Improvisation is “Talking through Music”

“Talking through Music”

Recently I had the pleasure of presenting a music lesson at St. Anthony’s School through the East Side Chamber Players in Milwaukee, WI.  In this lesson I improvised at the piano for the students and had some fun just “talking through music” in front of them.  “Wow!  How did you do that?”  A student asks.

From there I asked them a question!  How did you learn to talk?  You copied your mom and dad right?  “blah, blah, mama, mama, dada, papa”  (giggles)  Then, after we learned a bunch of words using our ears and objects, we studied our “abc’s” to make sure we could write down the words that we knew.  (at least most people might have learned this way in America or other countries)

A lot of times, music is learned the opposite way!

introvisation2We learn from notation and some students don’t even feel comfortable improvising!  It is not this way in all places of course, but in America I’ve seen this before.  So, I always encourage students in my private or online lessons to learn their musical language or their musical “abc’s” (like scales, arpeggios, chords, and more) enough to the point of feeling comfortable “talking” with it or in other words; improvising!

I then improvised to some graphics that I drew on the board.  “Anyone like drawing?”  Many students couldn’t wait to draw something on the board – which I then improvised something to and explained my reasoning.  (I saw a shape that was a smiley face, so I played in happy groove in a major key – then the art was very scribbly – so I started to do faster and faster arpeggios)

I then asked them to draw just a wavy line on the board.  After using this to design the pitch contour of my improvisation, I said “watch this!”  I drew fiveintrovisation1 lines equally spaced over the wavy line… then slowly… drew a…treble clef and some quarter notes along the contour of the wavy line.  “OOOHHHHHHH”  a light bulb went off for the students, filling me with joy!

This was a truly educational experience of GRAPHIC notation vs. ICONIC notation given through the assistance of the East Side Chamber Players and St. Anthony Schools.



First record it, then notate it. Composition and Transcription!

Whew!  Finally finished working through the electronic engravings of those guitar and marimba works that I posted about a few months ago.  It was very satisfying to be able to get that out there and available for people!  It is available on the sheet music portion of this website or you can contact me through the contact page!

Big thanks to Raul, who helped me through the notation and tablature notation that is available for guitarists.  Be sure to listen to the tracks and see if you know anyone who would want to learn some new music for marimba and guitar!

On the note of transcriptions and notating stuff, there are a few albums on the horizon for Mike Neumeyer and his marimba… a new relaxing improvisation album.  “Comprovisations: Volume I – A Fantasy” will be coming out very soon!

As a result of recording this multi-album collection of “comprovisations,” I really did enjoy some of what were essentially compositions that had motives and musical depth.  Therefore, some of these selections are currently being transcribed for others to learn and play in an educational setting!  I look forward to the near future!  Yeah!

10.14.14 – Marching Band: Front Ensemble Visuals and Movement

It has been over four months since I posted last.  Part of this is because I have been working on notating the guitar and marimba works that I previously posted about and also have been working on all of the stuff that goes into an album release.  Soon, there will be a new three volume improvisation album with a post to go along with it!

I feel like have to post something about marching band season.  This year, the marching band for which I teach the front ensemble, The Oak Creek Marching Knights, has won several first place awards along with caption awards in musical performance, percussion, and auxiliary.  It has been a very successful year for the Knights and I am so lucky to be able to work with them!

10661822_724093911004090_7274467303526826733_oThe front ensemble and marching band have taught me that going for the extremes in music making really pays off in the performance.  And anyone can do it.  I spent many sessions speaking about specific stick heights and technical aspects of playing that help players get to those extremes, but in the end it was about their comfort level in moving their body.

Some folks didn’t feel that comfortable dancing and stuff…

So one rehearsal I walked up and just started a metronome.  I didn’t talk or give direction, I just danced to the beat.  Then I gestured for the section leader to show me the beat or dance he felt from the metronome.  (anybody can hear whatever they want in their head, I just said “hear what makes you want to move”)  Then it spread amongst the ensemble.  We were all dancing musically, to our own grooves we were hearing in our heads; but all that was on was a simple click from a metronome.  EVERYONE FELT COMFORTABLE AND THEY WERE TOTALLY ROCKING OUT!  Then, we moved the rehearsal to warming up and playing music while dancing with that same energy.

The front ensemble has shown me this year that movement is so important in music making.  As soon as we started adding visuals to our playing and even more choreograph when we aren’t actively playing instruments, the more interesting the performance is to the audience and the players.  Now, the players may be making a gesture all together that represents what is going on in the wind parts, thus enhancing their active listening spectrum.  Also, there are visuals that go along with the part they are directly playing, enhancing their musicality on that specific part!

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I will remember this forever and it reminded me that all music has movement and the more we let the natural movements that we feel fit with a phrase of music find their way into our performance, the more musical that performance will be.  (as long as the technical aspects of playing are addressed as well)



6.22.2014 – New Works for Marimba & Guitar!

On a floating Saturday at the end of April this year, I got together with guitarist and composer Raul Bonde to record some material we had been working on.  This recording session was produced, mixed & mastered by awesome musician Jaems Murphy.  Check them out here while you read a little about the recording session below!

It was awesome and like clockwork.  Jaems came in with a few cases and a computer and just set up my coffee table as a recording station:

Fro2014-04-26 14.49.48m this vantage point, he could see both Raul, down the hall and in the bedroom and me across from him on the marimba.

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So we were simultaneously recording in different rooms to enhance mixing abilities.  We just wore headphones and Jaems knowledgeably rigged some amplifiers so we could have those headphone monitors.  Just great what one can set up in their own space!

We do this because the vibrations coming from the marimbas resonators in the small space can sometimes be overpowering.  Then there is too much bleeding of that sound into the guitar microphone.  When I am playing with the headphones, I can hear a mix of myself on the different marimba mics and also Raul on the microphones he is using.  It is really cool if you’ve never gotten to do any recording… 🙂

The recording session went well without a hitch and after a few weeks we had awesome tracks from Jaems that were mixed and mastered.

Now, that is not the end for this project in particular.  Along with these five recordings, we have also written the music out and are currently working on the final electronic engravings.  In other words, keep your radar out for SHEET MUSIC that can help you learn these tunes or use them for educational reasons!




Keep a lookout for more marimba recording projects in the future!

4.19.14 – Oak Creek High School Fundraiser Events coming up!

Hey Everybody!  (imagine a cowboy/southern voice saying that… that is how I am hearing it… whether the rest of this is country while you read it is up to you) 🙂  Read on about upcoming events at Oak Creek High School!
Oak Creek High School Band Fundraisers Coming Up!

IMG_0779I will be playing at the Oak Creek High School Band Scholarship Fund Dinner on May 4th!  This is taking place at the Oak Creek Community Center and helps raise funds for a continuous scholarship that is offered to students who’s next step is a college degree.

The show will consist of some great arrangements and originals that I wrote recently for solo marimba as well as the normal Neumeyer antics thrown in there 🙂  Please come on out and support the cause and join for a great meal and show!

Click Here for Scholarship Dinner Sign Up Sheet


Voirimba! 2014

cropped-RAW-marimbawon.jpgVoirimba! is the wacky tacky fun and musical (educational) fundraiser performance for Oak Creek High School Bands.  This year students will be involved in the performance and in continuing tradition, I will play tunes with Amy Fuchs and Guy Gregg, the staff of the band department at Oak Creek.  In the past and future we involve guest performers and members of the marching band teaching staff in these performances.

This is such a wonderful opportunity for the students to see music making modeled (awesome alliteration there!) by the people who ask the same thing of them throughout the summer and school year.  If they get to see me showcase the marimba and make some great musical collaborations happen within the walls of their own school and program, it is proof and inspiration for them to do the same type of projects themselves!

Musical Selections for the show include: A new marimba/trumpet duet by Neumeyer, a new marimba/flute Beatles arranagement, a Radiohead arrangement for marimba/guitar, “New”-meyer marimba solos, appearance by the OC Marching Knights bass and snare drum line, and more!

This show is at 7pm on Thursday, May 22nd at the Oak Creek High School Little Theatre.  I’ll see you there!


2.15.2014 – The Adna Pirate Percussion Ensemble is Going to State!

sheet musicI am so excited, giddy, proud, and honored that The Adna Pirate Percussion Ensemble received the award to move on to the State Solo & Ensemble competition in WA!  I originally wrote this piece for them in the Fall of 2013 and they rocked it out!  CONGRATS GUYS!



The piece ended up being a vessel for the students to learn some fun grooves and blues licks, explore Latin 2 vs. 3 rhythms in the second section and hear a slower version of the opening theme in a Major key later in the piece.  The whole idea of the piece was to create a fun and approachable experience, while still leaving some educational challenges to execute.  We can totally “space out” for the sections that are affable, but then we have to always be “focused in” for parts that require more technique.  Hence the name of this new work for percussion ensemble is “Spaced In.” 

2013-12-09 09.01.04I only delivered the work to them at the beginning of November, after a posting and receiving a few comments from the students!  Then in December, I went to visit them for a masterclass with the privilege to see how things were going. (they were already rockin’ it, but I did have some tips for them; we had an energetic and educational time working together!)  This visit was very satisfying on many fronts: for me it was about seeing and hearing the music being played live for the first time and having fun working with the students.  For the students, I believe seeing the composer and meeting them first person on any work is a different kind of experience.  I remember some great feelings when I would work with composers in college; it would usually inspire me to a greater length when the person who created the music was still alive and able to hear how I interpreted their piece.

marimbaclinic2Which brings me to my next subject: I am traveling out to Adna HS in Washington to do a three day residency including multiple masterclasses and clinics with the students in the music program!  This will be a visit where I will talk to the students about percussion, composition, conducting, and music.  And anything else they want!  We will also work on Spaced In before their home concert premiere!  On top of all of this wonderful energy surrounding this new percussion music,  I will also have a great time exploring this nice area of the west coast.  Really looking forward to this experience!


A big thank you goes out to Ryan Brumbaugh, who contacted me and worked along with me during the commission to make sure the product fit the group well.  Since they had played another work I had written called Questo, we used that work as a baseline so we could plan the difficulty of the parts.  In the end, our communication made the process and the product even better!  Again, CONGRATS AND THANK YOU to Mr. Brumbaugh, Brandon, Daisy, Josie, Kyler, Liz, & Seth!

Spaced In Premiere Program_Page_2

2.11.2014 – Mike Neumeyer plays piano? Listen…

Lately I have been playing more piano in a performance setting.  This is kinda new and very fun!  Read more below about my adventures in piano and give a few listens!

My first technical piano experience was right before college in preparation for studies as a music major.  I took piano lessons from Susan Champa in Port Washington, WI.  Before this, I mostly just joked around with Chopsticks or Heart and Soul, not appreciating how cool it was!  I soon studied four levels of piano in college (and was able to read simple accompaniments and read off of lead sheets to make up accompaniment patterns.  In graduate school I “got” to take a score reading class; reading all of the instruments in an orchestra at once and playing it on the piano.  That one was a mind workout, and totally added to my technique!

I really enjoyed the part where I was able to use the theory knowledge I had studied so hard to make up patterns on the piano.  This studying of accompaniment from chord structures while fitting in a melody really created a baseline of piano playing that always stayed with me.  From then on, I would always be jamming on piano and making up things or playing familiar tunes.  Soon I had developed an ability to take a lead sheet and create something from it that was my own relaxed version of the tune!

I played a few background piano gigs around the holidays over the years, but never really took it to another level.  Recently, I am playing a few more venues in a background setting, which I really enjoy!  I like to present the room with popular tunes from the past and the present, but in a soft improvisatory (some have called it “jazzy”) way.  This lets the music exist behind conversation, but when a familiar melody is heard; it could be a conversation starter!

“Whoa, do you guys hear that?  He is playing Boots are Made for Walkin’… but it’s jazzy!”

I have had people say that “it is like a trivia game,” having fun all night guessing the tunes.  Remember, the lyrics are gone and I tend to play them at a more relaxed tempo with a few more jazz chords at times.  Curious?  Keep a radar out for more appearances!

Next one: Twisted Willow Restaurant in Port Washington, WI – Feb. 22nd 6-9pm.  Make reservations for the piano area!

(this is me having a great time with multi-tracking!) :>

2.4.2014 – Whoa… it is 2014.

Wow, Happy New Year everybody!  That happened fast.  Then January happened fast 🙂

IMAG0107This picture is a beautiful view of Lake Michigan taken from the bluff in Port Washington, WI.  At the time it just reminded me to be thankful for a seemingly simple thing; which actually is a wonderful horizon that I took for granted.  Right now, it signifies the clean slate of 2014!  (although I picked a picture with some trees in it because it is already February)

AN EXPERIENCE WHICH SEEMED LIKE MUSIC THERAPY:  So far in 2014, I had a great time playing with Jaems Murphy at The Alexian Village in Brown Deer in January!  This was a great way to start the new year 🙂  We played in the form of a wonderful piano and guitar duet.  I play soft and subtle piano to back up Jaems’ fluid soloing on guitar.  Also… I get to solo as well!

This gig was very satisfying because it was to entertain some older folks.  I absolutely love the life the music breathes into human beings.  Personally, my grandfather has developed dementia, causing him to not remember me; but more importantly makes his personality pretty stagnant.  When my father and I bought him an iPod and uploaded my grandfather’s favorite music from his thirties, he immediately became more lively, smiled at me and started bobbing his head.  At one point, he even moved his hand around as if conducting or dancing!  This is the experience I believe we gave the audience at The Alexian Village.  Proof?  I distinctly remember one woman celebrating one of Jaems’ solos by enthusiastically saying,

“now THAT is what I’m talkin’ ’bout!”

Self executed experience (that relates to) music therapy right there at it’s best.  We are looking for more gigs… dot. dot. dot.

1536449_10100572719208603_68959963_nA WORLD PREMIERE: Later in January, I was involved in the world premiere of a marimba trio by a great percussionist and composer, Ivan Trevino.  Check out Ivan’s website:  This new work for marimba trio, “Open Your Eyes,” is a product of a Kickstarter project called “Wisconsin New Works for Percussion” led by Jordan Kamps and Colin O’Day.  Read more about it here and keep your radar out for the recording we will be producing as well as future commissions that will be part of this project!

PERCUSSION ENSEMBLE GOING TO STATE: And now February has started.  I just heard some exciting news about the newest percussion ensemble work of mine “Spaced In,” which was commissioned by the Adna Pirate Percussion Ensemble in Adna (Chehalis), Washington.  They entered solo & ensemble with this work and made it to State Competition!  Congrats to them and look for a post about this subject… 🙂

COMIN’ UP: Other than that Mike Neumeyer has some background piano appearances comin’ up, marimba presentations, appearances with The Vedic Eden and Jaems Murphy,  “Voirimba! 2014,” “Mike Neumeyer & Friends #9,” and more…too much to list right here.  Please read for more posts on these subjects!

Gosh I love Music. 🙂



11.23.13 – Beatles Arrangements on Marimba (and guitar!)

Been a while since a post, but that is how it is with marching band season!  It is a great time; but a busy time!

This year I worked as a percussion coach with both Cudahy and Oak Creek Marching Bands – such fantastic music students, parents and staff at each location and both bands landed 3rd place in their respective divisions!  Boom!  Congrats to all bands and music makers on all fields!

I just finished a percussion ensemble commission and you will be hearing about that in the near future on here… and there are definitely other projects brewing… 🙂          Meanwhile… CHECK THIS OUT 😀

Beatles on Marimba

Norwegian Wood (Honduran Wood)  🙂
Hey Jude


So, I love playing Beatles tunes on marimba!  I most recently added Norwegian Wood to the list thanks to playing with Jaems Murphy on guitar.  Keep your radar out for shows where you’ll be able to hear the guitar/marimba duo live version of that arrangement.  A recording is also in progress!

DSC_8294--1We had the pleasure of playing some Beatles works at Cassie Tully’s art gallery in Plymouth and photographer Jan Scholke took some nice photos of the marimba/guitar duo!

So now you can listen and imagine being at a live performance with solo marimba.

Also, think of what guitar sounds like with the soft wooden bars! Marimba/Guitar Duo Sounds

Contact us if you think these sounds fit your occasion! 🙂

Hey Jude was one that I played solo on that night and it is one of my favorites to play on marimba.  Marimba marimba marimba…. Beatles Beatles Beatles!


9.21.13 – An upcoming work commissioned by Adna High School

So, recently I have been working on a percussion ensemble work that has been commissioned by Ryan Brumbaugh for the Adna High School Advanced Percussion Ensemble at Adna HS in Adna, WA.

sheet musicI have had great experiences so far collaborating with Ryan and having the talented students at Adna HS play my compositions.  I had the pleasure of hearing them play my arrangement of The Super Mario Bros. theme and an original work of mine called “Questo.”  I am honored and excited to write another work specifically for the these students, this teacher, and this program!

So far, the work has been planned as a percussion ensemble that will include standard instruments that most schools will have.  So far it will be a vibraphone, a xylophone, a 4 1/3 octave marimba, and three auxiliary percussion parts.  These aux. parts are not exactly normal set ups though!  I have designed the auxiliary percussion parts to have a membrane instrument, a ringing instrument such as a cymbal, and a plastic or wooden block-type instrument.  (they are actually evolving to include one or two more instruments per set up, but essentially they will be very easy-to-set multi-percussion setups! 🙂

Like I said before, I am having a blast getting creative to write a cool piece for the students at Adna.  As for any piece, it has been an adventure of finding the best path!  I initially though of going jazzy with things, and then a theme came out that was in C minor.  After playing with rhythmic theme and melodic theme I saw a spot where the C blues line fit in perfectly.  This is going to create a really fun lick for the students and all while solidifying the blues in C!  Also, as the rhythm came out and settled – this is turning into more of a driving style than a swung jazz style.  No matter what, this is going to be a fun piece to play!

IMG_0779Speaking of, I am having fun playing these themes myself…  You see, just as many composers and conductors play piano to understand a score or to create and understand the totality of a musical work, I play marimba.  As this percussion ensemble piece is being orchestrated for the sextet at hand, I am also creating a solo marimba version that I will probably only play for myself and a few audiences.  The marimba along with singing and piano are some of the main avenues through which I create themes.  Then I may let those themes live and evolve in my mind and on pencil and paper before really knowing what the music wants to do.  I am just a vehicle for the music and marimba/voice/piano is how it most easily comes out!  Arrangements as well!

I look forward to more posts about the work and the progress that the students have while playing the premiere of the composition at school concerts and in contest!  Writing music is so much fun and satisfying, THANK YOU RYAN BRUMBAUGH AND THE ADNA HIGH SCHOOL BAND STUDENTS! 🙂  This will surely be fun!




Mike Neumeyer: Composer, Educator, Percussionist, Marimba & Voice