Let it be easy

Getting together with friends to improvise can mean having Significant FUN!  Here’s an easy warmup that helps open the channel to riffing – solo improvisation with rhythmic support. It’s  for folks who have some experience improvising rhythms and melodies.  At this session we were a group of 4.  More folks works just as well and it’s a great brain-stretch to hear, learn and reproduce the uniquely varied song-lines.  Keep solos short in the beginning and go again if there’s time.  When you feel easy with this, lengthen your patterns – or – create A/B call sections, etc.  Enjoy! Here’s the set-up:

  • When you are the solo singer take a deep breath and get quiet.
  • Listen in and sense for any rhythmic/melodic impulse flowing through you.  It will come without your having to think a thought.
  • When you feel it, try it out.  Keep it short the first time out – maybe just a measure’s worth of rhythm and melody. This pattern will be repeated over and over again so take your time to get it just the way you want it.
  • When you feel the pattern is “set” then give it a measure or two of rest between sung patterns.
  • Teach this pattern to your singing partners.
  • When they’ve got it and can hold it for you (and you feel comfortable with this) encourage them to add-in harmonies.
  • Now you can leave the rhythmic pattern and explore, using it as a home base from which to travel vocally.

This format may feel familiar to you as a version of Call and Response.  The pattern you set becomes a call (which you can echo with your singing partners when they sing it ) and then you can respond during the pattern’s rest measure(s), varying that response each time. (As below)

Or, you can improvise through both the pattern and the rest with a unique response that sometimes mirrors the pattern  (As below).

At the very end of this jam you may have heard me whisper: “That was hard…”  Riffing takes practice and willingness to let go and go wherever the melody line wants to go. Sometimes our voices are not as responsive as we’d like.  So, we just keep practicing. By the way, this is a practice you can do all your life…isn’t that nice? Nuances of vocal timbre may emerge that carry emotional depth; they color your song with feeling and, though not technically perfect, they can be fascinating and beautiful.  The more we practice the more fluid and responsive our voices become to the creative flow that always awaits our attention.  So, play to your hearts’ content!

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