spacing hack


solo piano 20100319

I have mixed feelings on releasing the song this way.

If you heard my 24 hour album ([insert "poor you" here]), 17.1 of the total 26.2 minutes was completely live/improv'd. I'll admit that I was somewhat disappointed that such a large chunk was an improv, but given the time constraints of the project, I didn't beat myself up about it.

So here we have something outside of the 24 hour deadline, where I decided to improv, and then release it as-is, with some pretty major screwups contained within it.

Ultimately, I am my own audience, so of course the decision is up to me, but here is one of those bullet-point lists I like to make so much:

  • I'm still recovering from the trauma of yesterday, so this was kinda a good way to get something done, in case things turn sour later. Because verdammt, I refuse to let an external force throw me off of this project.
  • By deciding to go completely live and not correct things that are musically wrong, I get a good indication of where my skill level is at, for future reference. Of course, this only helps if I get better, so...
  • I get to hope that doing this semi-regularly will improve the skill. I improv all of the time, but things change when you hit the record button and decide that whatever you play, will be how it stays.
  • For me, it can often be a more interesting way to write a song, because I get out of the typical verse/chorus structure that follows me even when I write instrumentals.
  • Of course, pure improvs sort of become like vacation/baby photos in a way: no one cares as much about them as I do (which goes back to the fact that I have to treat myself as the audience first and foremost).
  • And for the song, it also means that it's never really out there as a finished piece, because there are some huge gaping potholes left in it that need to be filled in.

When it comes to live improv, these are the types of "wrong" I've discovered:

  • the happy accident - oh, if only all of the f***-ups were like this. Your fingers/brain conspire against you to take the piece in a different direction (at least temporarily), and to your dismay, you find it actually works. You like it. You keep it.
  • the "I meant to do that" - somewhere in between the happy accident and a complete f*-up is the wrong note you hit, that you now have to figure out how to make it work. It's the chord change that no one (including you) saw coming. So far, the best way I've found to deal with it, is to make the wrong note/chord pop up again, so that you can boldly claim that "I meant to do that".
  • the complete f***-up - regardless of whether you improv or not, of course it would be lovely to learn how to best recover from these goofs if you ever wish to be a live performer (me, I gave up on that dream ages ago). So what I have heard from others and learned over the years/days as a way to cover these up:

  • don't lose the tempo / just keep pushing forward - hopefully your mistake was small enough that most people won't even catch it. But falling completely out of tempo is the best way to make it obviously that you made a boo-boo.

  • see if you can convert it to either a happy accident (and hey this is where improv training comes in I'd say) or an "I meant to do that"
  • work on your poker face - for me, people wouldn't need to hear anything to know whether I'm playing the right notes. They'd just need to see that I'm suddenly making all sort of funny faces. On the plus side, surely this sets me up for a career in comedy. Surely.

Do you improv? And how do you handle a live boo-boo?