Rudiments of Musical Improv – Saturday April 3rd
by Larrance Fingerhut
This class will guide the improviser in creating improvised songs. We will touch on proper vocal production and concentrate on emotional commitment, song structure, and rhyme.
LARRANCE FINGERHUT is a pianist and composer and has been improvising music since he was two years old. When he lived in Chicago he was music director for the music theater program at Columbia College and music director for Baby Wants Candy for six years and Second City touring company. He now resides in Maine with Jen Shepard where they own and operate ImprovAcadia in the summer and fall.
Notes for posterity:
Singing was the hardest part of this class, and yes, this class was all about singing. Larrance first explained that he was just going to give us a simple overview of what he was hoping to accomplish with us. He was hoping to have us create the emotional connection to the music that we need to create an improvised song. As the musician he is our stage partner; it behooves us to give him something to do and to allow him to play as well. He started off with having us doing some vocal warm-ups which included scales, then we went right into improvising a couple of lines on the Spring season. The exercises we did after were a two-person love duet, group song, and a three-person scene with involved each of us improvising a full song (more than one verse, chorus and possible bridge).
The two-person duet was to emphasis the idea of listening to each other, the music, and the concept of repetition – instead of having to keep coming up with new information we should fall back on what we’ve set up initially. “Repetition is your friend,” and “Every song is a love song,” ideas. We also touched on the bridge within a song concept. Bridges are used to stray from the “rose-tint” of the song situation and allow the internal doubt/insecurity of a possible alternate reality to surface. The changes in the music set the stage for this as an option.
The group song was by far the most complex. The theme involved disaster situations. It involved five people on stage. One person would step out and start to sing a couple of lines around the disaster suggestion, a second person would step out and give the chorus line then step back and the entire group would sing the chorus line, at that point the original person that sang the lines around the disaster suggestion would step forward and deliver a final rhyming line then step back and the group would sing the chorus line twice, at that point another person would come forward and sing two lines then step back, repeat chorus line twice, 2nd person that sang would step forward again, deliver a rhyming line to chorus then step back, and the chorus would sing the chorus line twice. (Formula 1-1-C-G-1-G-G – 2-2-G-G-2-G-G . . . until everyone has a chance to do a verse.)
Example: So if the suggestion was Blizzard.
Person 1: I am so cold and the world is unclear
Person 1: I can’t see my hands and I can’t feel my ears
Chorus Person: I’m going to die in the ice
Whole Group: I’m going to die in the ice
Person 1: Right now a fire would be nice
Group: I’m going to die in the ice
Group: I’m going to die in the ice
The last exercise that we did was a three-person scene, one person entered from off-stage after the scene started and ideally one person, if not both, has sung before then. Larrance would look for a strong statement (use of “I . . . “) and that became the beginning of the song. He wanted us to repeat the line that had initiated the song and make the song from that statement.
New exercise highlight:
Working with music is very complex. I really enjoyed the fact that we got to spend some time on this as a tool and it was very useful for someone that has had a cursory knowledge of how to work music into a show, but not a breakdown of the pieces and some quality time of listening to the music, hearing the changes within it, the meaning behind them, and how I can best utilize it.