Learn to improvise. 2004-2005. Lesson 04: theme, and melody like talking.

Henk (of our group) thought: "I don't know!" and chose for that little sentence the notes e e-flat and c. He used them for a theme in an impressive improvisation. It's a pity it is not recorded, but to show what I am driving at I have improvised on the same theme.
Hear me use this theme.

A theme is a recognizable short melody which is used in a piece of music many times. By using a theme an improvisation gets structure.

The repetition of the theme many times may be tedious. That's why accompaniment is necessary and that's why working with themes is usual done in great compositions. It is also possible to use two themes. A change of these themes is then called a reprise. The repetitions are not exact copies, but just enough to be recognized as related. Compare people. They have so much in common that you can recognize them as human being, but they all are different.

E.g. only the rhythm may be repeated, or only the rise and fall of the melody. In fact, it is easier than it seems as you only have to repeat messily.
Hear me use another theme.
Hear me use another theme once more.
Hear me use once more a theme.
It turns out however it is not easy to get a satisfying melody. I think the meaning of rhythm is underestimated. Compare a monotonous talker. In order to captivate, a speaker has to use a good timing, accents, timbre, change of loudness, etc. He uses the possibilities of his 'instrument', that is his body. He bends his head in different directions, etc. A melody, played stumbling, will not be recognized as melody but as stumble. So, a melody has to have a flowing progress. Rather play simple and supple than well composed and like you are practising.

A good help is your human voice! By singing (humming, whistling) along with your play, it is easier to play with a flowing progress. Playing the chords is often sufficient then. Many people are inhibited, but most people sing in tune, and consider: since the pop singers we know a poor voice is of no importance. So: use your voice.

Compare talking. You often put redundant words in it just for the progress (if it is only 'uh'). And you speak with different kinds of sentences. You may distinguish between the first and the second part of a phrase.
Hear a first and second phrase of a melody.
You may think of a question.
Hear the atmosphere of a question in music.
You may think of an exclamation.
Hear a kind of exclamation in music.
You may play like telling a story.
Hear the atmosphere of telling a story in music.

One may create tone by tone, but you can easier get a flowing progress if you think in short strings of notes, e.g. a thrill, or a forefall followed by a broken chord.
Hear a forefalls followed by broken chords.
The ordinary chords are well suited for this as you know them already.

Repetitions of a single note also form a string. They have the atmosphere of passion (little sobs).
Hear the passion of the repitition of a single note.
Runs learned by heart are not inevitably well-worn if you play them with fervor.
Hear runs.

Accept you are not Bach or Chopin.
HOMEWORK: Mind the progress of your playing. Compare it with speaking. Prevent musical stumbling.
Play as if you tell a story.
Use your voice.
Use repetitions, thrills and forefalls followed by broken chords.
Make a theme and try to make music with it.
<< Homepage / Index of the course / Next page >