Summer Improv Ensemble

I’m leading two freestyle improv workshops June 22 & 29, 2010. Here’s some of the exercises we’ll practice:

One sound (from Tom Hall): Going around the group, each player plays a single sound
We can do this with a beat or without.

Direct your attention as we do this:
1. Pay attention equally to your sound and the others’ sounds.
2. Don’t think about your sound, don’t make any plans, pay attention to the rest of the ensemble.
3. Think of the sequence of sounds as a melody or phrase.

Improvise with one sound
Choose a sound. Make that your sound. That’s all you can play for the improvisation, but you can play it whenever and however you want.

Textures and grooves
Establish a texture as a group. Vary the texture in subtle ways.
Texture invention – create a texture, pause and create a different texture, and so on…

Phrases, playing together – designate a leader/don’t designate a leader, statements and answers.
Use silence.
Practice recognizing an ending. Decide whether you want to finish or go on. Is that silence an ending?

Build an ostinato or a groove
One by one, play a repeating pattern.
Allow yourself to explore and practice it a bit until you settle on the pattern you want to play. The next player doesn’t come in until you’ve settled. Don’t make it too complicated!
The next player enters and explores and finds a pattern that combines with the first. And so on…
Was the pattern solid? Did it have the momentum to keep going? Was it too busy?

Vary the ostinato
Make the pattern thinner and thinner by playing less and less of it, until there’s barely anything there, then let it grow again by adding notes back to your pattern.
Make the pattern thinner by changing your pattern to be with someone else’s pattern.

Memory training
Echo the leader – repeat whatever the leader plays
1. Single notes
2. Phrases, matched note-accurate or with the same shape or feel

Play a phrase – play something else – play your phrase again
Can we do this on a group level?

Be the leader
1. Conduct the group with gestures
2. Lead the group through a story – recite, sentence by sentence. Decide how you want to bring in the next part of the story by gesturing or talking to the ensemble. Indicate to players to enter, exit, or change what they’re playing.
3. Lead the group from your instrument. Use cut offs, upbeats, other gestures to invite the ensemble to follow your lead.

FREE IMPROV – try out ideas we’ve practiced.

Sources for these exercises include Jeffrey Agrell’s “Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians” and Tom Hall’s “Free Improvisation: A Practical Guide”.

If you’re in the Boston, MA area, join us! Read more

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