The Improv Diaries – The Man and the Piano [Case Study The Noise Next Door]

This week I started my eight week course in musical improv with Phil Munn. I was so excited to start and the first lesson did not disappoint instead it exceeded my expectations!

This week we did a variety of activities to start getting us used to using music and song in Improv as it’s an art form in itself. The first thing we did was talk about why we were at the course and why we wanted to do musical improv.

Once we had done introductions we got into warming up for singing. We first did a variety of scales in the letter E to get used to using our voices. We would go up the scales in an E and go down them in an A.

To get used to singing in various scales we sung a song with a lot of quick lyrics about Mighty mice – I can’t remember the words but we went round the alphabet so the word mice would be bice, lice, fice, dice etc it was such a fun little tune and I enjoyed it so much.

The next thing we did was all about Feeling the music. We would listen to the melodies that Phil played and react by humming or walking to the emotion.

The next thing we spoke about was singing against the melody. So a lot of tunes musicians don’t sing the same melody as the piano they either sing longer notes, shorter and faster paced or in some cases a complete different melody. We did the exercise above again and this time tried to do this.

After doing this for a while we then did melodies of Gibberish in twos. We had to listen to the music and make a scene talking in gibberish only and see what happens. I loved this so much! The first scene I did was with Cheryl and we sort of did this melody and ended up having a very dramatic story form. After we performed group would tell the story of what they Saw. The second time round I was in a three person musical scene and it was fun to see how it worked. I watched what the other two were doing and riffed on it. They were doing similar sounds so I decided to go completely the opposite and the extreme. Bringing in a random grouchy style melody to intertwine with the rhythms they were making to try and make it a scene about two people irritating the other person.

For something that was the first time doing it – it worked very well and I really had a lot of fun from it. There was so much laughter at everyone’s scenes in this and it’s amazing what a little gibberish and music can do.

We then put the keyboard aside and started working on making melodies in groups – I suppose a bit like the orchestra game we played in Newcastle. One of us would be the bass, another the melody and the other two drums and guitar so to speak. We were then given a random slogan, song lyric or warning sign which we would then have to say in a rhythm relative to the genre we were trying to make.

For my first week I loved it so much, I felt like a kid in the candy store or like all my Christmases had come at once. It was such a great 3 hours that I am so excited for next week but at the same time Don’t want next week to come as it will mean only 6 lessons left.

Case study – The Noise Next Door


Like everyone I watched Whose Line to get into improv but it was until 2013 that I really got into the art form and that was all thanks to Noise Next Door. There will be a few articles about them in this topic as they are the group that opened my eyes to musical improvisation and felt it was only right to start with them.

When I first did an edit for ComComedy I came across these Guys and then I went and saw them live at St James Theatre and came out with ribs aching. The one part of their act I loved when I watched their video for my edit and when I first saw them live was the musical number called Perfect Partner. I found it hilarious and so great.

When I saw it performed live the magic was heightened because they took my suggestion of Mr Bean and from then was hypnotised watching them perform something completely out of thin air and to my life was changed. (Read my How improv changed my life article about how they did it by clicking here )

The thing I really liked about Perfect Partner was not just the improvised lyrics but the actual music that went with it and the dance routine (oh yes there was a routine). It was a great entertainment concept and was great fun to watch. They have one on YouTube that I have watched so many times that I know the lyrics inside out and actually enjoy singing along with it. “I’m da popppeee bitches”

I found thinking of Noise Next Door in my first lesson became natural because of what I learnt from watching them. I found I was mimicking a bit of all of their styles and really found for it and and trying to create the crazy like Sam or the movement like Matt.

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