Join us for a two-day improvisation workshop on the campus of Seattle Pacific University.
Last year, our inaugural adult workshop brought together a group of professional musicians, serious amateur players, and educators. Through prompts, games, and experimentation, we crafted a compelling 70 minute set of original music. I’m thrilled to lead the workshop with composer, vocalist, and Seattle Symphony Teaching Artist, Kaley Lane Eaton.
Registration is now open, and we only have room for 20 participants.
GSW is a mind-blowing improvisation experience. I left that weekend having made new friends and feeling so inspired! As a music educator, I was able to take GSW activities into my high school and college classrooms and see big results! I was practically knocking down Steve’s door to find out when the workshop was happening again. This workshop is so beneficial for classical musicians who are fearful of sounding bad and making mistakes during improvisation. My ears blossomed, my head exploded, and my creativity soared.
– Sarah Bost, M.A. Music Ed.
Flute and saxophone
Fear and anxiety are the biggest roadblocks to creative music making. The good news is the right strategies can ease the most profound phobias.
(Warning, there are a few swears. And I was a bit over-caffeinated, so I was talking much faster than usual.)
I created a Creativity Triggers for Musicians Facebook group to connect readers and creative musicians all over the world.
Of course, our most important connections are playing music together in real life. The value of a digital community is that we can:
– Connect with musicians across the globe
– Share music
– Ask and answer questions
– Find collaborators
– Share insight and resources
To create and perform great music, we need to connect with other people. Our creative practices are often stuffed into a practice room, isolating us from our peers. If we can break out of that sense of isolation, we can create more and connect with wider audiences.
– Kaley Lane Eaton, composer, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist
Download a free digital copy of my new book Creativity Triggers for Musicians. See you in the Facebook group.
Download a free digital copy of my new book Creativity Triggers for Musicians.
Creativity isn’t a mysterious or magical gift. It’s a practice.
Creativity Triggers for Musicians will help you express your unused creativity, break through barriers, and create an abundance of original music.
– Eight creative practices that underpin idea generation in any creative discipline.
– Creativity Triggers: frameworks for improvisation that draw from creative practices. These are similar to improv theater games and creative writing prompts.
This is a preview of new book Creativity Triggers for Musicians. Reserve a free digital copy.
Practicing can be a game, the goal is a deeper knowing of musical sound. One strategy is to draw the greatest variety of music from the smallest amount of material . . . [These] games are the kind master and beginner can play with skill.
– W. A. Mathieu, The Listening Book: Discovering Your Own Music
This chapter introduces Creativity Triggers, frameworks for improvisation that draw from the eight creative practices in Chapter One. Creativity Triggers are similar to creative writing prompts and improv theater games—these exercises help us narrow our focus and generate new ideas through experimentation and play.
When my wife and I were planning our wedding, our minister could sense we didn’t have a clear vision for our ceremony. She offered us her “Chinese Takeout Menu of Wedding Ceremonies,” which listed options for openings, readings, vows, and closings. This menu was a huge relief and helped us put together a personal and meaningful ceremony.
The Creative Limitation Menus list limitations for structuring improvised pieces. The challenge is to create interesting music within a narrow set of musical restrictions. Unlike a restaurant menu, you are free to change menu items and add your own.
In Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art, Stephen Nachmanovitch suggests, “two rules are more than enough. If we have a rule concerning harmony and another concerning rhythms, if we have a rule concerning mood and another concerning the use of silence, we don’t need any more. The unconscious has infinite repertoires of structure already; all it needs is a little external structure on which to crystallize.”
The magic comes from experimenting with the musical elements that aren’t restricted. For instance, if your two limitations are “choose two pitches” and “slow pulse,” you can drastically alter the dynamics, rhythmic values, articulation, and tone color.
Three Movement Piece
Choose three sets of limitations to structure a three movement improvisation.
Think of a person, place, emotion, object, or story to serve as the theme for an improvised piece. Choose limitations that will effectively express your theme.
Choose limitations randomly.
Improvise with a drum groove from the Drumgenius mobile app. The app features 400 jazz, rock, and Latin American drum loops.
When creative writers “free write,” they write continuously without editing, judging, or censoring. Similarly, we can “free play” music. Set a timer for 5, 10, or 20 minutes and play continuously. Record your free play because you may find material to develop in future improvisations or compositions
Experiment with mood, rhythm, and/or tone color limitations to play extreme interpretations of a notated piece.
Much more in Chapter Two of Creativity Triggers for Musicians. Reserve a free digital copy.
Theater games help actors create new material and build trust. We can experience the same benefits from creative musical games.
Improvisation is the source of paralyzing fear and for many musicians, and community-building games help ease fears about the creative process. The novelty, unpredictability, and attainable challenges help drive our attention into the present moment.
Group activities engage everyone in the ensemble. The jazz education model of teaching improvisation puts musicians on the spot one at a time—musicians who aren’t playing tend to check out mentally, and many inexperienced soloists get freaked out when put on the spot.
Introduce Creative Practices
Games allow us to experience profound creative practices: experimentation, creative risks, and playing within self-imposed limitations. Although some of the icebreaker games are silly, the practices help us improvise and compose in other areas.
Creative games and activities are the foundation of the Game Symphony Workshop.
When refer to various activities of life as “games,” we do not mean to imply that these activities are frivolous or make no difference. . .Half the fun of playing games like baseball—or the kind that come in a box—is that they challenge us to adapt and hone our skills. . .Naming your activities as a game breaks their hold on you and puts you in charge. Just look carefully at the cover of the box, and if the rules do not light up your life, put it away, take out another one you like better, and play the new game wholeheartedly. Remember, it’s all invented.
Roz Zander, The Art of Possibility
Here are ten of my favorite games for musicians who may be new to improvisation:
The ‘card came’ removed my usual block of being terrified to make s*** up (is it good?) and I felt really free. It was just inside my comfort zone and I was pleased with my own contribution.
– Kendal Seager, violin
Game Symphony Workshop participant
Earlier this month a group of classically-trained adult musicians came together to launch the Game Symphony Workshop. The program is designed to unlock and unblock creativity, ease fears, build community, and generate new music.
I had an exhilarating and inspiring weekend with thirteen musicians for the maiden voyage of the Game Symphony Workshop!
The event brought together a diverse group of musicians, including professional orchestral players, band directors, university students, and amateur musicians. The two day workshop at Seattle Pacific University culminated with the premiere of sixteen original pieces. The performance featured an improvised film score, abstract soundscapes, meditative minimalism, musical settings for poetry, solo improvisations, and Soundpainting, a sign language for live composition.