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Thematic Jazz Improvisation Playlist

POSTED ON September 05, 2017   |   2 Comments

Thematic improvisation is the process of embellishing, developing, changing, and/or deconstructing a musical theme. These themes can come from the composition itself or improvised on the spot.

This approach to improvisation is a hallmark of some of the greatest jazz soloists, and practicing the process will help you generate and endless flow of ideas on any tune, in any style.

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What Should You Think About While Improvising?

POSTED ON July 20, 2017   |   One Comment
Playing what your hear? The chord changes? The melody? Listening to the band? Remembering licks you practiced? Nothing at all?

Finding the Zone

Some of the greatest improvisers describe a peak speak of non-thinking, known as being “in the zone” or a flow state. In a 2014 NPR interview, Sonny Rollins says, “When I play, what I try to do is to reach my subconscious level. I don’t want to overtly think about anything, because you can’t think and play at the same time — believe me, I’ve tried it. It goes by too fast.”

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Creativity Triggers Is an Amazon Bestseller!

POSTED ON June 17, 2017   |   Post A Comment

Creativity Triggers for Musicians went live in the Kindle store last week and hit #1 in a three music categories!


You can download the pdf for free here, and it’s free to share. Thanks for reading and spreading the word!

– ST

“It Actually Works”

POSTED ON April 27, 2017   |   Post A Comment

I had the privilege of presenting six improvisation workshops at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho in February. The Lewiston Tribune reported on my “How to Practice Creativity” workshop.

Jazz – it’s about learning to improvise

Musicians take part in workshop during Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival
By CHELSEA EMBREE of the Tribune  Feb 25, 2017

Tribune/Barry Kough
Saxophonist and educator Steve Treseler of Seattle (background, left) listens to students work on his ideas for improvising jazz during a workshop Friday at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival at the University of Idaho

MOSCOW – Drew Lyall knew he had to do something.

The 18-year-old from Kimberley, British Columbia, approached the piano at the front of the crowded room in the University of Idaho’s Teaching and Learning Center. He had been instructed to improvise a tune using only the piano’s A notes.

Lyall admitted later that there was “a bit of fear” involved, but he played anyway.

The experiment was part of a Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival workshop on practicing creativity Friday morning. Steve Treseler, a professional saxophonist and teacher at Seattle Pacific University, led the workshop, where he encouraged students to take creative risks and explore new ways of making music.

Lyall was grateful for the experience.

“I’m always keen to jump into a situation like that,” he said. “It’s just a little bit more experience of being in a situation that you aren’t well prepared for. The more often you do that, then the better you are when you’re in situations like that that really matter.”

Treseler focused on three creative practices Friday morning – experimentation, play and limitations.

Artists experiment in much the same way as scientists, learning as much from hypotheses that prove false as those that prove true, Treseler said.

“This might not work, but I’m going to try it anyway,” he said. “Having that kind of mindset is huge.”

Play, he said, refers to a childlike perspective of the task at hand. The goal is not to improve or to be the best.

“The goal of play is to just keep playing,” Treseler said.

Though counterintuitive, Treseler said limitations can inspire creativity. He passed out “creativity menus” to the musician-packed audience, including limitations like Lyall’s to play only one note.

There was one trio that was ready for the challenge. Trombonist Jay Panchal, 16, saxophonist Peter Lee, 16, and drummer Nivedan Kaushal, 17, came forward and promptly put themselves at the mercy of the crowd to pick two limitations from the menu.

The audience implored them to play in constant vibrato and in an 11/4 time meter.

Panchal told Kaushal that they could keep up that tempo if Kaushal could – and the trio from Nanaimo, British Columbia, played.

“That puts you out of your comfort zone,” Treseler said as they finished. “… This is the right kind of experimental mindset.”

Kaushal told the audience he had to “really focus” as he drummed. Afterward, he added that it was “cool” to be able to try anything he wanted.

“It’s one of the fears to get over, actually, just getting up front,” Kaushal said. “Let’s be honest – you’re never going to see anyone here again. Why not completely mess up if it means learning something?”

The trio was most excited, though, when pianist Lyall joined them for another improvisation game. The newly formed quartet played their music in a call-and-response format, with each instrument using only three pitches.

“I really enjoy playing with people I’ve never played with before,” Panchal said. “… Being thrown up there and seeing what happens when you mix different groups together was so cool.”

“The cool thing is it actually works,” Lee added. “It just works out.”

Embree may be contacted at email hidden; JavaScript is required or (208) 669-1298. Follow her on Twitter @chelseaembree.

© Copyright 2017 Lewiston Morning Tribune, TPC Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

Creativity Triggers Facebook Group

POSTED ON February 19, 2017   |   Post A Comment

I created a Creativity Triggers for Musicians Facebook group to connect readers and creative musicians all over the world.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/creativitytriggers/

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.

– ST

 

Creativity Triggers for Musicians is Here!

POSTED ON February 03, 2017   |   Post A Comment

Download a free digital copy of my new book Creativity Triggers for Musicians.

The Big Idea

Creativity isn’t a mysterious or magical gift. It’s a practice.

The Promise

Creativity Triggers for Musicians will help you express your unused creativity, break through barriers, and create an abundance of original music.

The Content

– 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.

  1. Eight Creative Practices
  2. Creative Limitations
  3. Inner Hearing
  4. Drones
  5. Variations on a Theme
  6. Text Setting

Download the book + free bonuses.

Enjoy!
– ST

Creative Limitation Menus

POSTED ON January 22, 2017   |   Post A Comment

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.

Menus

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.


Creativity Trigger: Pick Two

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.”

  • Choose two limitations from different categories.
  • Staying within these limitations, play a short improvisation (30-60 seconds) that has a clear beginning, middle, and end.
  • As W. A. Mathieu suggests, treat the limitations as a musical game.

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.

More Creativity Triggers

Three Movement Piece
Choose three sets of limitations to structure a three movement improvisation.

Themed 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.

Chance Piece
Choose limitations randomly.

Groove
Improvise with a drum groove from the Drumgenius mobile app. The app features 400 jazz, rock, and Latin American drum loops.

Free Play
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

Extreme Interpretation
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.

– ST

 

Reflection Questions for Improvisers

POSTED ON January 15, 2017   |   Post A Comment

Reflecting on our performances makes us stronger musicians and collaborators. You can ask and answer the following questions:

  • Immediately after playing
  • After listening to a recording
  • Letting weeks or months pass before listening to the recording

Listen and reflect with a detached and compassionate curiosity.


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Unused Creativity Doesn’t Disappear

POSTED ON December 09, 2016   |   Post A Comment

Gearing up to release my new eBook, Creativity Triggers for Musicians. Below is part of the introduction. Reserve your free copy.

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Create Without Analyzing

POSTED ON October 08, 2016   |   2 Comments

Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

– Sister Corita Kent and John Cage, “Ten Rules for Teachers and Students”

This is challenging practice because as artists, we are constantly assessing and judging our work.

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