Learn to improvise. 2004-2005. Lesson 15: perform for an audience.

The threshold classical educated course members have to take before they are ready to improvise turns out to be crossed after they have attended the lessons in a group. They say that they can accept their improvisations after they have seen how other people deal with it and after they have played for an 'audience' a number of times. They have discovered how their own improvisations have improved and even have become good in their own opinion.

In general I argue not to play for anybody but yourself (close the windows and doors, nobody at home, the neighbors on vacation and then play just for yourself). After all, if you even don't like your own music, who do you think will do? But still, playing for an audience has its values. That's why I advise to collect a group of players (say 7) meeting weekly to improvise during 5 minutes by turns.

It turns out not only initial resistance disappears, but also experience with performing is learned, sometimes even with the result you are asked to perform for a greater audience. That's why I will pay some attention to performing for an audience.
  1. Enter the stage with extra (mental) energy, not fast or loud but with a feeling to like it.
  2. Never start with an excuse; people think they are taken in if you announce you have a sore throat.
  3. Play far below your maximum capabilities; let them think you can't do better; it is always to prefer above getting stuck.
  4. Radiate ease
  5. Mind your audience, but don't pay so much attention to them that your playing gets poor.
  6. Don't learn every note by heart, but use chord schemes.
  7. Put your repertoire on a list.
  8. People like to hear what they already know! This is why notes are useful and why you must adapt your improvisation to a certain degree, dependent on your audience.
  9. Change the initial key from time to time, but rather put all your effort in knowing one initial key well and a second one just enough for slow pieces, than trying to learn a lot of initial keys. You may use fake modulation by hitting some chords in different keys ending up in the original one.
    Hear key G, after that some chords in A-flat and A, and then G again.
  10. Prevent black-outs; experience with improvising and playing in public is helpful.
  11. Don't play too long or too short; if people are leaving the hall, you have played too long, if you play too short it may seem it's the only piece you know.
  12. Play listening; if you play background music pay attention to the atmosphere in the hall; if you perform, be aware of how much attention of the audience you loose or gain.
  13. Learn a good close; don't stop your play suddenly but sell the close carefully. The last impression stays with the people.
  14. Drive has a special value in performance. Also in classical music, e.g. the piano part in Ungeduld of Schubert enhances the dramatic effect of the singer if it is played with a certain drive.
    Text and chords of Ungeduld.
    Hear the song in MIDI; it's a pity this MIDI execution has no passion.
  15. Drive requires much reserve in skill and energy. Especial accuracy of rhythm and touch per note and use of the pedal are needed. E.g. the specialty of a boogie-woogie is its drive.
    Hear a boogie-woogie.

HOMEWORK: Form a group in which everyone plays 6 minutes in turn. Take care for discipline to prevent it degenerating to a tea club. Be absolute tolerant in the judgment of the quality of the playing. Nobody can play poor, only different. Nice is what you like. It is not necessary to like other person's playing, but don't show it. It is interesting to try to understand why he is playing like he does. Before giving an advice think if it might really be an improvement for the player and if so, if he will be capable to achieve it. Because musicality is a vulnerable peculiarity. You might harm someone's spirit.
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