Finding Musical Inspiration in Everyday Speech

Friday, 24 April 2020



Yamaha Artist Fem Belling

There’s a saying that everything you need can be found in your own back yard. If something was ailing you, a remedy grew nearby drawing from the current environment that could help.

Yes, this is a statement of a less urban and far away world but bear with me if you will. As our homes have now become our entire worlds and online resources, our umbilical ‘chords’, I love the idea that some things we look outward for, are already seeded in us. Mourning the loss of performing and having this enforced time on our hands can be debilitating and inspiring. In a time where we have more time than ever for genuine musical exploration, the hustle to come out of this universal pandemic with killer chops or a new language or a home studio album is deafening. No?

The sudden death of live performing arts has diluted and expanded our focus. Good / Bad? The jury’s still out for me. We can no longer just be good at performing, we now have to be epic Sound Engineers, Mixers, Social Media Gurus, Algorithm Masters, Bakers, Brewers, Baby Sitters, Teachers and Chefs. Phew!

The universe has handed us a giant fermata. However, that fits into your new chaos, heed the dynamics. I have been playing a lot with forgotten improvisation. The cycles of my own trends, sounds, ideas and licks. I mean, 90’s jean cuts are back, perhaps it’s time to mine some home grown improvisation tinctures too.

We talk with melodic intention to achieve a desired outcome. We use our alphabet as our tools to improvise words and feelings, to share our thoughts.

So why should music be any different?

When it comes to phrasing and cadence, we already have our own, unique approach embedded in our everyday communication. Yes, I’m talking your mother tongue, maybe more than one, for me it’s English and Afrikaans. The way we speak is instinctively melodic and rhythmic (sure, it’s influenced by pop culture, movies and accents) but YOUR way of communicating is, well... yours.

Just saying “G Day, how are ya?” has an infinite phrasing, melody and a rhythm, improvised and informed by a language perfectly natural to you. We can sometimes be so overwhelmed at learning new languages (improvisation included) and new skills that we forget about the ones we already know.

It doesn’t matter what your instrument is... voice, violin, brass, single melody, chordal. Using your own speech phrasing can spark so many new ideas. Take the words away and feel how that intention and rhythm might fit into your music. Your exclamations, your pauses, your meanings, YOUR instincts.

I want to remind you to tap into that already pimped toolbox of yours. Use your own backyard, your own history, your own familiarity to find new ways of using the language of improvised music.