Group Improv Games to Practice Listening, Resting, Turn-Taking and Responding

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by JES, Jan 27, 2018.

  1. JES

    JES Supporting Member

    I'm looking for a books or websites of simple improv games or routines groups of musicians can play with one another to improve listening, turn taking, and hearing the whole band instead of only what they are playing.

    Background: I'm in a hobby originals band made up of friends. We are committed to playing original music and not covers. Some of us have been in bands our whole lives (all middle aged), but for others it's a new experience. Everyone is at least a decent musician on their own instrument. We are a 6-piece and there can be a tendency toward busy-ness, despite the fact that we are working from closed-form songs (someone brings in lyrics, a chord chart, maybe a melody and we build from there).

    Everyone is aware of this issue. But I think it's a lot to expect the less experienced players to "just fix it" without practicing fixing it together. Working at the arranging stage without anything else will be an issue simply because people get invested in "their" songs. So starting from something neutral like a game or exercise, that "belongs" to nobody, seems like a better idea. The people who (in my opinion) most need to improve seem on board with the proposition.

    Any recommendations? Or other better ideas or success stories?
    Bunk McNulty likes this.
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    How about recording rehearsals?

    For each song, Leave out one person each time. Then play the song back and have the person fill in the missing part so you all can focus on the one members part. Record the play back and member on another recorder.

    All can listen and comment.

    Rinse and Repeat.
    Bunk McNulty and JRA like this.
  3. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    you can play non-original material as an exercise to 'inform' your original music --- IMO: jazz standards and/or some 12 bar blues will teach all of that (Practice Listening, Resting, Turn-Taking and Responding).

    just sayin': those genres are meant to exploit your requisites. good luck with getting your group to gel more and progress! :thumbsup:
    Stumbo likes this.
  4. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I had a game I used to play with the guitarist in my band a while back which proved really helpful. It was fun with 2 people, would be challenging but definitely doable with more. I kind of spring-boarded off an idea Flea wrote about in an old Bass Player mag where he talked about "Flash and Smash".

    What we'd do is come up with a silly short story, and then do our best to play the story just by looking at each other and listening. We had to express the mood and thought in our notes and playing. Example: The family is going to the carnival. They enter. They see a group of clowns doing a juggling routine. They decide to go on the ferris wheel. They hit the top and a major support beam snaps. People start screaming and falling to the ground....

    Doesn't have to be that graphic or complicated, but I wanted to give a clear idea. Could be as simple as someone running to a river to then relax and skip some stones. The scenarios are limited by your imagination and creativity only :).
    Bunk McNulty likes this.
  5. Ekulati

    Ekulati Supporting Member

    Jan 2, 2016
    Richmond, VA
    Hate to say, but covers would be good training material for this. Learn a handful of Steely Dan tunes. Listen carefully to how parts come in and out, emphasis on out.
  6. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Listen to jazz, especially when the bands "trades fours " - alternate 4 bar solos (or a band like the Allman Brothers when they solo). Everybody does not have to be playing all the time. Space and silence is part of music.
    Bunk McNulty likes this.
  7. BaileyMan

    BaileyMan Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2012
    San Francisco
    I did a game with a guitar player friend where we would pick a scale. Person A would start with the root and play a 1 or 2 bar phrase until person B picked it up (by ear preferrably). Person B would add a second note to the phrase, play it until Person A picked it up and added the next note, etc.

    You could choose any scale, any number of notes from the scale, etc. It was a great listening, improve exercise and we'd come up with some great little riffs.
  8. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    That's a new one on me. Sounds like fun. Not sure how I'd introduce the idea--our rehearsals tend to be all-business. We do sometimes have section rehearsals (just the singers, or just the stringed instruments) maybe I can sneak one in there.
  9. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    Not sure if this is useful in your situation, but here goes:

    I play in a cover band that likes to re-arrange songs. So we argue. Somebody said that playing in a five-piece band was like having four girlfriends. I don't really believe that, but I do see that there are things one can learn from couples counseling:

    "A healthy relationship requires knowing the skills necessary for “friendly fighting” — dealing with conflict respectfully and working together to find a workable solution. Friendly fighting means working out differences that matter. It means engaging passionately about things we feel passionate about, without resorting to hurting one another. It helps us let off steam without getting burned. Friendly fighting lets us “fight” and still stay friends."

    By some miracle, or probably because none of us are kids, we all understand this. I say things like "Are you planning to get paid by the note?" but I do it with a smile and a wink, you know? And if somebody doesn't like what I'm playing, or thinks my harmony note is wrong, I don't take it as a personal attack--it's one of my buddies trying to help me be better.

    One last thought, and it may sound self-promoting, but I really and truly believe it: The band makes good money. None of us wants to lose a good thing, you know? So we go easy on each other.

    Best of luck.