Exercising Your Imagination
Posted August 19, 2012on:
Okay, kids. It should be clear by now that I’m a firm believer in practicing things. And in my opinion, the most important thing to practice is improvising.
It’s also the hardest thing to practice. After all, isn’t improvisation just “winging it”? Don’t you practice improvising by just making yourself improvise something?
Not in my experience. Not unless you’re a born genius. To me, “just winging it” is the surest way to get discouraged. What happens is, most of the time you just come up with a lot of incoherent junk that makes you feel incompetent. What you need is some sort of plan.
Here is the big secret to improvisation: it’s nothing more than composition. Designing or inventing things. Only difference is, it’s faster.
So to practice improvising, you practice composing. And you keep composing until you can compose quickly, on the fly. And then everyone thinks you’re just winging it.
So here is an activity to try if you want to practice composing things. In this case, a bit of choreography.
First, as always, pick out a piece of music. Keep it around three minutes or less.
Now sit down with a pen and a piece of paper, and your song playing. Set it to repeat.
First thing you’re going to do is map out your song with numbers or symbols or whatever makes sense to you; map out the entire song. We’ve done this before, check out some of the other posts in the “dance practice” category if you can’t remember what I’m talking about.
As you listen to your song, on a separate page start jotting down a list of dance moves that sound like they would fit with this piece of music. Make one list for basic moves and another list for breaks. This is just to get your brain working. Also, having this list handy will help you if your brain should suddenly stop working!
Now, go back to your map. What you want to do now is just close your eyes and listen to the music. As you listen, imagine an amazing dancer dancing to your song. Like a little YouTube video of your favorite dancer playing in your head. Watch your video and see if you can catch what this awesome dancer is doing. Anytime your imaginary dancer does something brilliant and you see it clearly, write it down. Try to write it down on the appropriate spot on your map so you remember where in the song that awesome piece of dancing fits. Keep filling in the blanks as ideas occur to you.
If your ideas suddenly dry up or your imaginary dancer runs off to take a water break, then take a peek at your list of dance moves and see where you can work some of them in.
Keep doing this until you’ve got your song mostly filled in. Don’t obsess about it – it doesn’t have to be perfect. This should maybe take you a half hour.
Now dance it out. You’ll find that some of the stuff was easier for your imaginary dancer than it is for you. Fix anything that’s awkward; fill in any gaps.
Ta-da! There’s your composition. Congratulations! The best part is, this definitely gets easier the more times you do it.
For extra credit, learn the thing. It shouldn’t be hard to memorize, because you’ve already practiced it a million times in your head. Now, next time you go out dancing, ask the DJ to play your song. Then, all cool like, go off to the side of the dance floor and dance out your choreography like it’s no big deal.
And everyone will be amazed at your powers of improvisation!