, , ,

Just published by GIA: Improv Duets for Classical Musicians by me.

Excerpt from the Introduction:

“Playing duets from the ink is fun and full of musical vitamins, but it needs a complementary aural approach to develop all-around musicianship. Improvising – duets or otherwise – is not usually a part of a classical musician’s training, but this book aims to provide a quick and easy way for classical players to make up for this lack. Classical players may gasp at the thought of having to invent their own material, but if they go so far as to dare to try out an improvisation game like those in this book, they quickly discover that improvising does not have to mean playing bebop – it simply means making your own decisions about what to play, and that it is 1) easy and 2) fun, and 3) great for your technique and musicianship, especially working/playing with another person. Think of it this way: playing written duets is to improvising duets as reading the lines of dialogue of a play is to having a lively conversation. It is one kind of challenge to bring to life the art of a playwright in reading (or acting out) the lines of a play. It is a highly engaging and very different sort of challenge to explore a subject in extemporaneous conversation with a partner. You are both creating together in real time, playing off of each other, inspiring each other, coming up with material that neither could have invented on their own. An improvised duet is a musical conversation, and in the same way, you don’t plan ahead of time exactly what you’re going to say, but you take all of your combined knowledge, imagination, and emotions create and shape a brand new ‘performance’ that is surprising, gratifying, and invigorating. Improvising duets means ‘thinking in music.’ It takes gumption to get started doing this by yourself, but add another player and the internal blocks to the process melt away. In brief, improvised duets are a perfect complement to written duets and are a fun and effective way to develop technique and musicality.”

The Table of Contents:

I. Warm-Up Games                                                                       

Warm-Up Long Tones

Brass Warm-Up


Body Warm-Up

Dancing Long Tones

Feel the Beats


II. Rhythm Games

Irresistible Rhythm

Electric Partner


Overtone Ostinato

What’s in a Name?

Be a Drum

Rhythmic Row


Odd Meter Drone Ostinato

Something in Three

III. Melody Games                                                                                      


Mirror, Mirror

Gregorian Chance

Double Your Pleasure




Big Leaps

Mouthpiece Canon


Pulsed Drone

Anything Goes

Hold That Crunch

Black Key Duet

Only Natural (brass)

Dueling Bumble Bees


IV. Harmony Games

Arpeggio Accompaniments

Poly Wants a Chord

KISS Music

Fifths Only

Descending Scale

Oom Pah

Four Hands (keyboard)

Vanilla + Spice

Add a Note


V. Aural Games

Call and Response for Natural Brass

Just Listen

Call and Response – Basic

Where Am I?

Call and Response: Play the Shape

Plain Round

Decorated Round

Is That the Canon I Hear?

Two Tone Call & Response


VI. Accompaniment Games

Role Switching

XTech Accompaniment

Interval Accompaniment

Derived Accompaniment

Crunch Time

Double Crunch


VII. Depiction Games                                                                                


Home Sweet Home

Book Divertimento

Weather Report



VIII. Style Games



Monkey Mirror



IX. Technique Games

Scale + Delay

Thirds – A Charm


Home Ostinato Scales

Canon Scales

Making Lemonade


X. Miscellaneous Games

Simon Says


News Story

Trading Fours

Free Play Game #1

Free Play Game #2

Atonal Jazz

Fancy Twinkle

ABA Warm-Up


Spanish Bass

Plain Descender

Heart & Soul


Fragments of Your Imagination

Lyrical Piece

Sea Chanty

Unfamiliar Arpeggios

Elevator Music



The Art of Accompaniment


Familiar Tunes

Patterns & Scales

Styles and Forms



Jeffrey Agrell is one of the most important advocates for improvisation in the classical music world today.  His greatest gift is his ability to create games and exercises that make learning improvisation fun not scary.  The approach is engaging, insightful and humorous.  Players of any instrument will love these fun and imaginative improvisation duets. – Charles Young, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Jeffrey Agrell continues to contribute, through his intense enthusiasm, his immense intelligence, and his relentless pursuits, to provoke us all to step inside ourselves to find out what we already know and can already do, but don’t think that we know or feel able to do. Creativity through equal partnership is the angle here. Duets are what we do every day as we converse with another person. Through our own words we communicate feelings, emotions, and thoughts. We attempt to convince, cajole, or confuse via spontaneous (improvised) verbal actions and reactions with others, most often without a script of any kind. Improvisation through one’s musical instrument in reaction to another is what Agrell encourages as he presents a multitude of intriguing ways for us to discover and enjoy our innermost capabilities to communicate through the abstractions of pitches, timbres, rhythms, and dynamics. This is a book to buy, study, use, and cherish as it encourages classical performers to relax, relate, and ultimately realize the music that is their very own.  –Douglas Hill, Professor Emeritus of Horn, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This portable volume has everything you need to get started improvising with a partner.  Unlike the usual printed duets, these duets provide an opportunity for two people playing any (or multiple) instruments to create music without written notation. This is especially valuable in a pedagogical setting, where improvising with a partner can provide a fresh approach to working on technical as well as musical issues.  I know I will use this book frequently with friends, colleagues, and students to help me incorporate improvisation more regularly into my musical day.  With Professor Agrell’s improvisation resources, all musicians (but especially “classical” musicians) now have an outstanding set of tools that will help them dare to try something new, while also further developing deep listening skills, refining technique, opening up musical creativity, and providing hours of fun for a lifetime of music-making.  No matter what your previous experience with improvisation (none or a lot), you will definitely want this volume in your library.  – Dr. Lin Foulk, University of Western Michigan