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 Help with Improvising
Author: Simon 
Date:   2004-12-05 23:35

Hi all,

I have been an amateur clarinet player for many years however have never played in a band simply because I have not been able to improvise. As a matter of fact I have been given a chance on a number of occassions but I simply can't improvise. I play Macedonian music which is very dynamic and it relies alot on improvising. Can anyone help with any sort of exercises to help me with improvising with this style of music. I am limitted in reading music and mostly play by year.

Many thanks.

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 Re: Help with Improvising
Author: Katrina 
Date:   2004-12-06 16:17

Hi Simon,

Here are a couple of suggestions which have been given to me (not all of which I have had time to put into practice myself!)...

First, LISTEN to lots and lots of the style of music you want to improvise in.

Second, learn the modes (scales) and practice those daily.

Third, learn (transcribe and/or play by ear) some recorded taxims....this is the one I've not had time to do but I have been assured that this will improve my taxims the most!

All the best,

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 Re: Help with Improvising
Author: buedsma 
Date:   2005-01-03 14:26 gives a very good free course on how to learn to improvise / most important is to play , play and play in every key or those keys most used in your kind of music. hear the notes , the tension and the sound shapes. Try playing in the same key for 10 minutes or more and create inetresting things. You would be amazed at what can show up. Aftewards you will start²to recognise things and transform them

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 Re: Help with Improvising
Author: Koen 
Date:   2005-06-27 13:45

Hi Simon,

For me there are a couple of things that can help me improvise, maybe they can help you as well. I find it stimulating to hear a "groundtone" or single chord to improvise over - it interacts with the single tone of my clarinet resulting in instant dynamics and emotional color (think of raga's as well as many other forms of ethnical music). Also the surroundings are important. Personally i prefer large spaces with a long echo like churches or abandoned industrial complexes. The long echo's allow me to play along with myself and weave a tapistry of sound. The surroundings also play an important part in the atmosphere, wich can be very inspirational.

With improvisation there's also the more difficult aspect of control. Do you want to play what's in your mind? or do wish to let go and leave everything to chance?

For starters you could also try and play along with some music you've never heard before and let yourself be surprised by what you find; play.
In any case I wish you the best of luck and a lot of fun in getting to know this wonderful aspect of music making. The clarinet lends itself exeptionally well for improvisation, i've found, due to its directness - from breath to sound - and clarity.


Man is but a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed.

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 Re: Help with Improvising
Author: Boris 
Date:   2005-06-30 07:56

hear a lot of music in the style you like and just whistle as often as you can melodies (at the work, in your free time etc) and try to bend some tones, to insert new tons or variate tones

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 Re: Help with Improvising
Author: clarinetchick 
Date:   2006-01-08 06:03


Macedonian clarinet music, while amazing and beautiful, is complicated and busy.

I recommend trying Turkish style clarinet music, where the taksims (improvs) seem to be more languid and less busy.

Barbaros Erkose is a fantastic player as well as the Ferdi, the clarinetist in the Istanbul Oriental Ensemble.

The best part about taksims is that you only get to use the 7 notes in the maqam. Not as much thinking! Generally there is no key change in folk music unless you are playing modern music or jazz fusion.

I also suggest taksiming along with drum only tracks. A taksim is shaped by the drum rhythm holding the song together. If you have a friend who drums, then you can jam together. It is hard to jump rope without a spinning rope.

Good luck!


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 Re: Help with Improvising
Author: Katrina 
Date:   2006-01-09 03:29

I thought that was you Melissa! Remember me from Balkan Camp a few years ago??  ;)


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 Re: Help with Improvising
Author: will 
Date:   2006-01-10 09:52


Probably one of the best things you can do is take the set melody of a tune, learn it inside out (very easy if you don't have to rely on the dots) and then vary slightly the way you play it.

Start rhythmically (using all the same notes of the original melody). Once you're comfortable with this, vary the the notes, but just a bit. Add in small half step "scoops" to melody notes or trills.

Once you feel good about this, extend how many extra notes/how far you go from the original melody, but try always to come back into the main melody at some point without having to stop and find your place.

I know nothing about Balkan/Greek/Middle Eastern clarinet, but if you're interested in learning a bit about diatonic theory (my background is in jazz/rock/blues improvisation), please just post back here and I'd be very happy to share some ideas and pointers with you.

It's not that hard once you get started! :¬)


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 Balkan camp
Author: clarinetchick 
Date:   2006-02-04 17:08

Hi Katrina!

Yeah, it is me butting my 2 cents in someone's post! I'm still playing, I guess that is obvious... How are you doing?

I found a great Turkish & Arabic music and dance camp that is held in May and have been going to that camp for 2 years.

Balkan Camp conflicts with my SCA event, Pennsic, where I get to be a folk music star. <smile> I have been spending a lot of time learning Turkish folk music lately.

I met a fantastic drummer and oud player from New York City at folktours camp and I have been playing occasional gigs with him in NYC.

I'm still playing with Khafif Live Music and Bellydance Fusion in Pittsburgh. We got a website overhaul:

What have you been doing recently?


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