by Deb Rabbai
There are many ways to connect to the music
and I find using my body to be a very helpful one because I love to dance.
- Deb Rabbai
You're onstage, the pianist is improvising music and the music is coming around again to a place where you should probably start singing something. Anything! Uh oh….
Welcome to the mind of the musical improviser.
Those moments can be scary or uncertain as you're learning how to improvise a song, melody, and lyrics. So here are a few tips to gently jump into the pool of improvising a melody.
Here's a great place to start: breathe. Inhale and exhale. It probably sounds obvious but to quote a teacher of mine, “Breathe. You breathe or you die.”
Ok, now you're breathing, what's next?
Focus your mind to listen to what the pianist is playing and start moving your body to the rhythm that is being suggested in the music. There are many ways to connect to the music and I find using my body to be a very helpful one because I love to dance. Most times I can't stop my body from moving to the music. And in moving to the music, I start to feel a style that the music might be suggesting. Any musician you see playing music is tapping the rhythm of the beat with one of their feet. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.
Sometimes it's hard to know how to jump in and actually start just singing and I've found that when I'm practicing improvising songs, just humming quietly while the pianist plays helps me connect to what's being played. I can then find the notes in myself that connect with what's being played. When I'm feeling challenged by a difficult tempo or chord progression, humming quietly to the music helps me understand where I need to go musically and offers a starting place.
This all needs to happen long before you start thinking or worrying about lyrics.
Being able to create a melody is the most important place to start.