Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Improv Piece

Thanksgiving is over and it's back to work!

I think for my next piece, I'd like to write something that allows students a chance to improvise. It's an important skill and is one of the MENC's standards of music education, but I've never seen a piece that integrates improvisation into its structure. I have two ideas to start with: a standard blues structure (always a classic and very appropriate for improvisation) or a Debussy-like pentatonic style.

In either case, I think the best way to go about it is to give soloists a note set and instruct them to improvise using only those notes. This, of course, will be easier with a pentatonic scale and more of a challenge when dealing with the chord changes of a blues structure. In either case, it opens up a whole set of problems to solve:

1. The piece will have the usual written melodies , accompaniments, and bass lines and the improv section will be the middle section of the piece In order to maximize flexibility, I think it would be best to have two lines for each part - an accompaniment part (with a walking bass and horn-style hits to help keep an even beat) and a solo line with the note sets mapped out. This way, directors can assign solos of any length for any of their players. Hopefully, it won't be confusing to read.

2. If the piece is in G major, I should specify "start on G" and "end on D" etc. Young students usually don't figure out on their own how to make a musical phrase sound "complete."

3. Maybe a set of suggestions at the bottom of the page are in order. Or a blank line of music so kids can write in their own solos.

At any rate, it's going to take a lot of thought and testing out with groups.

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