Videos: Improvisation

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Improvisation activities are an integral part of Music Moves lessons. Students use everything they learn in 'throw away' improvisation activities. Continuous improvisation provides security in performance and reinforces learning. Young children benefit from mixed level groupings. They become acculturated to patterns, singing, chanting, and moving. Learning is by osmosis and is internalized in a way that is essential before students begin formal instruction. Improvisation projects are included on the Unit Pages of Music Moves student books. Improvisation activities increase in complexity and include: improvising on a rhythm pattern in the context of a meter, improvising on a folk song, moving while listening to a performance, singing improvised songs in small ensembles, singing and playing, and so forth.

Younger children absorb at older students lessons while sitting quietly and drawing. Here is a result from a child who loves to improvise. Notice his patterns.
Students improvise at the keyboard and with writing stories and drawing pictures. Children can use the pieces in the Keyboard Games books for improvising new music. They may use the keyboard keys in the picture, or simply improvise using the rhythm pattern. They can change dynamics and tempo.
This 5th grade student loves music. His moves are spontaneous and interesting, especially since he has not had experience in dance classes.
Each students write an original story/script that is set to music by other students. Some draw pictures to illustrate the story. Choice of performing instrument is piano or harpischord. After the story, students perform solos.
Changing keyalities, tonality, and meter is improvisation. Short folk songs from a large variety of rich repertoire give students material to use to make changes. All changes provide a beginning to improvised playing.
A 6th grade boy started moving when Louis played the Maple Leaf Rag. Movement activities during regular piano lessons provides inner rhythmic responses and develops both rhythmic consistency and musicianship.
Given a few ideas about how blues chord progressions work, these sisters created a duet, performed at a recital.
11 YO and 14 YO students create a duet improvisation with many changes, using what they have learned.
One of the goals of Music Moves for Piano is for students to learn short folk songs that they will later use to make arrangements using what they have learned. Arrangement skills get to be complex.
Group activities provide opportunities for review, reinforcement, and repetition. Triple meter needs extra time for students to internalize the feel of the meter.
Three elementary age students improvise in ensemble in triple meter. Notice phrasing and patterns.
Improvisation activities include singing and playing. Here is a silly song (made up on the spot and no worries - just 'do it') by a 15 YO student.
11 YO student improvises and sings with no worries about context or making complete sense out of the text. Good use of tonic and dominant accompaniment and singing while playing the accompaniment.
A first step in improvisation for young children is to take a short folk tune and change something. Here is a demonstration of changing a major tune to minor and the same duple tune to triple meter.
After students learn to sing a song, they perform it at the keyboard and add single tone tonic and dominant chord changes. The song can be played in either parallel minor or relative minor.
Students make a variety of changes, as demonstrated here with playing the melody in the LH. Change keyalities, change registers, change tonalities, change meters, create introductions, interludes, codas for medleys, and more.
Students sing the tune and the tonic dominant chord changes. They use 'function fingers' 1 for tonic and 5 for dominant.
The final step in using 'Dutch Folk Dance' for improvisation activities is changing tonality. This tonality activity is an introduction to Phrygian and Lydian tonalities using a folk song. Students are acculturated to new tonalities without in-depth explanation. They 'do' it and learn to recognize different tonalities by sound, having been acculturated to songs in different tonalities in class activities. Later, students learn primary triads, characteristic tone, and melodic cadences associated with each tonality.
Black keys one hand. White keys other hand.
Changing a folk song to triple meter.
A trio improvises to a familiar song. Created accompaniment and transposed.
Keyboard Games piece “The BuzzSaw” improvisation with three students.

Online Resources



Learning Opportunities

Video Podcasts

Tim Topham Interview

About MLT-Piano-based instruction. Click here to view.


Music Moves for Piano and Edwin E. Gordon's Music Learning Theory. Click here to view.

Musical U Team

Mind Before Fingers, with Marilyn White Lowe. Click here to view.

MMTA Exclusive

Music Moves for Piano: An Audiation-Based Piano Method here to view.

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