Guest post by Simon Reich
Launching a new series on improvisation…
There are many natural highs to be enjoyed in life.
Society’s obsession with alcohol, drugs, nicotine and artificial stimulants misses the serotonin release available from activities that occur all around us. In my case, consuming great tasting food, stimulating conversation with friends, daredevil acts – like riding a roller coaster or jumping from high platforms into water, romancing my partner, winning competitive games and (for the focus of this article), playing a musical instrument.
There are many aspects to playing an instrument that facilitate the release of serotonin (or “the happy drug”, released by your body, stimulating your brain to feel great) :
- There’s practising a sheet music piece that you finally “get”.
- There’s that warm feeling of accomplishment, after the hours of practice to reach that level of skill.
- There’s playing in front of a crowd that show their appreciation for your skill.
But for me, the greatest natural high I get from playing my instrument is composing through improvisation. The thrill of making music that others, let alone myself, have never heard.
It’s hard to describe the wonderful natural high I experience, participating in this activity.
There’s a great story of country music star John Denver. Having a moment of writer’s block while composing a song for an album, he decided to leave his Rocky Mountain studio and ski down the slopes for a break. That one ride down the mountains broke the impasse and he came up with an inspirational section that finished the song. Denver was quoted later by reporters as saying,
“I don’t know who composed that song, but I love it!”.
Sometimes improvisation feels like that. You almost don’t feel in control of what has happened. It feels like the music is coming off the ends of your fingers! This is the source of the natural high available to any musician. The, at times, unexplainable and almost spiritual aspect of music making.
As a young child, I loved picking out popular tunes from the radio on the piano, but it was only when I began to make up my own tunes, that I have to admit it, I became an improvisation junkie!
- If you’ve never dabbled in improvisation, but wanted to…
- If you had a purple patch with it, but now have writers block…
- or if you just want to explore a natural high you’ve never felt…
Well then this new series of articles could be right down your alley.
Have a Go!
My mantra for life is to always try new things and extend yourself – and music is too beautiful a gift to not apply this philosophy to!
Simpy put, improvisation is all about trying new things, breaking rules, moving out of your comfort zone, and rather than feeling scared by this, embracing it.
A great natural high awaits!
Simon is a pianist and award winning composer from Victoria, Australia.
Further information : Simon Reich Music
Simon is a regular contributor to Pianodao.