Lesson notes

1. Play the file (see preparation notes) and ask the students to:

  • feel the beat;
  • clap the beat (ideally at half-note /half-bar intervals – this may not be obvious to all and require comment and discussion);
  • identify when many instruments play and when the bass plays alone;
  • practice not clapping when the bass is left playing alone – instead add ….”2,3,4″ whispered in time after the third half-note clap.

2.  Ask the students to invent a short meaningful combination of words, eg. own name or favourite football team / musician etc. Then:

  • while clapping as in 1. above students should verbally fit this, by rhythmically whispering the words to the the music, to the music of the beginning of the file;
  • add to the words a “yeah”, which should come naturally on the third half-note /minim pulse in the cycle and help to stabilise the rhythm formed by the words;
  • whisper, as in 1.3 above the “2,3,4” above the lone bass line
  • a student’s invented rhythm might then be “Jennifer Gomez Yeah 2 3 4”, fitting perfectly with the cycle. (“Jennifer Gomez” could, of couse, be presented in a number of different ways rhythmically.)

3. Repeat all the exercises in 1 & 2 above, giving the students the opportunity of playing the notes D and/or A (concert pitch) rhythmically correctly on their chosen instruments. During these exercises take every opportunity to get students to attend to the most important basic elements of good instrumental technique. (The teacher has an excellent opportunity here to attend to basic beater technique on pitched percussion where necessary.)

4. Having reached 3 above with D & A being freely used to an improvised rhythm, give the students a rest and try some listening exercises:

  • listen to the various tracks of the MIDI-file individually (use the “solo” button on the sequencer) and/or in discreet combinations (use the “mute” button on the sequencer). (See Sequencer Tips and Tricks for details.)
  • ask questions pertaining to (a) the starting and finishing notes (mostly D & A); (b) to the notes in between (all correspond to “white” keys, i.e. Dorian mode: all different rhythms)

5. Play the MIDI-file again (cycled). Now:

  • ask the students to return to their self-created rhythm(s) and to play only the first and last note (the “yeah”) to D or A while at the same time thinking of the notes which they might play in between (they might even find some form of “silently” playing helpful to them!)
  • let them all practice their little Dorian phrases at the same time. As long as the D & A rule for the start and end and the “2,3,4” is silently counted after the “yeah”, it will all sound fine;
  • let half the class, a small group, or even individuals perform their Dorian phrases out of sync with the others, i.e. starting on the “yeah”, the point where the remainder stop.

6. Reduce the number of tracks on the MIDI-file (using the track-mute facility) so that only the bass and perhaps two other tracks are sounding. Now:

  • using small groups, or individuals, get the class to respond rapidly and accurately to playing their ideas at the start of the cycle or at the “yeah” point in the middle;
  • the more the original file is reduced, the more it becomes a full class improvisation.

7. Ask the class for ideas as to how to structure the piece. How to end the piece? Experiment with their ideas. Record the final pieces. Compare with some of the earlier minimalist pieces, e.g. Terry Riley’s: A Rainbow in Curved Air, In C etc.

8. Information sheet with basic information on minimalism (available in pdf format MINIMALISM; or html format) . This can be supplemented with listening exercises relating to the Minidoro I improvisation. The further materials and follow-up pages give some suggestions.

9. Students work in small groups to produce their own individualized pieces. Record. Discuss. Evaluate.