Reference Material

My students often ask for reference material.  I keep my list of favorites on this page.  A more extensive list including brief reviews can be found on Improv Encyclopedia.  All books listed can easily be found on Amazon & other retailers.

General Improv

Books

  • “Impro for Storytellers”, by Keith Johnstone.  One of my all-time favorites and a riot to read.
  • “Impro”, by Keith Johnstone.  Older than the one listed above and harder to read.  But still a must-read
  • “Directing Improv: Show the way by getting out of the way”, by Asaf Ronen.  One of the few books that specifically addresses directing.
  • “Improvise: Scene from the inside out”, by Mick Napier.  A more recent take on improv than Keith J.’s.  Excellent book!
  • “How to Improvise a Full-Length Play”, by Kenn Adams.  One of the few books specifically on long form.   Ken’s approach could not be farther from mine, but it’s equally valuable (otherwise I would not have listed it here).

Internet Resources

Musical Improv

Books

  • “Musical Improv Comedy – Creating Songs in the Moment”, by Michael Pollock. This book is a complete guide to the art of Musical Improv Comedy. Pollock goes into song theory (how is a song structured), rhythm and tempo, endings and much more.  Comes with a CD.
  • “Muscial Direction for Improv and Sketch Comedy”, also by Michael Pollock.  Does what is says on the cover.  Comes with a CD
  • Instant Songwriting – Musical Improv from Dunce to Diva“, by Nancy Howland Walker & Marshall Stern.  Excellent book with an (in my eyes) extremely structured approach to mounting an improvised musical.   Book purchase gives access to an mp3 library on the book’s site.
  • Laura Hall – of Who’se Line is it Anyway fame – published a book “The Improv Musician“.   Laura also has 2 “Improv Karaoke” CDs.  She has audio on her site: you can hear the tracks, but with commentary and improvized lyrics on top of them.

Internet Resources

Here are some interesting sites:

  • Neil Figuracion runs a Facebook group Musical Improv Shop Talk.  Not super active but you’ll find some great and focussed discussions there.
  • Joe Samuel & Heather Urquhart run Open Your Mouth & Sing (musicalimprovcomedy.co.uk).  Their site has 20+ excellent podcasts.  They have or had a book out but it’s not clear to me whether you can actually purchase it today (May 2017).
  • Kris Anderson used to maintain musicalhotspot.com.  He doesn’t seem to post new material, but what he has available is excellent.

There is excellent video material to be found on-line as well.  Too much to list all of it, so I’ll limit myself to some favorites:

Not improv, but another clip that I often use  in my introduction workshops: The Axis of Awesome’s 4 Chord Songs.  There’s more in the same series, which may interest budding Musical Directors:

  • 6 Chords features interesting chord progressions used in several songs.  Sung by the Axis’ famous Benny The Jukebox.
  • Another 4 Chords: a different progression with 10 songs that use it, also by Benny The Jukebox.