Outdoor Musical Improvisation (aka Noodling)
What is musical improvisation?
1) To invent, compose, or perform with little or no preparation. 2) To play (music) or sing extemporaneously, especially by inventing variations on a melody or creating new melodies.
Simply put, it is music made in the moment - the experience begins and ends in real time.
Learning to play a musical instrument is a wonderful, enriching thing to do. Additionally, there have been many articles and studies written on the benefits of learning to play a musical instrument from a young age. However sometimes the training can teach consistency, but not necessarily creativity in the individual. Improvisation is all about the creativity of the performer, and developing this creativity will go on to have many benefits in the rest of their music making. Essentially, good improvisational skills will promote a confidence in all performances.
At Percussion Play we passionately advocate improvisation. Our instruments are specifically designed to encourage and nurture the improvisational spirit in all the individuals who encounter them.
When you spend time creating and thinking up music, music making becomes more alive, more free, more connected to your own soul. It becomes less and less about being ‘correct’, avoiding mistakes and all that other intimidating, inhibiting stuff. Instead of worrying about the possibility of mistakes, just relax, listen, learn and have fun exploring the melodic and rhythmic possibilities. Listen carefully for your own feedback, you’ll soon discover what does and doesn't work well. Experiment with different rhythms: make some notes shorter or longer, make the tempo slower or faster. You don't need to worry about making a "melodic gaffes" with the pentatonic scale, since everything you do will sound fairly good, so you can just relax and play with the notes in different ways. While you're playing, depart from any predetermined ideas and respond to the moment, use your mood or what you are feeling or seeing to shape the music. Use the music to express your emotions, ooh I can slide one of my favourite quotes in here ‘Music is what feelings sound like.’ (Author Unknown). Love it!
It's always remarkable to see what young children can do when introduced to musical improvisation. It offers children and children with special needs the opportunity to become acquainted with the fun of music making and it can be an exciting exploration. The social experience of music making, having fun with friends and being able to experiment creatively through music, truly connecting with each other, and genuinely expressing themselves, well, quite honestly it’s magic. Oh by the way, just so you know, "improvisation" is a kind of formal, stuffy term. Messing around, or playing random things, generally with other people, or by yourself is called jamming (I knew this) and the verb to improvise, or jam on an instrument is to ‘noodle’, as in ‘I stood by the xylophone noodling.’ (I didn’t know this, but I like it!).
Here at PP HQ, we believe everyone has the ability to be expressive with music, and because it’s an especially flexible, responsive, and very personal form of music-making, musical improvisation can be liberating and even healing. However, like most things improvisation is an acquired skill which will improve with a little practice. And remember, all compositions started as improvised pieces, it’s just we weren’t privy to the process or the exploration, we’ve only been presented with the end result.
I’m off to try a little noodling in our demo room right now......
Percussion Play features in this months 'Percussion' edition of Music Teacher Magazine.
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Percussion Play and Percussion Play DK are currently in Hamburg, Germany making music and friends at the 2019 Rotary International Convention (1-5 June).