musical form

(Improvisation Journals, Budding Ideas, Blossoms and Bouquets)

Last month I talked about students making improvisation journals to jot down their musical ideas. Paralleling the creative process to stages in development of flowers and bouquets, ideas were offered in these areas (see Blossoming Improvisation – Part One dated 9/25/09) :

  • Preparing the Soil for Creativity
  • Planting Seeds (motifs).

Today I want to talk about the remaining three stages in my flowery discussion of creativity:

  • Budding Ideas (phrases)
  • Blossoms (sections)
  • The Bouquet (the composition)

Budding Ideas (Phrases)

In this section, short motifs from the “Planting Seeds” section (see Part One of this series) will be expanded in to phrases. The motifs may be used as “take-off” points, or combined to create an interesting theme.

Since a phrase is a musical sentence, it needs to have a beginning, and build through the middle to a period or question mark at the end. The picture of a rainbow shape is a helpful analogy of a phrase shape. Though all phrases do not follow the same melodic and dynamic shape, the rainbow shape will ensure nicely rounded, successful phrases for introductory purposes. Once this is achieved, turn up at the ends of the phrases to create question phrases.  [···]

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Jump Start Your Creativity!

…with Mozart or Beethoven! At one time, using another artists idea to build a masterpiece was considered an homage, a great honor! (These days it’s called plagiarism!) So, we won’t need to take it straight off the page, but gleaning another artist’s great idea and using it as a springboard into improvisation or original composition, is something quite worthwhile.

I would like to share just a few improv/composition exercises that use previously written music as a starting place. Since I have discussed in my earlier articles more specifics on motifs, development and form, please refer back to Parts 1 and 2 of “Get It Going” if you haven’t previously had a chance to read them!

Theme & Variations

This is probably the most obvious place to start. I’d suggest to start by listening to some examples. Here are a few suggestions:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman” (K. 265 / K. 300e)

Ludwig van Beethoven, 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120

Max Reger, Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Mozart, Op.132

Make a simple lead line chart of a familiar tune (I like to use Twinkle, Jingle Bells and Jesus Loves Me, to name a few).

  • Write (or have the student) write out the melody line. You may choose to use just the starting note for the melody, and then only the lyrics.
  • Using the most basic chord choices (I, IV and V in the given key), play the melody, and let the student  [···]
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