Benefits of Improvisation in Music Lessons

Benefits of Improvisation in Music Lessons

by | Jun 18, 2023 | Improvisation, Teaching Tips

Why should we teach our music students improvisation?

Music education is a long-term commitment for any student. Keeping that in mind, we as teachers need to think about the long-term goals and skill development for our students. With all its benefits, improvisation can revolutionize your students’ musical journey.

Let’s explore eight incredible ways learning improvisation can build your students’ musical skills in the long run.

1. Enhances Musicality

Improvisation is like a playground for musical expression. By encouraging your students to explore different melodies, rhythms, and harmonies on the spot, you’ll witness a remarkable improvement in their musicality. They’ll develop a deeper understanding of music’s inner workings and learn to communicate their emotions through their instrument or voice. Through improvisation, students can also understand and cultivate their personal musical style.

When the students step outside of improvisation, they tend to seek the same joy of playing music in all other music they play. This builds on their connection with what they are playing and helps them communicate and interpret the music that they are working with.

2. Sparks Creativity

With music, the possibilities are endless. What is restricted, is your imagination.

Creativity is at the heart of improvisation. When your students engage in improvisation exercises, they step outside the realm of playing written notes and venture into a world where they become composers themselves. In other words, they step out of playing ‘what is’ and think about ‘what could be’. This freedom to create fosters their imagination, allowing them to think outside the box and develop unique musical ideas. An easy stepping stone into composing.

3. Improves Listening Skills

Improvisation requires active listening and quick responses. As your students improvise, they learn to attentively listen to the sounds they produce, as well as the sounds created by others. This sharpens their listening skills and trains them to adapt and respond to different musical contexts.

Especially when children start to learn music, it is hard to predict what role music will play in their future. They could become a part of a band, a solo artist, teach, create commercial music, or just take out tunes of songs they like as a stress buster. Regardless of their musical path, developing strong listening skills through improvisation is crucial. It not only improves their abilities in their chosen musical endeavors but also empowers them to add their own unique creative touch to their music.

4. Develops Technique

Breathing and relaxation of the mind play a very important role in developing good technique. If your body is stiff, no matter how many boxes you check, your technique will definitely suffer. While improvisation is all about creativity and spontaneity, it also provides a platform to refine and develop technical skills. When your students explore new melodies and harmonies on their instrument, they are generally thinking about what they can play next, and what sounds good. They’re not concentrating on what was wrong and this helps them breathe, relax and play more easily.

As a result, they’re secretly honing their technical abilities, such as finger dexterity, breath control, or vocal agility. Improvisation becomes a dynamic laboratory for experimentation and improvement.

5. Builds Confidence

Stepping into the unknown can be daunting, but improvisation helps your students overcome their fear of making mistakes. It encourages them to take risks, trust their instincts, and express themselves freely. As they gain confidence in their ability to improvise, they’ll become more self-assured musicians in all aspects of their musical journey.

The role of the teacher is very important here. We as teachers, must remember to set rules for improvisation and create a comfortable vibe in the classroom. It is important to tell our students that in improvisation, there are no wrong notes. Instil in them that sometimes they may discover what they don’t like instead of what they like. That’s important as well!

6. Encourages Collaboration

Improvisation is not limited to individual exploration; it thrives in collaborative settings too. Encourage your students to improvise together, creating musical conversations and bouncing off each other’s ideas. This fosters teamwork, active listening, and the ability to adapt to different musical styles and dynamics—a valuable skill for any musician, whether they play in a band or an orchestra.

Don’t worry if your student learns in a solo setting either. You could always become their partner. You could also use basic percussion instruments and play along with them. But do remember to play at their level so as to not scare them off!

7. Cultivates Ear Training and Music Theory

Improvisation is a fantastic tool for ear training. As your students learn to create music spontaneously, they sharpen their ability to recognize intervals, chord progressions, and tonalities by ear. This deepens their understanding of music theory and enables them to play by ear, a skill that opens up new doors for musical exploration and performance.

While these abilities grow naturally through improvisation, you could try to teach your students about these through instructions and tasks as well. Tell them to improvise using a specific rhythm pattern or chord progression. Or, ask them to improvise using just a few selected intervals. Gamifying the approach relieves the stress of learning difficult concepts, yet creates deep roots for long-term learning.

8. Expands Musical Repertoire

Through improvisation, your students will discover a vast array of musical ideas and motifs. These spontaneous creations can later be refined, developed, and transformed into composed pieces. Improvisation becomes a rich source of inspiration that expands their musical repertoire and gives them a unique voice as performers and composers.

Beyond that, it also creates enthusiasm to learn new repertoire. In an improvisation-based learning students approach music they learn as a new pool of ideas that they can later use.

There you have it—a glimpse into the magical world of musical improvisation and how it can transform your students’ musical education. One thing we as teachers must remember, though, is to keep it light, fun and create a supportive environment in the classroom. As you do all of it, remember the benefits of improvisation and incorporate your own secret agendas that act as a catalyst in the long-term musical growth of your students. So, let’s encourage our students to take the leap, embrace the joy of improvisation, and unlock their full musical potential!