Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Learning to improvise (January improvisation play-in)

During our improvisation play-in, we did some "free improvisation" and also read through Come Together by the Beatles using the Chord/Lyric Sheet below. There are a bunch of these sheets available for free, mostly from guitar websites, but they work for any instrument.

This was my first time reading from Chord/Lyric Sheet, and it was really interesting. It wasn't as difficult (i.e. completely impossible for me!) as I thought it would be, but it wasn't easy either.

Reading from a chord sheet does mean that I have to know the song pretty well. Luckily my dad is a huge Beatles fan so I was familiar with it. Unfortunately, I didn't prepare for the play-in, which I should have done, so I kind of struggled through it. We also took turns doing solos and mine was SUPER lame! Lol! Oh, well - it was a learning experience! ;)

Anyway, a couple of exercises for beginners like me to prepare is to 1) play along to the song to find easy rhythms and to try to improvise on top of it and 2) make sure I know the chords, which are listed in the blue box, and to become "familiar" with the notes in each of the chords. I thought that was a bit too much to memorize for me, so I decided just to memorize the first two notes listed in the blue box, i..e the 1st and 3rd note of the key.

I had also remembered what Clayton had tried to teach me during our beginning lessons together on learning how to improvise. He had given me an exercise to do when improvising in a key (example Dminor):
  • Play root of the key only: D
  • 1st & 2nd notes of each key: D, E
  • 1st through 3rd notes: D, E, F
  • 1st through 5th notes: D, E, F, G, A
  • Chord (1,3,5) : D, F, A

That was about a year and half ago, and I didn't understand back then why it was important to know how to play the first few notes of a key, but now it's finally sunk in!

First of all, playing those notes (like the above exercise) IS improvising within the key, just add a few different rhythms and voilà! Secondly, it helps me learn the notes within the key really well so it's easier for me to think of rhythms instead of trying to figure out what finger to use. Not to say that I have any of this down (yet!), but now I'm starting to understand it! Yaaaay!!! :)

Anyway, to prevent my brain from exploding, I decided that I would just play the root note and the third note (if possible), and defaulted to just playing the root note if I got confused or lost during the playin - can't go wrong with the root note! :)

We also learned the "riff" for Come Together with the notes: D, D, F, G, F(slide) to C(pluck), then D.
I couldn't quite get the timing of the rhythm, but close enough... and we learned it without looking at sheet music either - just watch, listen and then mimic!

I was also able to play and sing at the same time, but I definitely wasn't singing in tune! ..ack, another thing I need to learn and work on! Anyway, I think a few more play-ins learning and playing from chord sheets and I'll be able to start learning how to play from Lead Sheets, which is one of my goals.

Example of Lead Sheet:
It shows the notes of the melody, unlike the chord sheet above.
It does provide more information, but right now I find this more confusing than a chord sheet.

...hhhmmm...just a thought, but why is it that other instruments (like the guitar) begin with learning chords? Why can't we use that method for cellists too? Then we'd all know how to play chords and improvise from the very beginning! :)

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