Welcome to part two of my session with guest, Jaren Angud! (if you haven't checked out the first part yet, you can do so by clicking this link). Since I have already covered how to get started improvising on pitched instruments during post 3, this post will be directed at applying those concepts while also touching on the subject of group improvisation.
When you improvise with other people, you must be an active listener. The more you process what is happening around you, the more possibilities for music-making will be available. It is the same reason why chamber and Jazz combo musicians work without a conductor. If everyone is listening to one another, you don't need one!
Once you are able to truly listen and play, choices must be made.
If someone is...
-Staying up in the high register, go lower to free up some of those frequency levels
-Playing staccato notes/dead strokes, you have a choice to follow that texture or do the complete opposite (rolls, full resonant strokes)
-Playing at a loud dynamic, you may do the same...or may not
-Using the entire range of their instrument, you may just stick to one octave
In some cases, it may be interesting to try ignoring the other people, however if that approach is applied for too long the communication of the group will be lessened.
All of the above (and more) were aspects that Jaren and I faced during these sessions. In the videos below, you will see what we did/did not do while in the moment.
In improvise 5a, Jaren and I used one chord as inspiration. We may have occasionally strayed, but it was our "home base". Some people would call notes outside of the main chord wrong. We like to think of the notes outside of our chord as color tones that build tension (see what I did there?). Once you can free yourself of the fear of playing wrong notes, you will find that improvisation on keyboard instruments is much less stressful than you think. Through building up the ability to navigate your instrument well, it will also allow you to get out of tough situations during live performances where stopping and restarting is not an option. One of my mentors used to say that professionals make mistakes too, but recover a lot faster than everyone else!
Db Lydian Scale
Sometimes by putting a limitation on what you do can cause exploration of new places. In fact, many of my own compositions were created that way. You will hear how we do this during improvise 5b. Some of the new sounds came from playing on nodal points, lifting marimba bars while playing, hitting the frame/resonators, using deadstrokes, using rolls/rudiments and experimenting with strange "bow" sounds.
Each picked one note, but didn't tell each other what was chosen
In 5c, we chose to bring back the "can" idea, where we picked words at random that guided our music-making. This time, we even show the process of picking cards on camera...so sorry for the silliness...actually I'm not. You are welcome...
Major 7th interval (G and F#)
3 minute time limit
Is anyone else motivated to improvise yet? I promise that it will bring you closer to your instrument and elevate your technical, musical and performance abilities. Let me know what you think below and feel free to share your own sessions with me through email or on social media. Do it!!!!
Anthony Di Bartolo is a New Jersey-based percussionist, composer, and educator.