Just finished another Monday night improvisation session with the After Hours Big Band and I asked the players to improvise using only two pitches and then three pitches. It is difficult to make a creative line with such limitations, but what it does force you to do is become more creative with your dynamics, timbre and rhythm, and this is often missing in improvisation. One thing you must encourage, when your players try such an exercise, is for everyone to use space in their solos, as people have a tendency to play non-stop, as they try to figure out how to manipulate those few notes into something coherent. When in reality, space is your friend. Listening to the rhythm section can give you those much needed musical ideas to embellish the two or three pitches. I love this challenge to young improvisers (of any age) because you can become a competent and compelling improviser by a different path; one does not necessarily have to tear through scales and licks to become a good soloist.
Dr. Michael Kearns
Musician, educator, husband, father, web designer ... my life is like a mosaic with each piece vying for my attention.