Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lists

Dan shares another song-trick: using lists.

There are impro scenes that have depth. Scenes that touch the heart. Scenes that make us step up out of the absurd and actually make a statement about the human condition.

And then there are hoop games.

A hoop game is a scene that makes the performer work his brain hard and fast like a little fox terrier leaping through a plastic ring.

There's nothing wrong with hoop games. They're very entertaining and you can't have nice Christmas dinner without some ham. Indeed, I would put to you that any improvised song is a hoop game. There’s already a handle on the scene that forces the performer to use an unrelated skill to impress the audience.

Hoop games involve something that's a little tricky to do but looks impossible. This week's trick involves lists.

There are songs in pop culture that do lists. Kids' songs are the first port of call. "Old MacDonald", "Dry Bones" (foot bone connect to the leg bone), and the ultimate list song "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12" from Sesame Street.

But you'll see it in novelty pop songs too. "Opposites attract" by Paula Abdul is a list of behaviours in a partner. "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred has a list of unrelated items that he compares to his sexiness.

The great thing about a list is that you always know where you're off to next.

Is it a song about the weather? Each successive line can be inspired by rain, sun, sleet, snow, tornados.

Is it a song about Monopoly? You've got hotels, train-stations, going to jail, free parking, collecting $200.

The little pocket of chaos that a new word provides can give you the spark of inspiration that you need.

Each time you sing about a list of elements, you're setting a platform. You're making a promise to the audience. Keep your list going and every successive item will trigger the delight of recognition. If you keep that promise your audience will be happy. If you can tilt that promise at the end they'll be ecstatic.

There are dozens of ways to sing an impro song. This is just one option when the opportunity presents itself. Give it a little practice and using lists to create songs will be as easy as one, two, three...

four...

five.

Photo by Matt

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