Bobby McFerrin be HappyBobby McFerrin at TED2011. (photo: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr, cc by 2.0)

The musician Bobby McFerrin describes the art and act of improvisation as "simply motion, just the courage to keep moving." In the audio above (from this week's show "Catching Song"), he offers a three-week challenge for building improvisational muscles and describes how it works. Here are the steps:

  1. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  2. Open up your mouth and sing.
  3. Don’t stop for 10 minutes.
  4. Do this every day for three weeks.

Sounds pretty simple, right? McFerrin, however, warns that every inch, atom, and molecule of your being will want to bail. Self-judgment will creep in. But don’t falter. Keep going. McFerrin holds open the tantalizing promise that, in a few short weeks, you’ll see a change.

So, who's up for the challenge?

Once you've tried McFerrin's improvisational workout, we'd love to hear what it was like. What surprised you? Delighted you? Share your reflections here in the comments section.

Are you in?

Share Your Reflection



I'm in.  I stopped singing because I could not deal with the emotions and memories it was opening up for me. I think I'm ready to stand and sing. Thanks, Bobby for the challenge.

I loved this interview! Very inspiring!

I began this morning to try this. I finished this first session with a great feeling of Joy.

Singing used to be an every day thing for me. I sang to express happiness. I sang to express sorrow.
I've been quiet for a number of years. I wonder what it means? I'm going to think about this challenge. I like the idea. Thanks Bobby. And Krista.

I'm in....

I sing quite alot, simply because I like to, have nice range and do not always enjoy talking to people. I do not sing the best, I do not sing on one topic, and do not sing in one style, and often times will just start scatting... but then my life gives much subject matter, besides the times when I am telling joke songs...

We're thrilled that some of you have signed on for Bobby's improvisational challenge.  We're a few days into week one.  How's it going? We're hoping to produce an audio montage as the weeks progress.  Call us at (612) 326-4044 to submit a recording of yourself doing your improvisational thing. ~Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

nancy,  thanks for much for this.
It has made some huge shifts in my life. I'm not a 'singer' though. 
Do you still want recordings?

I sang while cooking dinner. It was more surprising than anything else. I can sing for ten minutes?

What a good point!

Loved this program and remember something done in a counseling session with my (still) husband.
The counselor asked me to "sing" what I wanted to say to him. It was usually very hard for him to listen
but he song.
What came from me was truly the essence of my thoughts. He heard them and understood.

I would like to do this. How do I record myself?

I'm taking the challenge.  Thanks Bobby!

I loved it

Loved this program and remember something done in a counseling session with my husband.

This is great and any form of exercise is very good in my book.

this is really an inspiring story/interview

Thanks for such a great and wonderful post

I have learn to be persistent in this post.

I will give this tip a try 


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Its is a great idea for the singing and if you sing non stop for the 10 minutes than it is much beneficial for you and this mouth exercise is interlinked with the other body organs and it is also good for the health.

  It just great information that singing is just like exercise... it is really amazing...
 carry on..

I am not a singer but I will try doing this routine with my jazz improvisation skill on the guitar.
Thanks Booby for sharing your creativity, you are amazing.

I am going to give this a try! I am not a singer nor a musician, but have always longed for being one. So thanjk you Bobby, I will do this every day for 3 weeks.

I just heard the program last night so I suppose I'm running behind, but I'm in. I used to sing all the time myself and have also gone quiet over the last few years. I miss the energy, the peace and release that it brings. Twenty minutes a day to catch up..?

I have to say that this was one of my favorite interviews that Krista has done. I've always held Bobby in high regard though I didn't listen to much of his music. The interview only reinforces my opinion and gives credit to his acclaim. Thanks to Bobby, Krista and the whole crew for bringing it together.

I embarked on this exercise and immediately felt compassion for my neighbors. But I persisted, and, as instructed, I put aside any judgment or self talk that was discouraging. In essense I put away the "observer." Whoa, without the observer, I was just an interior, no exterior. I think I may have little piece of plutonium in me. Maybe some people call this God. Who Knows. Anyway, it was like a big night out.

I heard Bobby McFerrin, probably on YouTube, say something about using some classical music as a vocal exercise. I have searched and listened for hours to recorded talks he has given, and I cannot find the section where he tells us what this classical piece is. Bobby, please tell me.

What if I do not know what to sing? I loved hearing Bobby in the interview and hearing his morning ritual.

I really agree that sing can make one happy. And I think doing indoor exercise makes the same. You can just buy an

Bobby is one of my favorite singer and i loved his each and every song and keep waiting for his new releases.

For anyone who'd like to take this challenge with a supportive community of singers around the globe, head on over to! We're improvising together every week around a shared prompt. This week it's simply to open your mouth and sing for seven minutes -- working up to Bobby's ten minute challenge. Sing with us!