A mentor once told me, “If you want to be a composer, compose 100 songs, and throw them all away. Then you’ll be a composer.”
The same could be said of improvisation, so I encourage students. no matter what else they are working on, to spend at least a few minutes a day improvising freely.
On my 45th birthday I decided to release a series of 45 improvisations called “Mezzi Schizzi”, aka “sketches from the middle”, to document my work and encourage other classical musicians to explore their own process.
Browse the entire Youtube playlist is below, scroll down for more, and come back to this post as we add videos, commentary, and sheet music, throughout 2017.
These are improvised sketches. They remind me of pencil drawings, relying mostly on unaccompanied melodic lines. They’re meant to be direct, vulnerable, naked, and imperfect. My intention is to inspire other classical musicians to explore improvisation without feeling limited by style, form, and harmony.
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To get more regarding my curricular approach to non-tonal improvisation for classical musicians, consider this presentation from the 2017 Colorado Music Educators Association conference:
Improvisation eludes most classical musicians, mostly due to training. This post focuses on one approach through which classical musicians can start creating, regardless of their fluency in tunes, forms, styles, or harmony. It’s like the process whereby a three year-old, shortly after picking up a crayon, begins to naturally develop an unmistakeable signature, such that one could pick their works out of a lineup.
It was in this way that I first began improvising, in my late teens, unsure what kind of sound I “should” make, and frustrated with my inability to quickly master blues, rock, jazz, etc… Along the way I’ve progressed, but I never let go of the “doodling with a crayon” approach.
For more on the same topic, watch this 90-minute presentation given live during the annual Creative Strings Workshop (held every July in Columbus, Ohio- click on “summer conference” on the right sidebar of this page to learn more and register for the annual gathering of creative string players.)
If you aren’t already subscribed to the Creative Strings Podcast, subscribe on Itunes or Stitcher to get all episodes (free), and enjoy a wide range of conversations at the intersections of music education, creativity, string playing, and DIY music biz.
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