Spicing Up the Routine
12 Saturday Dec 2009
My new book, Improv Games for 1 Player was just released by GIA Publications. About half of the content is taken from the big book (354 p.), Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians (also GIA) and half is new material that I have collected or invented since the publication of the big book two years ago. The great thing about the big book is its vast content. The problem with the big book is its vast content – it’s not very portable. This volume is much slimmer (56 p.) and should fit easily in any instrumental case.
The main purpose for this book is to enliven the instrumentalist’s daily routine, both musical and technical. The good thing about routines is that it gets things done: a warm-up routine is a set content that is meant to be played the same way every day. The dangerous thing about a routine is that it can become boring; the mind can go to sleep. Also, the way we’ve all been trained, we’re not accustomed to adjusting the routine – we play the set sequence no matter how our chops are today, no matter what our needs are. Life is not really like that. Things change. Times change. Chops change. We are a little different every day, every time we play the horn. Flexibility is a great musical virtue that is not normally built into a classical player’s approach to technique. This book is meant to do something about that by offering a variety of ways to do the same stuff we always do, i.e. scales, arpeggios, and other elements of basic technique. What this book (and the big book, as well as the two other books in this series that will be coming out next year) does is to add the rather scary addition of thought to routine. Instead of mindless repetition (which is always accompanied by hope or belief that sheer repetition is sufficient) of the same old stuff, these games challenge you in a friendly way to “think in music”. A good analogy would be the difference between memorizing a bunch of Berlitz phrases of a foreign language and hoping to have an opportunity to parrot them and being able to speak (even at a very basic level) a language, i.e. being able to improvise in it to be able to express something and communicate with it.
So the book, rather than being a written-out list of octave scales that you play as is, ad infinitum (or ad nauseum), has in fact no music notation in it at all, but rather challenges you get off the page and use the technical material in a musical context. For instance, instead of just playing arpeggio notes up-and-back, you will be challenge to recast the material (e.g. major, minor, augmented, diminished, etc. arpeggios) as a fanfare. Or to play a familiar tune by ear, and then use it to train your ear and extend your instrumental knowledge of keys & chords, melodies and bass lines. It’s great fun, and hard to stop once you get going (get past the reaction inculcated by classical training of “Oh dear I’ve never done anything like this I’m afraid, I might make a mistake!”).
Thinking is so much fun and so terrifically beneficial that it’s a wonder that it’s not part of our classical training. But the classical training paradigm rigidly keeps performance, theory, history, and composition all separate (with the possible exception of piano/pianists). This book puts them all together and adds another dimension normally forbidden to classical musicians: fun.
Music isn’t supposed to be fun, is it? Music is serious!
When we think about it, it becomes clear that we don’t know how to “play” our instruments. We only serious them.
But that’s a topic for another post.
I just wanted to let you know what’s out there, in case you’re one of the few who is interested in peeking outside the box at the wonders that await the curious and the broad-minded…