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Creating a Music Turn

When creating a music turn, finding the right music can make or break your creative process and your performance. You can have a turn with music to set the mood, or guiding every movement and action. It can be tricky to make a music turn that follows every beat, but the outcome can be amazing!

I believe there are two ways to pick a song for your turn:
Song first:

Choose a song that inspires you to clown when you hear it. Use the music to guide your creative process to create a turn. Is it happy? Sad? What does this music imply? Where would this music be played? Sometimes you find a song that clicks an idea in your head which then moves a turn into motion. This method can help make your turn more spontaneous, in the moment, and in sync with the music.

When rehearsing a music turn it is absolutely necessary to do multiple runs without the music. Once your script is in place and you've practiced with the music it is essential to do it without to find the missing pieces. You can hum or sing the tune while doing a slow motion or Italian run of the script. This will ensure that your music fits the turn and that you aren't waiting to hit your beats. If you are doing a music turn using the beats and nuance to guide you, be careful not to miss parts of the music. In my experience you may be waiting for the music instead of using it organically. This can cause waiting time on stage.

Idea first:

Maybe you have a turn concept, and want music to go with it. In this case it is important to decide if you want your turn to follow the music precisely or if you want the music for mood. The former can be more difficult to achieve because it may be hard to find the perfect song for your piece and you may have to cut or splice the music to achieve what you want.

The number one question about whether or not to use music is: Is it essential? If you are setting out to do a music turn with a song that inspires you and a script, then it is definitely essential. But what about having an idea first and then adding music afterwords? Does the music really add to it? Does it take away from the situation or your clowning? The focus of your turn is you after all and if the clown is lost because of the music then it usually isn't necessary to have it. If you are using music as a mood setter it is important to have a few specific beats planned out. For example: at 1:50 in the song I jump, or once the chorus repeats you go into the next roll etc. This way you can make sure you get through your movements and beats while the song is playing. If you plan to have your turn fit into a 3 minute song, and you don't plan certain points, your song might end before you are finished or you might finish before the music is over.

I find it is better to use music without lyrics. The lyrics can distract the audience and can push your turn into a different meaning. You might find yourself following the lyrics and being less creative in your turn creation. It is easy to find instrumental versions of songs so if it has to be that Cindy Lauper song, just YouTube a lyric free version! It's out there believe me! If you do decide to use a version with the lyrics, use them to guid your turn. You can give so much power to the lyrics by clowning your interpretation of them.

Music can be an amazing thing to add to a clown turn. It can add emotion, depth, or excitement. But if it isn't used properly it can quickly lead your turn and your clowning in a different direction.

Some other things to try: Try your turn without music at all to find out if it is necessary. Try different songs. Keep a selection of songs that inspire you. Look at different genres. Maybe you've never listened to jazz music before, but check out a jazz radio station from time to time. You might just hear a song that inspires you! It can be a challenge to create a music turn, but it can also be a very fun and rewarding experience.

Here is Charlie Chaplin in "The Great Dictator", a wonderful example of a music turn! Notice also, that although Chaplin is in sync to the music, his partner is not! It may not be necessary for both clowns to be following the music.

This blog post was originally published on the Fool Spectrum Theatre Website.

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