Ever feel stuck in an ‘improvisation rut’? We all depend on well-learned chord progressions and patterns, but sometimes Dalcrozians (and improvising musicians in general) need a little inspiration to find their way to something new.
One remedy is by listening to others play. One of the great benefits of the recent National Conference (January 13–15, 2023) was all of the creativity and originality in improvised music that we heard and experienced. For those of us who couldn’t be there (or for those who appreciate parameters for improvisation), Aaron Butler has developed a simple game to help you mix up your practice a bit.
To play, you’ll need several dice of varying sizes. Each die will relate to a musical element, including tonality, meter, tempo, or tonal center. (Out of dice? Try a virtual dice roller instead.)
In a solo setting, simply roll the dice and create music that follows the parameters. To simulate a group experience or practice playing for a Dalcroze class, make one of the parameters a locomotor movement (e.g., march music, running, skipping, etc.), say, or creating music for props (e.g., ball bouncing, scarf tossing, ribbon-wand waving, etc.). The possibilities are endless.
Aaron Butler’s rules are listed below. Dust off your practice dice (or purchase some here or here) and give it a try! If dice are out of the cards (so to speak), then you could easily use a deck of cards (e.g., suit = mode, number = tonal center, joker = duet, etc.).
Mode — 4-sided die
Church mode, see below*
*Church Mode — 8-sided die
Re-roll 4-sided die
Tonality / Pitch Center — 12-sided die
Meter — 10-sided die
Tempo — 6-sided die
Depending on context and comfort, metronome marking may indicate beat or division.
Katie Couch (BM, MME) first experienced Dalcroze education while studying piano performance at the University of Colorado-Boulder in the early 2000s. After returning home from a three-year stint teaching English in Shanghai, she began serious studies in Dalcroze work.
Katie earned the Dalcroze Certificate (2013) and License (2015) from the Dalcroze School of the Rockies. During the 2016-17 school year, she studied at l’Institut Jaques-Dalcroze in Geneva, Switzerland, working towards the Diplôme Supérieur.
Currently, Katie works along the Colorado Front Range as a Dalcroze teacher with classes that range in age and level from early childhood through adult enrichment, with several other children’s classes as well. She is on the faculty of the Dalcroze School of the Rockies where she trains future Dalcroze teachers online in improvisation, solfège, and pedagogy. Katie also volunteers for several committees of the Dalcroze Society of America.
In her spare time, Katie enjoys raising her three daughters, expanding her piano repertoire, cooking, being outdoors, and listening to music.
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