Even though I didn’t really feel like I knew what I was doing yet, I decided to launch into something new as soon as I returned from the MTNA conference. We’ve been doing it for several weeks now and it has been close to revolutionary in my studio! I’ve picked up a variety of improvising how-tos over the years because it’s something I’ve always wanted to learn, but none of them have been as helpful as I hoped they would be. In contrast, the Pattern Play series by Akiko and Forrest Kinney that I was introduced to at the MTNA conference has been everything I hoped it would be and more!
The very first week I was back, I decided to incorporate improvising into every lesson. I started with a brief discussion of what it means to improvise – comparing it to improv in the drama world. In essence, I wanted students to know that when you improvise, you are drawing from a repertoire of things that you have already learned and arranging it in a new and spontaneous way. Similarly, in dramatic improv, you are using words and phrases and even scenarios that you already have experience with; you’re just arranging them in a fresh way on-the-spot to achieve the desired end.
We started with the first improvisation in the book – World Piece – and just started right into playing, the student in the treble and me in the bass. I told them that we would try to listen to each other and match our sound and style so that it would be as musical as possible. Then, we would try to anticipate the approach to the end and finish together. You should have seen the looks on so many of their faces as we created beautiful sounds spontaneously. They LOVED it! I love it! We’ve continued this improvisation activity at each lesson since, and I echo the description of this series that states, “students will not only learn to play, they’ll play to learn.” This is a great way to introduce and reinforce various musical concepts. Plus, regardless of age, musical ability, or level of playing, every student can be successful at improvising and creating beautiful music if they are given the right tools.