There is a chapter in the Singing Meditation book I co-authored with Liz Hill about ‘toning.’ In toning each person is encouraged let go of already written songs and just make random ‘tones’ of sound. Ideally each person would listen to the others in the group and adjust pitches accordingly. Any syllables could be used for toning, but open vowel sounds worked best.
When we did toning during Singing Meditation workshops participants always loved it. Many reported feeling powerful vibrations they believed were healing. As a facilitator I was always surprised how much people enjoyed toning.
I remember many times suggesting that people during a Singing Meditation session ‘morph’ from a repeated song into their own improvised, heart felt words and tones. As a group I don’t think we ever achieved this spirit of improvisation. But I have retained an interest in vocal improvisation ever since.
Last week I was truly blessed to have the opportunity to participate in an improvisation workshop led by the woman who I think is mistress of this art form. Her name is “Rhiannon” and is probably best known for her performances with Bobby McFerrin and “WeBe3.” She has a set of oversize cards available called “Vocal River.” Each card has a suggestion for an improvisation activity such as: Circle Singing, Murmuration or Traveling Trio.
I think improvisation is hard for many singers because they lack a) confidence and/or b) permission. Permission to make a mistake. More importantly, permission to make glorious sounds! I’m pleased to say that Rhiannon is just as good at teaching improv as she is at doing it. I learned at least one new technique that I hadn’t seen done before and I think will be useful.
If you are interested in vocal improv for Singing Meditation — or other — venues and are unfamiliar with Rhiannon I suggest you check out her website http://www.Rhiannonmusic.com Her calendar of workshops for 2016 is already posted.