Some days ago I was wondering about: what a donut does sound like.
That was the issue of the day teaching some students. So we experienced with our horns what a donut may sound like. We played a wide range of donut-variations: a chocolat donut sounds different than a glaced one, which is quite different from a spudnut donut. After playing through the sweets, we experienced the sound of the main dish (roast pork sounds a whole lotta different than tofu), before playing the entree (salad with italian dressing has a slightly different sound than one with yoghurt dressing).
But why did I search for the sound of a donut?
It’s about playing free improvsations. It’s about playing without any borders or rules (besides the strange ones given above). You often heard of musicians seeing colours or graphic forms or movements when playing music.
By starting the donut-game I just flipped the whole thing upside down and tried to convert the taste of the sweets into sound.
Why should you play things like that, play freely from time to time?
Free improvisation strengthens your perception of the sound of your instrument. You’ll get a much better notion of how your horns sounds like in different octaves and registers. Is the sound more dark or light, more brillant or dull, more voluminous or thin? This excercise is not about making a thin sound more voluminous, but to use the sound just as it is!
Another positive effect of free playing is ear-training. Free-playing is ear-training by accident you might say. You won’t learn that the interval you hear is for example a perfect fourth. It’s a more functional kind of ear-training. You’ll be more experienced hearing what the sound of an interval you play, means to a chord. Is the sound more harmonious or full of suspense? What’s the effect of a specific tone combination on a chord or chord progression?
Playing freely also give you a better sense of your body while playing music. This is simply because you don’t have to think about chords, keys or scales. You have to react and act here and now. You can focus more on how you feel and how your body feels while playing.
When you are physically relaxed your embouchure and fingers also will be. You can better concentrate on breathing. You won’t fear wrong notes, because there are none! (Remember that quote? The first correct entry in my eMail-inbox will receive a free album dowwload of „Live in Japan“!)
Caution: experiencing free improvisation will show you new ways, possibilities and sounds in any other musical context!