Improvisation

After my last post you might think that I am against creating music.  Not true.  I am only against young children trying to compose music in groups with little to no teacher direction.  Improvising is different.  When you improvise, there is already a structure scaffolding for you and you just have to play in the gaps where there is no scaffolding.  For example, if you play “Old Mac Donald had a farm” using the pentatonic scale, children can improvise between each verse.  So, by rote you can teach all the children “FFFCDDC AAGGF” which they all play together twice.  Then one child, or a pair (or dare I say it, a small group) can make up a eight bar improvisation between the tune using the notes CDFG and A.  To do this you really require quite a few xylophones or metallophones where you can take the bars off – you really need to get rid of the B’s and the E’s to make a good sound.  Then after the improvisation, the tune can return which is played by all children meaning that all children can be involved in music making.  This can be repeated in Rondo Form where the tune is section A and each improvisation a new section.

This does require a music room with tuned percussion instruments which I am lucky to have.  I understand that many teachers will not have this.  You can do the same thing using only rhythm if you only have untuned percussion instruments.  Everyone learns a two bar rhythm by rote and then individuals, pairs or groups can improvise a rhythm sandwiched by the rote-learned rhythm.  If you have no untuned instruments you can do the same thing using body percussion or just clapping.

I try to have improvising once a half term.  By Year 2, all children should be comfortable to improvise a short melody or rhythm without any teacher direction.  Well that’s the aim anyway!

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