Improvising with Rules

Today, we continued our improvisation sessions.  As I haven’t posted about these before I will give you a brief idea of what we have already done.  We had 3 or 4 sessions as a group in which we learnt about and performed some free improvisation.  We looked at various examples and attempted to apply these ideas to our own playing.  Using a vast selection of instruments we performed our own improv pieces in front of the rest of the group.

Today however, we had to follow certain rules, unlike before where we were more or less free to do as we wanted.  We started with something called ‘Mirrors’.  This was a fairly straight forward set of rules that showed two lines, with five crotchets on each.  Although both lines had five each, they differed in terms of where they were positioned.  So, using drums, bass guitar, electric guitar and piano a group gave this a go, with some impressive results.  On their second attempt, there was a lot more communication and the piece sounded more fluent as a whole.

We then looked at another piece called Duration.  We had to improvise within these time periods – 10. 10. 30. 20. 40. 20. 10. 15 (seconds).  Different instruments had to play a certain amount of times within these time periods.  For example, in the first 10 second period the drums play 8 times and the bass plays 4.  There were some solid moments and others more uncertain.  Nevertheless, we tried it twice, slightly changing the method to make it harder the second time round and again came out with some impressive results.

Using parts of the drum kit only, we then experimented with the fibonacci sequence.  With one person using the floor tom to keep a constant beat, five others played along hitting their drum or cymbal at certain times.  The first person hit every 2 beats, the next person 3, then 5, 8 and 13.  This worked well and sounded even better when the order of the players was swapped.  I would like to do something like this in my own work at some point.

We will be continuing with improvisation next week, digging deeper into the methods and techniques and learning to use visual aids too.



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