• Discussion - Vocal/instrumental Improvisation
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Discussion - Vocal/instrumental Improvisation
on: February 16, 2020, 16:29:23
« Last Edit: February 16, 2020, 16:33:04 by Monty Cash Music »
What are your methods for improvisation?

Do you use a system or systems?

Do you use only feel and flow?

What's going on inside your brain when you improvise?

===

For myself on the guitar I use patterns and a system, yet I'm learning to hum along with notes because I have a better grasp of feel/flow with my vocals.

For vocals, I can express myself very well, the way I feel it in my head.

For violin, I love to sit with one long sustaining note and feel where it takes me.

For piano, I feel the most comfortable on an instrument. All the notes are right there in front of you and you can jump any interval almost effortlessly. I often start with a single scale and see how many different combinations of notes I can get away with and then meander from that scale a bit to bend the feel.

Question, how do you in your improv technique get out of the habit of just going up and down scales?

===

Ok, this is the discussion starter!

@oorlab @MrBouzouki @Pleudoniem
Find updates on my travels and music on http://peakd.com/@montycashmusic


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Re: Discussion - Vocal/instrumental Improvisation
Reply #1 on: February 16, 2020, 18:24:05
One of the things a guitarist has as an advantage is alternative tunings.

Change one string / two strings / four strings / six strings and suddenly you have no box, no pattern.  So you try linking sounds together, try and make chord shapes and often something will appear. It breaks you out of patterns and makes you experiment. Certain chords etc are only possible with alternative tunings due to where you can physically place your fingers.

I'm quite keen on drone like tunings with multiple strings tuned to one pitch. DADGAD for example allows you to move up that third string and have an inner melody to the drones. Capo it up too and you have a different instrument. I do that on my bouzouki to turn it into a mandolin as required.

Stuff like this is part of my fascination with string instruments. This and how percussive and other techniques / bending / tapping can give a completely different sound.

"Love and Life is all about connections"


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Re: Discussion - Vocal/instrumental Improvisation
Reply #2 on: February 16, 2020, 21:01:33
One of the things a guitarist has as an advantage is alternative tunings.

Change one string / two strings / four strings / six strings and suddenly you have no box, no pattern.  So you try linking sounds together, try and make chord shapes and often something will appear. It breaks you out of patterns and makes you experiment. Certain chords etc are only possible with alternative tunings due to where you can physically place your fingers.

I'm quite keen on drone like tunings with multiple strings tuned to one pitch. DADGAD for example allows you to move up that third string and have an inner melody to the drones. Capo it up too and you have a different instrument. I do that on my bouzouki to turn it into a mandolin as required.

Stuff like this is part of my fascination with string instruments. This and how percussive and other techniques / bending / tapping can give a completely different sound.

I've found that with traditional inspired songs (like Turkish or Bulgarian, or modal music in general), the droning note in the background provides a space for the mind to expand into a trance and thereby the process of 'searching for the right notes' becomes easier.

I like using the loop pedal for this purpose, for experimentation. For example making a 10/8 rhythm with just a single note in two octaves and improvising over that. Using these types of loops is how I learned the violin which I configured to sit on my knee and made into a three string instrument like a cretan lyra or a gadulka.

I would also like to explore more with different guitar tunings to shake up my world a bit. There was a drunk polish guy that stopped me playing in the streets in Letterkenny, Ireland once and he took it upon himself to tune my guitar differently. I didn't want to stop his drunken enthusiasm, so I just let him go for it and he tuned it to an open tuning and then used a lighter to make a slide. It made a very loud sound.

It's funny how when we make the instrument make a different sound, it has different feel and thereby the inclination for different notes or combinations comes from that. I argue that every guitar is actually a different instrument because they all make a different sound and this means we play each one slightly differently, if you are sensitive to its nuances.

I like the the versatility of the original tuning of the guitar though and I am afraid to change it. I have all the patterns of the different modes in my head and I'm afraid of knowing nothing again. haha. What to do?


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Re: Discussion - Vocal/instrumental Improvisation
Reply #3 on: February 17, 2020, 10:31:51
« Last Edit: February 18, 2020, 16:35:22 by MrBouzouki »
Well @Monty Cash Music , in music as in all things in life you must "Give It a Try"  ;D ;D ;D

Our curse is to use up our appointed time on repeating the same things. The old adage "Variety is the Spice of Life" applies here.
For me it needs to be a spice, you also need some time to consolidate, to truly experience and reflect, but you need that spice.

Here is a simple thing you can do. Tune your G string down to F# . Then in finger-stye only sounding 3 strings instead of strumming play :-

B on 5th String  / open retuned F# / pinky to play D on 2nd string  (B -F#-D)

Open A on 5th String / 3rd fret on retuned G so now it's an A  / 1st finger playing C#  (A-A-C#)

Open D on 4th String / 3rd fret on retuned G so still A. So leave it on  / 3rd finger playing 3rd fret on B String so D (D-A-D)

Play these 3 chords and you have a lute type feel or sound, think Henry VII etc . You only having something like Bm to Modal A to Modal D but the lack of 3rd's gives that medieval flavour. The point I'm making is that semitone detuning allows easy shapes and it falls under the fingers.

Recently, that little instrumental I posted up ,  'Never Mind' , was tuned C G C F C E (bottom to top). You usually get away with the raised B.  Apparently is one Nick Drake used but I just stumbled upon it. That instrumental would never have existed if I hadn't gone into that tuning.

The curse of the guitar is we often play in in the keys of E, A, D, C and to some extent F, especially acoustically. Sure you can capo but you are using the same shapes and hence voicings. Retune the strings and a whole new world can fall out.

Have I convinced you yet ?

 ::OSMAN:: ::OSMAN:: ::OSMAN::






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Re: Discussion - Vocal/instrumental Improvisation
Reply #4 on: February 17, 2020, 10:44:44
@MrBouzouki

Ok, you have inspired me sufficiently. However, I am going to make an in-depth study of it. So I will get a different guitar specifically for this exercise so I can still keep my safe place on my regular guitar.

I will treat it like a different instrument when it is tuned differently.

Also, I have in the past few months been inspired to tune my entire guitar down a full step, D G C F A D

This with the use of capo and bar chords has given me a bit more flexibility because I find my vocals go to different places when songs are transposed.

I'm bored of the static E.

Deepness becomes the D.


Re: Discussion - Vocal/instrumental Improvisation
Reply #5 on: February 17, 2020, 15:02:32
Hello @Monty Cash Music  .... nice thread here.  ;)

 I am a fairly experienced improviser. At this point it is hard to even know what I do.
Saxophone is the instrument I studied so being an improviser is expected. (Maybe more so than any other instrument. It is hard to think of a use for a saxophonist who can't. ) Being limited to one note at a time and having a culture of great improvisers to follow are just a few of the advantages.

I'm not a "feeling" player but people who hear me wouldn't know. They always think I put so much emotion into my solos.

I studied .... a lot. I love music theory! I practiced a lot.
So my playing is pretty "scientific" for lack of a better description.


Methods: Bergonzi's inside improvisation series is my favorite method of all times .... it would probably drive most people nuts. 

System: western tonality - esp. American jazz idiom, blues, r&b , modern pop

Feel & Flow: YES! Rhythm is king! Flow can be cool or crazy.... but organized in my mind.

Inside my Brain: I see shapes. Melodic contours that I'll play or am playing.
I instantly hear and play "quotes" while it's all going down.
 
Avoid Scales: well..... it's not the worst thing if done in a way that sounds cool. Michael Brecker had some serious scale usage. Somehow you have to make it sound like your not merely going up and down scales. A good technique is to mix linear(scales) and vertical (chords and arpeggios) playing in real time. 


I like playing keyboards now a days, though. To me multiple notes at a time is much more fun. 
Bill
Songwriter, Keyboards, Arranger, Producer & Engineer for November Sound

November Sound is based on the Mother, Father & Son musical trio of Melissa, Bill & Will. I'm the father so anything I post will have my wife singing and/or my son playing percussion.


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Re: Discussion - Vocal/instrumental Improvisation
Reply #6 on: February 17, 2020, 17:33:59
« Last Edit: February 17, 2020, 17:46:56 by Monty Cash Music »
@Bill from November Sound

Sounds great Bill, thanks for your input!

I have a great sax playing friend who does things entirely by feel. It's interesting you mention your method can be indistinguishable although very scientific.

It's also interesting you hear it in your head sometimes before you play it. It's great to get to this level.

I can only do vocals like scat on the fly for example, doing exactly what I feel in my head, it would be great to get to this aptitude with all the instruments I play.

I definitely agree about the piano, it seems to be the most versatile for improv because of its easy to use mechanism and instant bang for its buck.

I will look up a video on this Bergonzi method in a bit.

I feel scales aren't entirely useless to learn. It's good to do a combination of 'science' and feel I think. If I lose the feel by using a pattern or scale, I'm training myself to hum along to it then to mimic my hum. It's a good guide to take the playing out of that rut but takes some practice. Will also try mixing this with arpeggios occasionally like you say. It's great just to mix things up with different techniques.

Anyways, thanks for a great comment and giving it some thought!


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Re: Discussion - Vocal/instrumental Improvisation
Reply #7 on: February 17, 2020, 22:47:51
« Last Edit: February 19, 2020, 11:18:27 by oorlab »
@Monty Cash Music  -  "how do you in your improv technique get out of the habit of just going up and down scales?"
my tip would be , not to think about it too much. Every instruments has its own variation-opportunities. With my favorite drummer I like to play bass, and the most improvisation will be rhythmically oriented. With singing - doing backing vocals - the improv-aspect can sit both with timing and harmony.
I'd be interested to try out different tunings as @MrBouzouki  suggests, or scales as @Bill from November Sound  - and then introduce some random aspect. I once placed a mechanic metronome on a slightly elevated piece of wood, so by the angle I created an assymetric beat, and by letting the arm of the metronome tick on a glass, created this coincidental pattern.

Anyone here familiar with the oblique strategies of Brian Eno?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblique_Strategies
recommending https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_Music_Works "How music works", book by David Byrne.


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Re: Discussion - Vocal/instrumental Improvisation
Reply #8 on: February 18, 2020, 09:54:36
« Last Edit: February 18, 2020, 11:28:07 by Monty Cash Music »
I checked out that link. It's a good idea to try things to mix it up.

I was using a 12 sided dice for this purpose, I would roll it three times, the first time would be for timing signature 1-12/8 , the second roll for scale type and the third roll for changes in chords.

If I got a 1 for the timing, I would do a tremolo taksim. A two, I would do manouche or reggae. A 4 or an 8 and I'll roll the dice for deciding east or Western style music.

I was doing this with a loop pedal and putting myself on the spot with Eastern scales and timings. Recording a drum, guitar then improvising with violin, guitar and vocals.

For sure, like you say @oorlab, it's a good idea to just relax about the whole thing, to not think too hard about it. Some days the head is in it and other days it's not. Not sure how to rein this in so it can be consistent.

Coffee helps!  :lol:


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Re: Discussion - Vocal/instrumental Improvisation
Reply #9 on: February 18, 2020, 10:03:53
@oorlab

Last year I put together a whole act using this dice method. I tried it a few times on the street, it didn't make nearly as much money as classic rock covers on the geetar, but it really inspired my improv imagination.

Here's a snippet from a gig at a friend's restaurant using this setup last year:



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Re: Discussion - Vocal/instrumental Improvisation
Reply #10 on: February 18, 2020, 10:12:31
@Bill from November Sound

I got a good tip from searching the Bergonzi method.



This limited range technique can be adapted to any instrument, it's cool to come back to something like this. I think often with improv I shoot for a big range of notes which can be fun sometimes and even great sometimes but can get tedious to the listener.

Another tool in the arsenal of improv, thanks!


Re: Discussion - Vocal/instrumental Improvisation
Reply #11 on: February 20, 2020, 14:57:26
I see musical lines, and that includes improvisations, as language. Music is a form of language that tells a story. I speak in notes, notes are shaped into sentences - phrases, that even have a grammar. People like Jaco Pastorius and Mick Karn, who both let their instruments 'talk', have been great inspirations and confirmations that this may be a useful way to approach it.

Poets can do funny things that may look odd if you look at it through the glasses of common usage, but that may sound good none the less. But just like in poetry, some musical ideas may look less good or even clumsy and unskilled.
Pleudoniem: composer; bass guitarist; guitarist; singer; drummer; tap-guitarist - o, and yes... erm- a bit of keys. Open for collabs.
SoundCloud Page: https://soundcloud.com/pleudoniem


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Re: Discussion - Vocal/instrumental Improvisation
Reply #12 on: February 21, 2020, 11:16:07
@Pleudoniem

That is a very good point. Thanks for the addition! I just recently watched something explaining this concept. To speak with sound.



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