Inspired by: Jazz Piano for Kids, by Richard Michael
The guitarist Derek Bailey infamously lamented that “improvisation enjoys the curious distinction of being the most widely practiced of musical activities, and the least acknowledged and understood.” No longer. Improvisation as a fundamental component of musical learning is now firmly established in the canon of musical pedagogy, as reflected in its presence as a unifying thread in the new Model Music Curriculum for schools. Here, we look at how you can introduce the skills of improvising to your pupils in three easy steps.
Why Is Improvisation So Important?
- It is a fun and accessible way for very young children to make and create music.
- It can act as a gateway towards music literacy, introducing theoretical concepts in a practical and engaging way.
- It can act as an important precursor to composition, providing a framework for the creation of ideas and encouraging an instinctive understanding of melodic development and structure.
- It develops aural skills in performers, encouraging them to engage with the harmonic and melodic components of music they are playing.
- It prioritises a love for music-making above a fear of making mistakes in performers.
- It encourages and develops communication skills, providing an opportunity for groups of musicians to respond to each other creatively through music.
- It can create a level playing field in group learning, where the contributions of all musicians do not rely on levels of music literacy, formal musical tuition, or technical proficiency, but on creative expression.
- It can act as an invaluable means of developing a vibrant, dynamic, and challenging musical education for SEND pupils.
Three Steps for Teaching Improvisation
Hailed as “simply one of the best jazz introductions” and written by the UK’s leading authority on improvisation, Jazz Piano for Kids by Richard Michael is an ideal resource for developing improvisatory skills; whether on the piano or in the classroom. Inspired by the book, here are three simple steps that you can use to get your pupils off to the perfect start.
Step 1: Getting in the Groove
At the heart of improvising is developing an instinctive and creative approach to rhythm. Jazz Piano for Kids is packed full of video games and activities towards this aim. Here’s a great starter clapping game from the book that you can use to encourage a natural “feel” for rhythm.
Step 2: Techniques of Improvisation
The next stage is to become confident in the techniques of improvisation. Through Jazz Piano for Kids, teachers and pupils can develop their understanding and skills in echo playing, call and response, augmentation, diminution, the sequence, and transposition through practical and accessible teaching videos. Here, we can see how a series of clapping exercises can develop a practical understanding of call and response in all pupils.
Step 3: Improvising on One Note
Next, try applying the improvisatory skills you have been developing through improvising on one note; something that can be accessed by all students, regardless of what instrument they play. Here, Richard provides fantastic “live” backing tracks to which your pupils can apply what they’ve learned to improvising on one note.
Developing confidence and ability in improvisation is at the heart of a good music education. In just three simple steps, you can create a compelling and dynamic curriculum for introducing the skill of improvisation, beginning a lifetime of discovery that will inform all areas of musical development. To access all the learning resources in Richard Michael’s ground-breaking Jazz Piano for Kids, you can buy the book here.
Jazz Piano For Kids
Written by Richard Michael, one of the UK’s leading authorities on improvisation, Jazz Piano for Kids is a fun, easy course that teaches children how to improvise and play jazz piano faster than ever before. Kids will stay motivated as they improvise on popular children’s songs arranged in a jazz style, while the opportunity to play alongside video accompaniments will inspire a love for performance. Every song seamlessly integrates a new improvisatory skill, systematically building upon previous learning and enabling the student to progress with confidence. Including exclusive access to video tutorials, Jazz Piano for Kids is the definitive introduction to improvisation and jazz piano. The method can be used in combination with a teacher or parent and is perfect for those with little experience in teaching jazz or improvisation.