Class improvisation: the students opine

April 19, 2007


Yesterday I brought my questions about improvisation to my music theory class. I asked “Do you think that 18 and 19 year olds are too old to learn improvisation?” The class growled in disagreement. I asked for their thoughts and ideas and was delighted at what I heard.

I’ve always wanted to learn but never have tried.

We could just jam on a few notes, or a mode, or a melody.

We could start with a simple chord progression.

We could improvise on what we are learning in lecture.

I’ve always improvised, that’s why I became a composer.

I’ve improvised with my drumming buddies where each of us only has one drum, but each stakes out his own rhythm.

I would be nervous.

We could all play someone else’s instruments.

You know, only 3% of the world’s musicians read music.

I am convinced that the class really wants to pursue it. I think I’ll speak to our Ethnomusicology department and ask whether we can use some of their instruments which could be useful in taking them ALL out of their comfort zone and leveling the playing field. I may then ask them to bring in little sound makers (not their instruments) to do a little sound/percussion session. Our Music Education program will likely have some MusEd type percussion instruments that might be fun. Getting out of our proscenium classroom might also facilitate a more conducive atmosphere. Going to the echoey organ studio; and then go into a carpeted room so they can learn about its deadly acoustics; go to some magical spot on campus and have a session.

Hmmm… this could be fun.


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