Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jingles

As a new improvising musician, should you have some preset music ready to go?

A few months back, I was talking to someone who was interested in doing music for improv theatre. They had strong classical piano training, and really enjoyed watching improv. Coming up to their first improv gig, though, they got a little nervous. For someone with traditional training, the thought of jumping in to the unknown-and-unprepared was a bit daunting.

One thing they said to me was "I have to learn a bunch of jingles."

I get what they're talking about. You want to equip yourself with tools, to make sure you're prepared to handle any situation that might show up. You might set yourself up with some prepared themes for different emotions... carousel music for happy, funeral march for desperate sadness, psycho theme music for unhinged. You also might rehearse with some handy riffs to use in between games while you're supporting the MC.

For a new improviser, these can serve as building blocks. They'll let you get out on stage and have something to use to get moving. But they don't give you any interplay with the scene. You might as well press play on a CD-player, and later on press stop when the scene has changed enough that the theme you chose no longer fits.

Relying on tools like prepared jingles should be a temporary thing, while you figure out how to create stuff out of nothing. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Play your jingle, but change it, let it grow and become something else. This putting one foot in front of the other is hard at first. You will get used to it, and it will work. I promise.

Photo by Rolf Venema

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