Improvisation Made Simple – An Interview with Professor Rod Paton

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The following is a blog-post and interview is written by Span Arts’ volunteer Rosie Graham who loves to sing!

“I Became a volunteer at Span Arts shortly after moving here nearly five years ago from near London. Volunteering with Caring Choirs, singing with isolated and lonely people and working with professional musicians has been fun and satisfying and Span Arts has been a tonic and a boon for me.”

“I trained as a Life Music Practitioner at Chichester University with Rod Paton, about 10 years ago and I am a devotee of Rod’s lively approach to playing instruments and use of the voice; his upcoming workshop at Narberth A Cappella Voice Festival excites me to my core and I know it’ll be a joy to be there. It’s all about freedom and fun with the voice, but even more than this, it’s bound to be a life-changing event with great positive energy.”

“I have sung for many years and had a diverse training with some amazing singing teachers from all over the world. I have discovered so much about the relationship between the body and the voice, interpretations of song and use of the voice in different cultures as well as singing for the soul. I know that Rod will cover many aspects of all of this.”

“I communicated with Rod to fill in the gaps in my knowledge and my aim is to ENGAGE AND INSPIRE readers of this blog.”

Rosie: What will your ‘Improvisation Made Simple’ workshop consist of?

Rod: In the session I will be using the Life Music method but adapted for vocal work. I believe that everybody is musical – there are no wrong notes – every sound carries meaning – TRUST! I will be using instantly accessible song-structures as the basis for improvising. No stress, no tears.

Rosie: What is the purpose of the workshop?

Rod: I would like participants to discover the joy of improvising – their own creative gifts. This will happen in the first 5 minutes! Next the extraordinarily simple arts of harmonising, attuning, entraining and creating song together. Also the sheer fun of playing vocal improvisation games then the joy of discovering how these can lead onto profoundly affecting vocal improvisations.

Rosie: What is your interest in The Natural Voice and when did your interest start?

Rod: I invited the singer Vivien Ellis to run a workshop in Chichester in 1989. She had studied with the legendary and inspiring Frankie Armstrong and this was my introduction to the natural voice. During those years I completely revised my ideas about the voice and started exploring my own voice or rather voices since I believe we all possess a whole range of different vocal potentials. I studied Mongolian singing with Michael Ormiston and joiking with a Finnish guy. Then joined the Natural Voice Network. The NVN grew mostly from protest songs and the folk tradition but now represents the expanding field of community choirs, stimulated nationally by the wonderful Gareth Malone (though he has now become a commercial property, sadly!)

Rosie:  What are your experiences as a Natural Voice Practitioner?

Rod: My experience has been built from responding to the various choirs I have run – Singing for Health, Dementia friendly choirs, village groups who just want to have relaxing time etc. I developed an improvisational approach as a response to these groups but also because I have a hunch that we need to start again from scratch and grow a newly hatched cultural flow…

Rosie:  What has inspired you in your work?

Rod: Lots of different types of song tradition particularly – Scandinavian yoiking, Mongolian throat singing, blues shouting, Moravian folksongs, jazz and free improvisation, gospel, contemporary composition (Arvo Part, James MacMillan)


Rod’s Workshop will be on Saturday 5th May in Narberth Museum.

Advance tickets: £10

Limited availability. Book here to avoid disappointment.



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