NOTE: this post used quite a complicated layout in the main part with embedded videos. In case that does not work on your browser (****/that happens), please refer to the full table at the very end of the post for the links to individual videos.
The idea for the improvisation challenge was born in the middle of December 2013. I was finishing the SeeMe challenge of building a photo portfolio, and I realized I would like to do something similar for my music. But do it REALLY simple and easy for me, so I can be able to follow through for the 30 days.
I still don’t have a good experience with audio workstations, and they do seem somewhat complicated and require a few extra steps each time to start the recording, and also I knew I would see how my rhythmical part shifts from perfect and would be very disappointed in myself and my skills. I knew that with any software focused on the audio, I would overcomplicate things and become prone to failure.
However, doing the videos appeared to be a very exciting idea. It would add the visual component, and it would force me to share it mostly as it is. Plus, there were all these skills involved with which I had absolutely no experience (see more about them at the conclusion of this post). So, it seemed like fun to do :)
Some of the comments I have received over the course of 30 days: “Pleasantly surprised!”, “This is fabulous! Lik, you ROCK!”, “Fantastic work!”
Improvisation Challenge in Numbers
30 days. Countless hours of setting up, improvising, downloading videos from the camera, processing, recompressing and uploading to Vimeo. As well as listening over and over again, becoming aware of the small things which are good and other things to work on.
Total size of raw HD footage: 69.67 GB.
Total size of recompressed SD cut on Vimeo: 753 MB.
Total length: 2 hours 40 minutes 39 seconds.
Comments on Vimeo: 0 :(
Likes on Vimeo: 1! :)
|E minor||11 times|
|A minor||8 times|
|C major, G major, D minor, E Phrygian mode||2 times each|
|G minor, B minor, F major||1 time each|
The following two improvisations (day 17 and day 25) are the closest to my vision of how a solo improvisation sounds like at its best. They are not perfect, on the one in G minor I have made quite a few mistakes, but the overall impression stayed the same.
Day 17 in G minor
Day 25 in E minor
G minor - energetic, love the end!
E minor - so bright, love the orange. Intro developing very slow, too slow. Very good by 3:00. Would change the ending.
The following two improvisations (day 8 and day 26) have a very special feel to me. I played the first of them with a backing record of a couple of chords, and this represent the ideal which I would like to move toward for my performances on stage: focus on the solo part and leave the rhythmical riffs to somebody else. This is contrary to the top picks above: they represent self-contained improvisations. The second of them simply sounds very special, to my opinion.
Day 8 in A minor
Day 26 in E minor
A minor - recorded sound is dull, and I hate iMovie sound “enhancement” - glad that day 12 forced me to stop using it completely. Probably, build on top of this melody and use it for the album.
E minor - like the different feeling of it. Good ending but with a mistake.
One of the comments I received early in the challenge was that it had been not only the improvisation challenge, but also the wearing red challenge. And I agree with that. I am generally wearing mostly orange things these days, plus a few red things at home. These correspond to my core desired feelings of SHINING and ALIVE (read: The Desire Map… and read The Desire Map too! :) )
However, in the last third of the challenge (day 22 and the very last three days - 28, 29, 30), I was wearing a gray World Domination Summit t-shirt. I haven’t studied the question in depth, but I do recognize that there is a substantial influence of what we wear on our feeling states, on how we feel ourselves while we wearing it. For me, this t-shirt brings alive the WDS spirit, and reminds me of the two weeks in the States in Summer 2013. And my feeling state is essentially what all the improvisations are about, what they are built upon.
All four improvisations when I wore the WDS t-shirt feel very special to me.
Day 22 in E minor
Day 28 in E minor
Day 29 in B minor
Day 30 in A minor
Day 22: Starts in punk-rock style with 5/6-string chords with open string, but slowly transitions to the metal feeling at the end.
Day 28: WDS rock style. Energetic, lively.
Day 29: Special experimental sound. Chorus flange overwhelming at times, too constant and regular character of the modulation. Interesting look upwards around 1:20.
Day 30: Energetic, lively. A call to action at the end!!! :)
Finally, I present you a few improvisations which simply sound very good and solid. There are also a few ones which are different from “normal” (if you could use a word normal for improvisations). For example, the day 5 was played completely in clean sound (because of the iMovie sound “enhancement”, the louder parts still sound overdriven - you have to believe me for now, but on the original video it is all clean).
The day 12 was the first and the very best of the piano days of the Improvisation Challenge. I would release it under Creative Commons attribution license to allow someone who plays the piano much better (is it YOU?) to clean up the moments which I did not play that well, and to make derivative works based on it. I feel this melody has a potential.
Overall, these picks are characterized by a relaxed state and the positive energy.
Day 5 in G major
Comments: Sound overloaded by iMovie. The melody is all wonderful, natural.
Day 9 in E minor
Comments: Energetic beginning, good energy, like fun at the end :)
Piano, Day 12 in A minor
Comments: Beautiful piano, but watery sound because of the noise reduction. Very good visuals. Rainy day.
Day 13 in E minor
Comments: Good energy, good melody. Experimenting.
Day 16 in E Phrygian mode
Comments: E Phrygian mode is cool. Like the melody, and like FFFE, would also add it at the very end too.
Day 27 in D minor
Comments: I hear mistakes! But very good, engaging. Combine with the Dm fast solo for the album.
There are so many lessons to be learned from this month.
First of all, committing to the 30 days of the Improvisation Challenge helped me to build the discipline and the habit of consistent daily music practice that I would take further on. Yes, it was just 4-6 minutes of playing the instrument (remember, small steps to form a habit!). But I additionally received an incredible value from re-listening to what I had played: once right after the improvisation (in-the-moment assessment), once a couple of hours or days later when processing the video (already, a very different perspective), and once yesterday when watching, commenting and rating everything for this report (having the total picture in mind).
I learned a lot about my energy states and their influence on my activities, posture, facial expressions. I need to pay more attention to the latter, don’t get overly concentrated on the instrument but relax, focus on the music flow, and smile. Also, another direction of growth would be the eye contact with the audience during the performance. Many of the videos completely lack it, and that is something to work on.
I was surprised to learn the different types of people during this experience. I am a feeling type, so for me it was all about how I felt. If I felt sad and weak, then the melody most likely would be slow and with a deep minor tones. If I was excited, then the improvisation was likely to start energetic and go in the positive direction. However, my mom and granny wrote me what images had been coming to their mind while listening to the one of the videos… That’s a strongly visual type, I believe :)
Finally, I have learned the basics around making videos for web. I learned how to shoot videos with my camera (never used it for that since I bought it in November 2012), how to edit them in iMovie 10.0 (I even had iMovie removed from my Mac since I never used it; it required a bit of research to find our that I need to go to the Mac App Store, login to my Apple ID there and go to the Purchases tab to reinstall it now), how to upload and organize them on Vimeo. Plus, I took time to learn the differences between Vimeo and YouTube: the former is focused on the content while the latter is focused on exposure (I have chosen the content), there are different limitations like the 500 megabytes per week of original video upload on the free Vimeo Basic account (which needed to be considered, and I bumped into it several times with daily videos, apparently mine were not short enough combined with using iMovie for compression :) ), versus default 15-minute limit per video on YouTube.
After all, this is a huge experience, accomplishment and a success for myself.
Please tell me in the comments what you picks or favorites are (if you have them), be encouraged to go to Vimeo and give likes and leave comments there (I will be so very happy and grateful!), and please share the videos you liked the most with your friends and family, or with people who might be interested in working with me.
Thank you very much for staying with me so far! I am looking forward to the next steps and phases of my journey!
Full Rating Table
|Day 1||E minor||3 stars||Great intro. Good rhythmical section around 4:00. Mistakes. Tense.|
|Day 2||A minor||4 stars||Love the shirt. Interesting solo around 4:00.|
|Day 3||E minor||4 stars||Like the melody at the beginning. Fast section from 2:00 is cool. Last minute is somewhat spoiled, but ending is good.|
|Day 4||C major||2 stars||Stupid. Mistakes. Sounds better after the cut at 4:40, but still fails. Ending almost good.|
|Day 5||G major||5 stars||Pick. Clean sound but overloaded by iMovie. All wonderful.|
|Day 6||A minor||2 stars||Noisy (too fast, many mistakes). Tense. OK part around 4:00-4:40, nice moves later on. Like the ending.|
|Day 7||A minor||2 stars||What’s wrong with it???|
|Day 8||A minor||5 stars||Special Pick. Backed by recorded chords but the recorded sound is dull. Use for album.|
|Day 9||E minor||4 stars||Pick. Love it!|
|Day 10||G major||3 stars||Weird. Very nice ending and great last 10 sec!|
|Day 11||E minor||4 stars||“I’ve already heard that somewhere”, but this one is a bit better.|
|Day 12||A minor||4 stars||Pick, piano, to be released under Creative Commons license (attribution, non-commercial). Watery sound because of noise reduction. Very good visuals. Rainy day.|
|Day 13||E minor||5 stars||Pick. Good energy, good melody, good experiments.|
|Day 14||A minor||4 stars||Good part from 3:20. Special effects with light :)|
|Day 15||D minor||2 stars||Makes me sad :(|
|Day 16||E Phrygian mode||5 stars||Pick. Sound is good, like the melody and FFFE, would add FFFE at the very end too.|
|Day 17||G minor||4 stars||TOP Pick. This is how my impro sounds at its best. Love the end!|
|Day 18||E minor||3 stars||Piano. Watery sound again. Good part from 3:00. Love the end.|
|Day 19||A minor||3 stars||Controversial. Like the rhythmical part at many moments. Many mistakes.|
|Day 20||E minor||3 stars||Not nice, “I’m tired” energy. Last minute good, ending very good.|
|Day 21||C major||3 stars||Piano. Watery sound! Cold until 2:10, then nice, then cold at the end again.|
|Day 22||E minor||4 stars||WDS special. Starts with punk-rock and ends with metal.|
|Day 23||F major||2 stars||Struggling, too many mistakes. Worst improvisation of the series.|
|Day 24||E Phrygian mode||4 stars||First standing video! Many bends, good melody!|
|Day 25||E minor||5 stars||TOP Pick. So bright, love the orange! Intro developing too slow. Very good by 3:00. Would do ending differently.|
|Day 26||E minor||5 stars||Special Pick. Like the different feeling of it. Good ending but with a mistake.|
|Day 27||D minor||5 stars||Pick. I hear mistakes! But very good, engaging. Combine with Dm fast solo for the album|
|Day 28||E minor||4 stars||WDS Special. WDS rock style. Lively, energetic.|
|Day 29||B minor||4 stars||WDS Special. Special sound, but overwhelming regularity of the modulation at times.|
|Day 30||A minor||5 stars||WDS Special. Lively, energetic. A call to action at the end! :)|