cn thumbnail improvsiation
Robson Hatsukami Morgan

Age Range: Elementary, Middle School

Learning Objective: Students will learn or review the term “improvisation” and generate musical ideas using a limited set of rhythms or pitches.

Free Download: Printable Lesson Plan: Improvisation

EXPLORE sounds

EXPLAIN. “Improvisation is when you make something up on the spot. There are several different ways to improvise. Today we will try one way. The good thing about improvisation is that there is no wrong way to do it!”

SHOW. Demonstrate improvisation to students using the prompts below.

  • “I can improvise a rhythm by tapping a pattern on my lap.”
    (Demonstrate a short, improvised rhythm.)

  • I can improvise a melody by singing random notes any way I want.”
    (Sing a short, improvised melody).

  • “If it’s hard to get started, I can pick just a few notes.”
    (Choose two notes on a keyboard or mallet instrument and play them in an improvised sequence.)

CREATE. Using a keyboard or mallet instruments, ask students to take turns playing “black key music” (music using only the black keys). Suggest prompts like “elephant music” (slow and low) or “hummingbird music” (fast and high). You might identify a set of notes and ask students to create a melody using only those, such as C, E, and G. Voices can improvise “elephant” and “hummingbird” music too!

EXTEND learning

Choose one or more of the following activities to extend learning.

WATCH. Watch CN Concert Artist Heliopsis or Kroehm Duo explain how they improvise.

LISTEN. Listen to There’s No Tellin’  by Kroehm Duo. Ask students to show you with a signal (such as a raised hand) every time they think they hear improvisation.

CREATE. Ask older students to notate their improvisations. Use an ABA grid to structure ideas. Encourage students to consider instrumentation, duration of sound, dynamics and tempo. See the completed grid below as an example.

Sample Improv Grid- ABA

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Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

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