Free Improvisation and composition Games

Presenter: Christian Howes


Using cue cards and a system of hand signals, Christian conducts a large ensemble in “free” improvisation. With two systems at play, the “number ” and “free note” system, participants engage in call and response, looping, “musical wrestling”, vamps, modal grooves, musical chaos, with many stylistic applications.

Your students can be taught to “conduct” the improvising ensemble. AKA “conduction”, is a relatively popular practice among contemporary ensembles worldwide, including small groups and even orchestras. Christian’s approach borrows from a variety of sources and caters to the skill set of classically trained string players.

1) The number system indicates pitches. (the conductor gives the hand signal with one hand and cues entrance with the other)

2) The “free note” system is cued by the conductor indicating free note.

3) The conductor designates an individual or group with each cue. This allows for music to be created through “design” by conductor and improvisation by players.

4) C cards contain various instructions


Violinist, educator and composer, Christian Howes was voted #1 in the Downbeat Critics Poll (“Rising Stars/Violin”), named among the top three jazz violinists in the JazzTimes critics poll, and nominated for Violinist of the Year by the Jazz Journalist Association.

He received the Residency Partner Award through Chamber Music America, earned a USArtists grant through the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and was invited by the U.S. State department to teach and perform as a cultural ambassador twice, in Ukraine and Montenegro.

His release on Resonance Records, “Southern Exposure” earned recognition in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Downbeat, Jazz Times, as well as a six-night run at Lincoln Center. His release, “American Spirit” was named among the Best Jazz Albums of 2015″ by the Huffington Post.

Howes is the founder of “Creative Strings“, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to expand music education through the creation of online curriculum, an annual summer conference, and dozens of visits to schools annually teaching improvisation, contemporary styles, and related subjects.

He endorses Yamaha violins and D’Addario strings. Connect with Christian on Facebook, YouTube,, or

Principal Sponsor