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Use Drifting to practice your improvising skills

I love to read music. I'm a visual learner and play better when I can refer to the score. Can you relate to that?  It's not really about reading notes, it's more about the comforting feeling of see the musical shapes and structure unfold as I play. That musical roadmap lets me feel free to be expressive.

But is there a little voice in your head that wishes you were more comfortable with improvising and playing by ear?  Maybe you need a little more experience. Maybe you just need to learn some tricks and tools.

I composed Drifting as a harp therapy solo, knowing that I would want to improvise around the chords and structure to make it much longer than it is. I'd like to share some tips on how you can use this piece to build up your confidence with improvising.

First, why don't you watch the video below. And if you wish to purchase the sheet music just click here

When I wrote out the score I did two things to set you up for successful improvising. First, I included all of the chords (and I kept the chord progressions very simple). Second, I labeled the main sections. This sets the structure for you. Improvising is much easier when certain elements are decided. 

Drifting, sample page

Here are three ideas that you can explore using Drifting as the foundation for improvising.

Tip #1

Set up your sheet music and your favorite way of watching YouTube and get ready to play along with me. First, just listen and try to count 1-2-3-4-5-6 as I play. Notice how I take lots of time where the music is marked ritardando (meaning slow down). Listen to your harp, feel the vibrations in the room. Breathe.

Listen again, but this time play along with the video following the chord symbols. Try not to read the notes, just pick a simple pattern, like a 1-5-8. It doesn't need to be fancy or fast. Just try to blend with my playing. Simple is good! Give it a few tries, you'll get better at it.

Tip #2

Notice how I have labelled the four sections of the piece. A simple, but very effective idea is to repeat each section an octave higher.  I think you'll like the change in character and texture.

Tip #3

Mix and match the sections. You may play the sections in any order, and repeat them as you like. This time, explore alternating between reading the given notes in the score and improvising your own notes with the given chord progression. If you start to feel anxious just go back to the written notes. Remember, simple is good. 

By the way, Drifting is is D Dorian. You might enjoy pairing it with Flight of the Heron. By the time you play and improvise on both pieces you will have a nice Dorian set of pieces in you repertoire.

Enjoy!

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