Based on what you have been taught, you would think that creating your own music (improvising) must be extremely difficult. Actually, with these new instruments and approaches to making music, you would be amazed at how musical you really are, and would quickly discover, that as in all things, it is easier to be yourself (create) than to be someone else (read music).
Instead of focusing on performing for others, you will also be amazed at how joyful, energizing and meditative it can be to make your own naturally harmonizing music, without being able to read a single note. Once again, we need to re-experience what it means to be truly “playful” – as defined by Webster, “recreational activity without serious intent.”
To facilitate true “musical play” we ALL need to be introduced at the earliest possible age to the simplicity and beauty of creating our own music and jamming with others – not just reading and performing the music of others, nor just emphasizing advancement of the “best”. This is extremely easy to achieve, through the increased use of one key at a time instruments (like the Seven Arrows and Freenotes instruments), and devices like the Guitar Barre, which make playing some traditional instruments much easier, for instance.
AN EXAMPLE – “Family Harmonymaking” – please refer to our book and DVD, The Music Simplified Guide for all Teachers and Parents of Young Children, in the Musical Books section.
True Musical Play (in the Key of C)– get up to 12 children and/or adults together in a circle. Have at least 2 open-tuned guitars (specially tuned to a C chord), each with a Guitar Barre, and/or Nightingales, so that these two instruments can easily create a chordal foundation for a piece of music. Incorporate any or all of the Seven Arrows Instruments, additional open-5thtuned guitars (tuned like a dulcimer), dulcimers, xylophones, harmonicas, a keyboard (playing only the white notes), a pennywhistle and “Freenotes” wings.
On a piece of paper, write down a chord sequence for those chording the Seven Arrows Instruments and the guitars with the Guitar Barres to follow. Let these chording instruments start things off, and get used to this chord sequence, which will serve as a foundation for the “true musical play session”. Everyone else just listen for a moment, move to the music if inspired, hum or make up sounds with their voices.
Next, have the other guitars and dulcimers join in (this further reinforces the foundation for play), just strumming across the strings in rhythm with the music. After all of these instruments are in sync (doesn’t have to be perfect), have the other 6 melodic instruments (all in the Key of C) softly join in, playing one note at a time, in rhythm with the music as much as possible. Vocal improvisation, whistling, free movement, and the use of soft rhythm instruments are encouraged.
The lead chording Seven Arrows Instrumentalists and guitarists can, after a while, thru soft vocal suggestion, slow down/speed up the rhythm and soften or accentuate the volume. They can also ask for one or two melody instruments at a time to play while the other melody instruments rest. The fretted Songbird and dulcimers can also be included, fingering one string at any fret and plucking that string to produce a melody. Then everyone can be asked to join back in, again with vocal suggestion slowing and softening the piece, until the music just gently fades away, like a sunset at the end of the day. Then pause in silence.
HELPING EVERYONE TO EXPERIENCE THEIR INNATE MUSICALITY and CREATIVITY
Once again, it can all start in the schools at the lower elementary levels. If music teachers could be taught the simplicity of improvisation, and be less pressured by parents to have so many school performances, for example, with the time spent in preparation for these activities devoted instead to helping grow each child’s musical self-esteem and musically creative spirit, we could empower a whole new generation to be comfortable with making their own music and enriching their lives through the relaxing power of musical play.
FACT – 95% of all 5th/6th graders can be taught in full classroom sized groups to play all major chords on a guitar with the Guitar Barre in just 3 lessons – less than 5% of adults play now. Why can’t we make some simple compromises so that the other 90% can “play” for the sheer enjoyment of the process? Just think of the difference we could make in each child’s life, for example, just by teaching them a simple way of playing the guitar for the rest of their lives. Three lessons and they could be empowered for a lifetime to make beautiful music.
For adults, we could offer many venues for players of varying skill levels to come together and create as well as reproduce the music of others, without feeling intimidated, but instead reveling in the joyfulness of creating pure harmony (the pleasing combination of differences) and spiritually connecting with friends.