The ‘Grondtoon’ method playing represented a certain way of guided improvisation over a basic melody or ground tone, also know as an ostinato. I consider to it to be one of the most fundamental ways to create music. Most folk music, for instance classical Indian ragas, uses a ground tone, drone or chord to explore melodic and tonal possibilities. It is a great way to teach improvisation to those who find it difficult to color a tabula rasa.

While improvising I noticed that even though the ground tone provides a certain psychological restriction, occasionally unexpected tonal and/or melodic twists and shifts take place seemingly out of the blue. The real challenge though lies in silence, in the ability to “project” and sustain the absent ground tone onto the listener.


Below are six fragments of our experiments with Grondtoon improvisation. In the first improvisation we discovered a melodic fragment that resonated beyond the improvisation itself, Melody I. In the third and fourth fragment we explored Melody I, and finally we played a possible variation. All very basic, nothing fancy, but meant to clarify the above mentioned way of guided improvisation.


Improvisation I – Discovery of ‘Melody I’


Melody I


Exploration I


Exploration II


Variation I


Rik Meesters: alto clarinet

Koen de Wit: bass clarinet