I teach guitar, that is what I do mostly for a living. In my journey I have found that so many of my students are focused on goals, like learning a tune, or being able to play like someone else; which is beautiful, but, I think that it misses the mark a little bit as far finding one’s own way into the music. Over the years I have found that by giving my students creative exercises it helps them to open their own potential and find their own unique voice. I am going to share some of them with you, and I hope that no matter what sort of vocation or job you are in you can apply them to what you’re doing.
Exercise 1 – Try to mock a song – take a tune that you already know and create a parody of it; this can be done through a variety of methods. Play the song, then omit notes from it, start with the first note and see what the thing sounds like, just randomly omit parts or motives from the song. Augment, or through diminuation, try to alter the rhythm of the song. Also retrograde is another way that allows you you create a new ‘version’
Exercise 2 – Go for a walk or a bike ride (or whatever physical activity you do that does not require you to think), come back from the activity and sit down and just start doing, play, play, play. Don’t try to play a song though, just sit and play – take note of things that you like and things that you don’t like – if you remember any of it, that is great, if there is no recollection, well, that makes no difference.
Exercise 3 – Go to an art exhibit, or even just look at a book of art (if you don’t want to leave the house) soak up all the things that are there, focus on any piece that draws you, looking at this art is the only opportunity that day that you might have the chance of looking through someone else’s eyes. Now, sit down and play. Try and capture the mood of the art that you observed. Was the art sad? Was the painting isolated, bleak, beautiful, charming, bland? Try and capture the mood of that in your playing, doing this is not hard, it might feel like faking for a while but just give up the need for the world to make sense – it never really has.
Exercise 4 – Pick random numbers, 4 5 7. Now build a 4 note motif using some sort of rhythm, now build the 5, and the 7; join all the ideas together. Don’t think about a key either, just let the intervals join themselves together – even if its a leap of a minor 9th or a minor 13th or something of that nature, just accept them. Leave the idea for a day, or a month, or a year, and come back and see that it just was – and that is wonderful.
Exercise 5 – Try to find mathematical principles that are reflected in music. This one takes some digging, but one example is like an equation and the notion of retrograde, the two sides of the equation have to be the same, so does the original melody line and the retrograde one. I love using the fibernachi series in music, the lines just make so much sense.
Exercise 6 – Use 12 tone rows to create a melody, then try to fit a chord structure over top of the 12 row and then get rid of the row and leave the chords and see what has happened to your sense of harmony.
I am sure that is enough for now, try one. I like the walking one the best, calms the soul so much.
Tynan (this is my sharing circle)