Learning to improvise

Drum Lessons Forums Share Your Wins Learning to improvise

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #38110
    Jon
    Participant

    Not a traditional ‘win’ as such, but after spending a lot of time just playing from sheet music and occasionally throwing out some memorised stock fills, I’ve recently started to shift my focus time towards improvisation and musicality, and it has really changed how I feel about the drums as an instrument. Very inspired at the moment and wanted to share my enthusiasm. I’ve been playing about a year and a half, so still very much a beginner, and I found a few things have helped me overcome the improv paralysis and really enjoy the process:

    1) playing super slow

    2) using the left-foot hi-hat pulse as an anchor, which I find also makes the rests/pauses in your playing seem intentional even if they’re not

    3) keeping the sticking, orchestration and subdivisions very limited (e.g. only 16th notes on the snare, or only KRL-KRL-RL) but improvising with dynamics and accents

    4) focusing on playing intentionally: play one bar with only the hi-hat pulse, while speaking out loud the pattern of sounds you want to play; the following measure you have to try to play that on the kit. Alternatively, each time you improvise a measure, you have to immediately repeat it, followed by another improvised measure, finally the fourth measure is the same as the first two (i.e. AABA measure patterns)

    still very early days, but having lots of fun with this. If you’re like me and shied away from improv, I would highly encourage you to take the plunge!

    Keen to hear any tips or advice from you all too.  Happy playing!

     

    #38113
    Marcus
    Moderator

    When I improvise, I sing a melody in my head, transfer that to the drums and then work off the melodic theme and variations of that theme. To get a feel for it, I started with a simple melody like 3 blind mice or row row row your boat….something super familiar. Using different voices and varying subdivisions, I can usually come up with something I like. It is very freeing. I like the structure you put in your approach!

    #38117
    Grant
    Keymaster

    Jon this is awesome!!! It’s so great to see student’s make such huge leaps in their playing like this. When you treat the drums like a task or chore, it’s easy for it to become boring. But it sounds like you found that spark to reignite the love for drums that got you started. That’s so exciting to hear man! Also, I really like the way you are approaching improv and the creative side of the drums. This is not an easy task and in some ways is one of the hardest hurdles to overcome. Nice job.

    Happy for you man, keep making progress!!

    #38122
    Jon
    Participant

    Thanks for the encouragement!  Been having a lot of fun with this lately.  And thanks for sharing the method you use Marcus, going to try that out the next time I’m on the kit!

    Within SDS,  does anyone know which lessons/courses may help most with improvisation?  Or is this possibly material for a dedicated course in the future? :)

    #38123
    Grant
    Keymaster

    Hey again Jon!

    When it comes to improve lessons, there’s nothing completely dedicated to that topic at the moment, but that’s a great idea. I will pass that on to Stephen and see if we can make that happen!

    If you go through the Samba lessons track, there is some coverage on improvising as you go through the lessons, but you will have to start from the beginning of the course.

    Thanks for the great idea Jon!

  • Author
    Posts
  • #38110

    Jon
    Participant
    • Offline

    Not a traditional ‘win’ as such, but after spending a lot of time just playing from sheet music and occasionally throwing out some memorised stock fills, I’ve recently started to shift my focus time towards improvisation and musicality, and it has really changed how I feel about the drums as an instrument. Very inspired at the moment and wanted to share my enthusiasm. I’ve been playing about a year and a half, so still very much a beginner, and I found a few things have helped me overcome the improv paralysis and really enjoy the process:

    1) playing super slow

    2) using the left-foot hi-hat pulse as an anchor, which I find also makes the rests/pauses in your playing seem intentional even if they’re not

    3) keeping the sticking, orchestration and subdivisions very limited (e.g. only 16th notes on the snare, or only KRL-KRL-RL) but improvising with dynamics and accents

    4) focusing on playing intentionally: play one bar with only the hi-hat pulse, while speaking out loud the pattern of sounds you want to play; the following measure you have to try to play that on the kit. Alternatively, each time you improvise a measure, you have to immediately repeat it, followed by another improvised measure, finally the fourth measure is the same as the first two (i.e. AABA measure patterns)

    still very early days, but having lots of fun with this. If you’re like me and shied away from improv, I would highly encourage you to take the plunge!

    Keen to hear any tips or advice from you all too.  Happy playing!

     

    #38113

    Marcus
    Moderator
    • Offline

    When I improvise, I sing a melody in my head, transfer that to the drums and then work off the melodic theme and variations of that theme. To get a feel for it, I started with a simple melody like 3 blind mice or row row row your boat….something super familiar. Using different voices and varying subdivisions, I can usually come up with something I like. It is very freeing. I like the structure you put in your approach!

    #38117

    Grant
    Keymaster
    • Offline

    Jon this is awesome!!! It’s so great to see student’s make such huge leaps in their playing like this. When you treat the drums like a task or chore, it’s easy for it to become boring. But it sounds like you found that spark to reignite the love for drums that got you started. That’s so exciting to hear man! Also, I really like the way you are approaching improv and the creative side of the drums. This is not an easy task and in some ways is one of the hardest hurdles to overcome. Nice job.

    Happy for you man, keep making progress!!

    #38122

    Jon
    Participant
    • Offline

    Thanks for the encouragement!  Been having a lot of fun with this lately.  And thanks for sharing the method you use Marcus, going to try that out the next time I’m on the kit!

    Within SDS,  does anyone know which lessons/courses may help most with improvisation?  Or is this possibly material for a dedicated course in the future? :)

    #38123

    Grant
    Keymaster
    • Offline

    Hey again Jon!

    When it comes to improve lessons, there’s nothing completely dedicated to that topic at the moment, but that’s a great idea. I will pass that on to Stephen and see if we can make that happen!

    If you go through the Samba lessons track, there is some coverage on improvising as you go through the lessons, but you will have to start from the beginning of the course.

    Thanks for the great idea Jon!

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