of “royalty-free music” on his web site Incompetech (www.incompetech.com). Of special interest to us here at classical music games central is the listing of his music in genres. To wit:

















Silent Film





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Improv Game of the Day: Economical Beauty

English: Pitch constellation - chromatic pitch...

1-4 players. Your challenge is to create the most beautiful melody possible – using only three pitches of your choice.

Pitches may be repeated at will or played in any register.

With two players, players should decide if pitches chosen may overlap or are exclusive.

An example of exclusive pitch choice using the C scale only might be:

Player 1: CEA

Player 2: DFG

With three players, there will necessarily be some overlap. Example:

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Improv Game of the Day: Domination

Clap Hands

(Photo credit: Kaptain Kobold)

1 player. The nondominant hand slaps, raps, or taps the lap or table or any handy thumping-noise making object in steady moderate tempo quarter notes. Tap tap tap tap. Once that is established, the dominant hand does one of two things, perhaps in sequence, perhaps (later) mixed together: 1) it sustains a series of different rhythm patterns that either go with the steady quarters or against them (e.g. triplets, offbeats, etc.) 2) it freely solos over the steady beat. In either case, don’t forget the use and power of including silences. The underchallenged may repeat the game, reversing the roles of each hand.

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Improv Game for Horn Players: Role Playing

One great thing about horn camp is that you have time to do all sorts of things that you seldom get the chance to shoehorn in the narrow time slots available to you back at school. I luxuriated in the three hours we had at KBHC (Kendall Betts Horn Camp) every morning to get deep into various topics (my favorite topic this summer was constructing a thread to organize all of horn technique in a progressive way, using video games as one model…). Also fun were the “Open Studios” that were special times when the faculty member could visit other topics and participants could switch from their regular routines to sample the various offerings. My open studios were on Classical Improv, and attendance was the greatest ever. We had a lot of fun working on horn technique and musicality in the context of classical improvisation. I was delighted to work with some wonderfully talented folks, especially high schooler Nikki La Bonte, who, in spite of being a novice at this, instantly seemed to acquire a very experienced ear, which is often a great challenge to classical players – they have to listen in a very different way than they are used to, and quickly understand what they hear and respond. Kudos, Nikki! I also had the pleasure of jamming with Ian Mayton (college sophomore from the U of NC-Greensborough, a student of my friend and colleague Abigail Pack), who was a terrific jamming partner as we made stuff up for about an hour (I also enlisted him to join me in an improvisation on stage that very night. He didn’t hesitate and did great).

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Improv Game of the Day: Mary, Mary, Quite Varied

Mary Had a Little Lamb (Paul McCartney song)

I’m back from two weeks at the Kendall Betts Horn Camp in the wilds of New Hampshire. I   had a terrific time with great people, best ever. Horn camp is horn from early to late every day; while most of the time were concerned with regular horn activities and topics, I was also able to work in some improv into the schedule. I will be recounting some of what we did in this space.

One improv game that worked well and was a lot of fun even with novice improvisers was as follows:

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Improv Game of the Day: Illustrated History

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, one o...

2+ players. The Music Teachers’ Association of California has made an outstanding effort to bring improvisation into school curricula. We haven’t purchased them yet ($32 each), but we are very curious about their Improvisation Syllabus and Guide and Improvisation Games and Activities.

One of their ideas is to illustrate local or state history musically. The procedure is to pick a historically or geographically important topic and then decide on possible musical resources needed to invent a piece about it.

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Improv Game of the Day: Yankee Doodle Boodle Noodle Nodel Yodel Rodell Loden Laden Leiden Laugh-In Tap-In Rapping Snapping Snapper

"Yankee Doodle Boy" (sheet music) pa...

1 player. Choose a simple familiar tune. Yankee Doodle, for instance. Figure out the notes by ear. Play it through again and again. Each time through, change something about it. Make it a small change. What you are doing is not so much making variations of the tune (which you are, for a while), but rather you are very gradually transforming the tune into something else, into a new tune. Make the tune very simple and familiar and the changes small so that you can remember what you did the last time through and change it only slightly each time. But keep it up; after a while the tune should be utterly transformed.

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Improv Game of the Day: Shakespeare Madrigal

William Shakespeare

Today is the birthday of the immortal Bard of Avon, so let’s celebrate by playing an improv game in his honor.

5+ players. One player acts as a conductor. Each player chooses a short quote from Shakespeare.  The conductor points to Player One, who starts speaking, chanting, or singing his quote in a rhythmic manner. The conductor signals other players to join in, adding or subtracting other players at will (each with his own line). Players must match the original line in tempo/pulse; players may leave brief rests between repetitions of the line in order to breathe. The conductor may indicate crescendos or decrescendos with hand signals. The effect should be very like a madrigal – vigorous and contrapuntal.

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