Jamming over a rhythmic phrase gives you an open canvas as far as pitch, melody, mood and subject matter are concerned. You are only given information about rhythm, the rest is up to you. I find this exercise very rewarding because it challenges me to change my interpretation of the beat.
An example: when I work alone with the simple one-two of a tick-tock metronome, I can move into any time signature and even switch around from one to another and sense what 3/4 feels like after 5/4, or learn about the stretch from 6/8 to 9/8... I might do my own vocal percussion, create melodies, set up some recurring motifs, write a whole song, When working with a group, it becomes a collaborative experience, the rhythm can be carried by more than one person, also, the jamming can be shared with several people taking turns so that each person gets to present a new interpretation of the same rhythm.
Working alone or together? I am certain you will have fun in either case, however, I strongly advise you to find a way to do both. Call up a singing buddy, ask them to do this experiment with you and then you can do both. Remember, when singing a rhythmic phrase or doing the "toast" you need to
You can give lots of encouragement with your facial expressions, so don't forget to communicate that way.
Step 1: Select a rhythmic phrase, riff, or "toast" and get it going.
Tip: When working solo with rhythm, it is best to use a metronome, an electronic rhythm box, the rhythm control on an electric organ or keyboard or, if none of those is available, a tape recorder. I prefer anything over the tape recorder because audio tapes are not efficient, you cannot cut and paste, you'd have to sing it over and over for, let's say, 5 minutes. Then, you might want to jam for 10 minutes so you'd have to stop, rewind, cue up, start again and risk losing your musical ideas, your momentum, your inspiration. A good machine will just keep going.
Step 2: Jam!
Tip: Have fun. Avoid singing songs or tunes you know that fit this rhythm. Some rhythms will suggest music to you, others will leave you shifting from thing to thing to thing. As soon as whatever you're singing starts to sound like some actual existing piece of music, change it's direction (see Tips for more on this)
Step 1: Decide who will jam, and who will be the Rhythm Box, and how you will end it.
Step 2: Create a rhythmic phrase, riff, or "toast" and start singing it.
Tip: you might want to "noodle around" before settling in with your riff.
Tip: we are all friends, here, right? So listen, this is not the time to scare, shock or impress each other with every amazing vocal percussion sound you can make. That comes later, when you get to jam. Think of this part as laying down a foundation, a map full of possibilities for any wayward traveler.
Tip: If you are new to vocal percussion, just keep it simple, try a soft whispering "poom, poom, pah, poom" and then hone in on the rhythm you like. Tap your fingers, toes, snap anything soft that supports the tempo you want. I discourage clapping because it tends to drown out the singing. Also, part of the thrill in this exercise is the singing and breathing together that goes on. Once you've settled with something, give your jammer a sign (make those eyes say it for you, tap them on the knee, wave your arms, whatever).
Step 3: Jam!
Tip: Have fun. Avoid singing songs or tunes you know that fit this rhythm. Some rhythms will suggest music to you, others will leave you shifting from thing to thing to thing. As soon as what you're singing starts to sound like some actual existing piece of music, change it's direction (see Tips for more on this)
Tip: If there's more than two of you, and you all just want a little more volume or maybe the toaster is getting tired, have an extra person join in on the rhythm riff. Keep it in unison your first couple of times out. As you play and work with this exercise, you will add variations to your heart's content.
Step 4: To stop, one of you (usually the jammer) will give the end signal.
Step 5: Switch roles, and go again.
Tip: You might want to come back for the next round after some other exercise or after singing a few songs together, just to get that stuff out of your head and help you start fresh.
When I get stuck, like the times when I'm in 3/4 and all I can sing is lullabies and I'm not liking it after a while, I stop. Take a breath or two, and think of a way to label or categorize the music I've been singing. Maybe it all sounded sort of Brahmsy, or kiddie folk, or sort of Celtic. Then I consider what genres or musical styles would be very different from those, maybe African, Balkan, Swing. Thinking in these terms can be like taking a new direction, trying another route, heading off down another street and seeing what lives there. Give it a whirl and let me know what you come up with, okay?
Do let me know how it's going: firstname.lastname@example.org
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|PICTURE OF ANYBODY SINGING by Benjamin Miller, age 4|