Videos and Exercises
Because improvising is making stuff up...
...You can't be wrong. So take some chances, warm up your voice, and dive right in!
In this fun video jazz singer, sax/flutist and percussionist Stan Strickland and Jeannie perform a spontaneous improvised song, demonstrating listening skills, rhythm, time, and allowing yourself to be silly! The more that you feel free having fun in front of an audience, the more accessible improvisation becomes!
The song begins with Stan playing a pattern on kalimba (thumb piano) while Jeannie keeps time on a shaker, in 13/8 time. The way we count this unusual time signature is 123, 123, 123, 1234: so, three groups of three counts and one group of four counts. Then, getting a bit sillier, we shift to 4/4 time with a quick straight 16ths rhythmic subdivision.
We hope this will inspire you to have fun with improvsation, and be bold as you try on new skills!
This short improvisation over classic pop changes, in the key of Bb, began when jeannie was improvising at the piano. The exercise takes you through two to three registers, depending on how you want to sing it. The range is big, the way Jeannie sang it is going between chest into mix and into head tones.
You can also practice harmonizing with this exercise, or add your own spin to it especially if the range feels too big. The chords in this 2-feel groove are:
||: EbMaj 7 | Dm Gm | Cm F | Bb Bb7 :|| tag: Eb, Bb/D, Cm, Bb
Jeannie sings If I Were a Boy by Beyoncé a capella in 6-parts, to demonstrate belting, whisper singing, harmony, beat boxing and vocal grooves.
If you're interested in creating a multi-picture video, here's how this video was created: Jeannie recorded the audio and video simultaneously live, into Logic for audio through her mic, and Quicktime for video using her computer's camera.. Then she edited it all together together in Final Cut Pro X by lining up the video and audio tracks. The first effort was using the a capella app for iPhone, but that has little editing functionality, and the quality was limited to earbuds, so that effort was scrapped. This version took quite awhile to produce, but hopefully the result is worth it!
Using the Minor Pentatonic Mode
This exercise shows you how using just the five notes of a minor pentatonic mode (scale), you can develop improvisation ideas quickly.
This is Exercise 6 from Your Singing Voice, p 139, working on agility and accuracy, with a faster syncopated rhythm. It is based upon a straight 8ths subdivision of the downbeat.
This MP3 track for the exercise goes from the key of Bb up through the key of G, then back down again by whole steps, providing the melody and chords on piano, along with drums playing a straight 8ths pattern.
Exercise: Swing and Rhythm
This exercise is intermediate to advanced, providing a swing 16th patterned melody to work on agility in the Minor Pentatonic mode. This exercise will help you build improvisation skills for styles such as R&B and hip-hop.
The MP3s provided are in three varieties: 1) in Em with guide vocal; 2) in Em without guide vocal; 3) transposed to Am without guide vocal.
The Guide Vocal track offers a variation on the syllables to use when practicing. First, "nee, nay, nah" are sung as written in the PDF. Next, scat syllables are sung to demonstrate other ways you can experiment with singing these kinds of quick rhythms.
Banner photo by Drew Collins
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