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Showing posts from November, 2015

Improvisation, Part 4 - Bettine, McCoy, Heuer

Let me start out by saying that improvising is a very personal thing. So what we have here, is my take on what I do. I'm sure you have different ideas floating around in your head. You might like what I played, you might not—I didn't like everything I did over the course of the day. But that's a big part of improvising, you have to accept the great with the not so great ideas played.

The idea here is to take a peek inside my brain, inside my creative process and hopefully understand how I approach music, especially improvisation. And maybe you can glean some ideas and inspiration to propel your own musical explorations.


Video Analysis

Alright, here we are, the video of the 1st improv session recorded, and my analysis of what I was doing. The video is only of myself, but the audio features both John McCoy and Sarah Heuer on electronics and samples.
It was a little after 9am on a Saturday morning. I had just hauled in and set up 13 cases/bags of percussion. I had no idea what to…

Improvisation, Part 3 - Tools Of The Trade

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Sparks Shooting Off In My Brain
Before we get into the actual dissection of the music and what I played, I think it's important to take a look at the gear I brought with me. The Gong rack and bass drum are my main set up. I chose my usual set of Gongs, but also brought 4 others to swap out as needed. I also looked through my bags and boxes of small percussion, looking for interesting sounds that I felt would fit with the various instruments I was going to record with.

For me, this is never a haphazard process. I look at things, maybe play them, and then imagine how they might sound in the context of what I'll be doing. This is much like how a painter might choose their color palette. And that's a big part of my thought process—I'm thinking colors, shapes, texture, shading—so much more than just rhythm. 

I love rhythm, but I usually look beyond just playing rhythms. When I'm in the midst of improvising with someone, I'm always carefully listening to the sounds and …

Improvisation, Part 2 - Developing A Rhythmic Language

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Much as we speak, each of us has our own musical language. In this second part on Improvisation, I'm going to look at what makes up my musical language. These are the ideas that I use to create what is a very personal view of music. You may use some of the same, or you may use completely different ideas. But this is what works for me.


The 3 Point Method
In art, color can be broken down into 3s: Additive Color uses red, yellow, and blue (the primary colors) to create all other colors. Subtractive Color (like your home printer) uses yellow, magenta, and cyan to create all other colors. Then there are the 3 attributes of lightness, saturation, and hue that further affect color. 

In Euclidean Geometry we have the point, line, and plane. In real life, we have the point where we are, and then also up & down, left & right, in & out, etc. So too in music, many ideas can be broken down into 3s. While this is all a simplistic explanation, it serves the purpose of denoting that we o…

An Inside Look At Improvisation - Part 1

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This is the first of a series of blog posts on creativity and improvisation. Improvisation is one of those sort of intangible things: you can't teach it as much as you just demonstrate it and show people examples. Musicians can only learn it through trial & error & experience.

What I will be writing about here is my own personal experience and adventure in the world of improvised music. While I've played in all types of bands, and all different styles of music, what excites me the most is improvising. I especially love improvising with people I've never played with before, or never even met before. It's a challenge to find some sort of common ground, common language, and hopefully produce some compelling music. It doesn't always work, but when it does, it's amazing.

Rarely have I ever been in a situation where the music fails to appear and things fall completely apart. In almost all cases, magic happens, even if only for a few minutes out of the larger wh…