Tag Archives: iconic notation

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.