Ken Zuckerman’s extensive research into the practices of improvisation in both western and eastern music have given him a unique perspective on teaching this subject. For example, his courses at the Music Academy of Basel on “modal improvisation” use the source material of Indian melodic modes (ragas) to initiate western music students into the techniques of improvisation. Students usually first learn these basic skills vocally and then later, apply them to their instruments
This work can also be presented in the form of single workshops for music students who have had little or no experience with learning improvisaton. In this case 1 or 2 day sessions are taught instrumentally, which enables the students to execute the basics more easily.
Modal Improvisation – the value of gaining insight into a form of music from another culture.
Many of the basic skills of Indian music can be of great value to any western music student. Workshops in â€œmodal improvisationâ€ focus on several of the basic concepts and skills of Indian music:
1) introducing a monophonic music system that is based on highly differentiated modal hierarchies
2) exploring the rules and strategies of improvising within specific modes (ragas)
3) concentrating on melodic and rhythmic ear training exercises which are not usually a part of western music courses
4) learning all of these skills by means of a fundamentally different system of music pedagogy: unwritten, oral tradition from the East.
Within a surprisingly short period of time, the students gain a basic understanding of the basic Indian modes and make their first attempts at improvising within the rules of several raga hierarchies. They also significantly improve their ability to listen to increasingly complex melodic and rhythmic phrases, internalize them and then repeat them in the moment.