Vocal improv, short for vocal improvisation, is the act of creating music or soundscapes spontaneously, without predetermined lyrics, melody or rhythm. It involves using the voice to experiment with different tones, rhythms, and textures, to produce a unique and expressive piece of music. 

Vocal improv can be performed alone, with other singers, or with instrumentalists, and is commonly used in genres such as jazz, blues, and experimental music. Improvisation is often used as a way for musicians to express themselves with deep authenticity, as well as to engage in collaborative music-making. 

Bobby McFerrin, one of the world’s greatest vocal improvisers, has worked  training singers to spread collaborative vocal improvisation, called circlesinging, around the world, to foster connection, community, listening, social consciousness…

In vocal improv, the singer may use various techniques such as scatting (jazz improv over chord changes), or free improv, which involves improvising with onomatopoeic syllables, or using growls, whispers, and other unusual vocal sounds. The goal of vocal improv is to create something new and original in the moment, using the voice as an instrument of creative expression. 


How to use vocal improv in team building 

Vocal improv can be an effective tool for team building as it encourages collaboration, communication, deep listening, trust and creativity among team members. Here are some ideas for using vocal improv in team building: 

  1. Group warm-up exercises: Start with warm-up exercises which get the body moving and everyone comfortable using their voices, such as call-and-response games, mirroring or vocal exploration. 
  2. Vocal icebreakers: Use vocal improv exercises as icebreakers to help team members get to know each other better. For example, ask each person to introduce themselves with a short improv using their name or have everyone take turns creating a unique sound that represents their personality. 
  3. Group improvisation: Divide the team into smaller groups and have each group improvise together with a particular theme. Then bring the groups back together and have them collaborate to create a larger piece of music. 
  4. Team storytelling: Encourage the team to work together to create an improvised story or narrative using their voices. Each person can contribute a sentence or phrase to build the story, with others adding their own vocal improvisation to enhance the narrative. 
  5. Reflection and feedback: After the vocal improv activities, allow time for reflection and feedback. Ask team members to share their experiences and discuss what they learned about collaboration, communication, and creativity. 

Using vocal improv in team building can help break down barriers, promote trust and openness, and foster a sense of connection and creativity among team members. 

How does vocal improv differ from comedic improv 

Vocal improv and comedic improv share some similarities, but they have some key differences as well.

Vocal improv is focused on creating music and soundscapes using the voice as the primary instrument. It can be performed in a variety of genres, including jazz, blues, experimental, and contemporary music. The focus is on creating unique and expressive music in the moment, rather than necessarily being comedic or entertaining. 

Comedic improv, on the other hand, is focused on creating humorous scenes and situations using improvised dialogue and physical acting. It is typically performed in a comedic setting, such as a comedy club or theater, and may involve improvising skits, games, or other comedic performances. The goal is to make the audience laugh and be entertained, rather than necessarily creating music or soundscapes. 

While both types of improv rely on presence and focus in the moment, creativity, and collaboration, they have different goals and outcomes. Vocal improv is more focused on musical expression, while comedic improv is focused on entertainment and humor. However, there can be overlap between the two, as some comedic improv may involve musical elements, and some vocal improv may include humorous or comedic elements.