Improv Trap: The Group Song

I am one of the world’s worst musical improvisers.  If that’s your cup of tea, I advise you to enjoy any Blaine Swen show.  Or scope Jay Olson laying down rhymes with The Beatbox.

This entry isn’t about those magical moments when the pianist goads you into singing.  This is about those times your team starts singing a pre-existing song.  Don’t do that.

Twice in my life, I’ve been on teams that started singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”  And both times, my team sang the entire song. When you start singing as a group, it’s fun for about ten seconds.  Then you start feeling obligated to continue.  If you’re feeling obligated to do something, edit the hell out of that.  It’s difficult to edit out of a song because your natural inclination is to finish.  But if it’s becoming boring for you, the improviser, it’s definitely boring for the audience.

In the case of our baseball anthem, “Take me out to the ballgame, take me out with the crowd,” is about all we need to set the mood.  After that, the scene should shift.  Have someone step forward to pitch or bat.  Step forward to start a scene between two characters at the game.  If you want, start a scene in the middle of the seventh inning stretch.  Anything to propel your show forward.  The music can continue in the background if you like.  But really, we all know how the song ends.  You don’t need to follow through.

What’s worse is if you don’t know all the lyrics.  You’ll try to finish a song that gets alternately sloppy and super-clear.  Don’t put yourself through that.

I’m not anti-music.  A song can definitely add punch to a show.  It usually results in applause.  But if you’re singing, sing for a reason.  Since you’re an improviser, sing a completely original tune.  No one needs to hear all ten of you mumble your way through all four verses of “Dude Looks Like a Lady.”  There’s a time and a place for that.  It’s called karaoke.


One response to “Improv Trap: The Group Song

  1. Too true. Great post. And not just because it mentions me. 😉

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