This is an exercise that I developed to help musicians create patterns that branch out from an original idea.
To get started:
In 4/4 time ( four beats to a bar ), create a pattern that is two bars long then repeat.
next, change one element of that pattern by changing, adding, or subtracting one of the elements. This can be melodic or rhythmic.
That is the basic exercise. I suggest starting out VERY simple as depending on what you start adding, can become extremely complicated quickly.
The reason the 2 bar phrase is repeated is so that you learn to remember what you have just created and repeat it back.
While you are getting used to this way of thinking, you can start incorporating other elements.
Are my notes evenly spaced and the same volume and attack?
Is my tempo wavering?
Am I only creating new notes and not changing the rhythmic structure that I started with?
Initially I created this for bass students, as my habitual warm up exercise or just sitting around playing exercise is a variation of this. but i have found that all players could benefit from developing musical ideas that can be repeated and that logically change over time. An example of how this could apply during performance might be if you are playing a set part, or a repeating pattern and decide to make occasional ornaments or variations that remain in character with the original line. Or starting a solo based on a melodic idea or even the melody of the piece, you can jump into what might be the 40th variation of the 2 bar pattern you might visualize. Of course the second example very advanced. the first example can be put into practice after a short time experimenting with it.
if you have access to a recording device, it could be helpful to hear if what you thought you were playing is what you were actually playing.
here is a little video i made to get you started.