The preceding pages offer only a glimpse into the potential of using random elements in teaching improvisation an bridging the gap between human interaction and playing with a machine. Each of the topics (rhythm, harmony, etc.) could be investigated separately and would require focus groups and extensive testing.

The rhythm exercises, with random elements very similar to the ones found in video games (which use random events at the core of the game play) seem the most promising in regards to recent research.1 Other studies point to the potential of using games for rhythmic training.2

I created some of these exercises for my self-practice during the two MA study years and devised other exercises for beginning and intermediate students. While the novelty effect was real, the ease of use as well as the learning objectives very well understood, the main weak point is the amount of time required to create each one of the exercises. The creation steps are the following, not counting the initial developments required to arrive at a working system:

  • design of an exercise
  • chord, melody creation in music editing software (Dorico)
  • DAW editing (Pro Tools and Ableton in this case)
  • DAW mixing
  • export to FMOD (game audio engine)
  • web page design and coding

These amount of work would increase when recording real musicians. The ratio input/output has to be further critically investigated. The system is also well adapted to a collaborative and remote working approach.

Inspiration for Teachers

A positive and very rewarding aspect of this research was the challenge and enjoyment in trying to create exercises that use these random elements. Reviewing and inventing typical jazz improvisation exercises from simple scale and arpeggio practice to more complex upper structure concepts was rewarding and shone a new light on exercises that might often seem repetitive or even stale. Play-along exercises could be made more alive even through minimal random variations.

  1. Bégel, V., Loreto, I. D., Seilles, A., & Bella, S. D. (2017). Music Games: Potential Application and Considerations for Rhythmic Training. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11. ↩︎

  2. Duffy, S., & Pearce, M. (2018). What makes rhythms hard to perform? An investigation using Steve Reich’s Clapping Music. PLOS ONE, 13, 1–33. ↩︎