Although improvisation in concerts was common in baroque times, it’s more rare today. But – excitingly – Roger and I have three engagements at the beginning of April in London which include some live improvisation.
The reality of improvisation, of course, is that some kind of structure has been worked out in advance – even if it’s only a basic timing, key and mood. So, in our concerts we will be improvising for around three minutes and we have worked out a mood and a rough structure. One of us will hold a single note (D) while the other one improvises calm music. At the end of each group of phrases the roles will reverse.
More about the concerts
The concerts we are playing in are for a specialist yoga teacher training course called Forrest Yoga. The founders of Forrest Yoga believe in the transformative power of live music. Forrest Yoga has taken off in a big way and our dates in London are part of an international tour.The pieces we are playing will alternate from calm to energising. The calm music includes, The Lark in the Clear Air, Morning Prelude, Red, Red Rose. Livelier music encompasses Scarborough Fair, Over the Hills and Lilliburlero.
How to improvise
Improvising on a string instrument is easier than you think. Essentially you need to choose a key, a mood, and a simple structure. For example, if you were playing a duet, you could decide you wanted lively invigorating music. You could choose to put the piece in D major, one player could play a D every two beats, and the other could improvise – mainly in arpeggio and scale patterns. If you wanted to elaborate you could have a middle section in B minor, which was slower and more gentle, and then repeat the opening section. Simlarly, to create a dance or waltz feel, chose a key, three beats in a bar, and short, simple phrases. As with everything, the more you practise, the easier it gets.