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Step in Step out

Step in Step out - workshop piece exploring the nature and practice of free improvisation in music.

The video playlist above walks the talk through the text below "Step in - step out". 




  • Introduction
  • Description 1; part 1; Step in for quartets
  • Description 2; part 2: Step out for quartets
  • Description 3; part 3: Step out & step in for quartets
  • Timeline
  • Quick thoughts & what is new
  • Extreme additional rule
  • Correspondance



Hello, this is the first draft of a workshop session piece [ what is the correct terminology ] it awaits peer review and comments. The musical genre is “free improvisation is music” The workshop piece is called - Step in - Step out.

Key concepts

  • Only three players can be in `free play` mode at any one time
  • `Free play` indicates the musician is playing, making sounds.
  • `Tacet`indicates the musician is not playing, not making sounds, nor is the equipment.

Description 1; part one; Step in for quartets

  • There are four players - improvisers - in the piece
  • Three players start playing, the fourth is in tacet mode
  • Step in: The fourth or player in tacet mode can enter into “free play” mode at any time, at this moment one of the three musicians in “free play” mode has to stop: become tacet.
    There is no set methodology to manage the process by which one of the musicians ceases to play, they have to manage this on the fly.
  • The process repeats
  • The player in tacet mode can enter into free play mode ( or not ) whenever they wish too.

PM POV - step in ( his name ) has been in his workshop repertoire for improvisers for 20-30 years: and he assumes others too. There are variables to this design, eg more players.

Description 2; part 2: Step out for quartets

  • There are four players - improvisers - in the piece
  • Three players start playing, in free play mode, the fourth is in tacet mode
  • Step out: One of the musicians in Freeplay mode steps out of the piece, becomes tacet: at this moment the musician in tacet mode has to join in, become active in free play mode.
  • There is no set methodology to manage the process by which one musician ceases to play.
  • The process repeats
  • The players in free play mode can exit free play mode become tacet whenever they wish too.

Step out: was introduced to the design by Jon Aveyard ( Uclan) during a “step in” session.

Description 3; part 3: Step out & step in for quartets

To do both, step in & step out, at the same time creates an added complexity


  • To work with a set time limit.
  • P Morton POV ( point of view ) is a set time of six minutes. This requires a timekeeping device & audible signal.
  • This is not a rule, the participants can run the timeline as they decide at the time

Quick thoughts & what is new

  • The improvisers may employ strategies and tactics as a response to the design of step in & step out.
  • The improvisers may employ musical ideas, aesthetics, as a response to the design of step in & step out rather than cognitive strategies and tactics
  • PM POV - the small number, a quartet, has a distinctive feel and is very focused.
  • PM - having done “step in” as a workshop piece for many years, the addition of step out, repeating both steps in and step out during the same session brings a very interesting dynamic and intensity. It becomes more than the sum of the two parts.
  • Part 2 - step out - introduces, the use of silence to shape a piece: an interesting twist in the improv workshop circuit IMHO.
  • Be aware, in part two, the musicians in tacet mode is obliged to start playing when an active player/musicians exit free play mode.
  • PM is unsure about part three. It is extreme

Extreme additional rule

  • To do step in & step out blindfolded.
  • Thus removing visual clues.
  • Attentive listening moves to another level.

1st delivery of the complete cycle as described, without the blindfolds!

  • Jigsaw 4 Preston June 2017
  • And…
  • Other historical notes to follow...pm


  • Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Discussion forum; YES URL LINK - USR - F489P889 - a forum for discussing the strengths and weakness of this piece.


  • Doc name id001 Step in - Step out & version - version 1. 1
  • Location - iNetworks Workshop GD account > folder 001 000 > id001
  • Shared - yes
  • Author - P Morton
  • Forum - To follow.
  • Signed off: No - document in development phase awaiting peer review
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  • Comment Link Phil Morton Thursday, 14 February 2019 22:11 posted by Phil Morton

    Hi, Step in and out : Number of player is the session: I suggest 4 is the optimum number, leaving 3 playing. The addition of a player (or the dropping of a player) is noticed, or easier to notice. If the numbers are increased the ability to hear and listen to players dropping in or out becomes more problematic.

  • Comment Link Phil Morton Friday, 18 January 2019 09:16 posted by Phil Morton

    Notes on `Step in` - P Morton

    1-There is an obligation to carry on, continue playing once a player is playing.
    2-Some players may never drop out, or `give way` when the `tacet` player joins the ensemble.

    Some participants may find `1` difficult or a challenge.
    Both scenarios should be brought to the participants attention prior to commencement of the pieces

    If `note 1` is a challenge, that is the obligation to carry on playing: I speculate the tacet player may hear this in the playing and could be a cue to step in..

  • Comment Link Phil Morton Friday, 20 July 2018 08:41 posted by Phil Morton

    Step - out Jigsaw-Bangor July 19th 2018. `Step out` was done as a trio., when I experienced the following: The other two player, Russell Grant and David Hopewell, are playing, they are playing well consistently and then there are moments, I want to join in. The `joining in` brings together; emotional responses, private aesthetic preferences and instrumental - sound - preferences our choices within Mr Morton. BUT in the `rules` or design of the exercise I cannot join in until one players stops. Thus I remain tacet, the exercise confronts this free improviser that I do not always; have to be playing, express everything all of the time, play anything or play something specific on all occaissions: Less is more maybe a cognitive agreement or consideration, it is of interest to me, that in this instance it was not cognitive but visceral, physical and emotional. I remained tacet. I return here to the concept, `it is an imperative to have a relationship with your emotions rather than to be controlled by them`. I speculate, the frequency of meeting these decision points, or emotional junctions, moves one more to the relationship state and away from the intuitive-auto response state. I prefer the former and visit the later intuitive mode too. This is maybe a one-off, one person experience, myself I welcome this `push back` the exercise threw up into my ears: just wait, good things come to those who wait. To be continued.

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