I bumped into this interview a few weeks ago while searching for can’t remember what on the vast internet. It is great to listen to Bobby McFerrin’s thoughts about life and music and other matters. But what really stuck with me were 2 things. One, the exercise that he talks about around 14:05.
The exercise is simple. Set your timer to 10 minutes and sing whatever comes into your mind. Do this for 30 days in a row and watch what happens.
Have to admit that I did it only for 2 days in a row. Nonetheless, what I found was interesting. My improvisation was more or less jazz and blues. No matter that I told my brain, I don’t want that, it just didn’t go away. Funny, I don’t think of myself as any kind of jazz singer, although I know probably most of the jazz standards out there. Here is one of my favourite:
I’ll need to get back to this exercise and see where will it go. Improvisation is somewhat intimidating, especially if you’ve been to any kind of music school. You’re suppose to know all the right scales to all kinds of harmonies, and while yes, that is a useful skill, I find that it is also overcomplicating a rather simple thing. Most of the times the true idea of improvisation is forgotten, like Bobby McFerrin says, it’s about (again) emotion.
Second thing, be yourself when you perform. Don’t be anyone else. Easier said than done. Sometimes it does help to come up with an alter ego, but in the end you have to start getting rid of the facade and be yourself. You might say, aren’t we always? Well, no. I for example have a chameleon like quality, meaning I will easily adapt to other people, I take their feelings, expression, saying, mannerisms. Which is all fine, but once performing, I have to be aware of what I am doing. Who am I and what do I really want to say. What is your facade, what are you hiding beneath it? And well, why? It’s alright, you don’t need to get rid of it, being aware is enough.
Keep within yourself. You do have all the answers there.