1. Improvisation Encourages Creativity
Improvisation naturally encourages students to experiment with different sounds, rhythms, and styles.
This experimentation helps them learn to express their creativity and individuality through their playing.
Expressing themselves in this way can be incredibly empowering for students by allowing them to take ownership of their playing and develop a deeper connection with music.
If you teach piano students how to improvise, you can help open the door to massive creativity!
2. Improvisation Expands Musicianship
By improvising, students can develop a deeper understanding of music and its elements, such as melody, harmony, rhythm, and form.
Improvising can help students develop their sense of melody and phrasing as they explore different melodic ideas, especially if they’re learning to improvise based on a short series of specific pitches. (I’ll tell you more about that below.)
If students aren’t ready to improvise pitches just yet, they can still take a step towards improvising at the piano by creating and performing simple rhythm patterns in a variety of styles.
When improvising, students will naturally begin making decisions in real-time about how to structure their musical ideas.
This can lead to more questions about musical structure and form, which can be a terrific jumping-off point for more detailed discussions during their lessons.
3. Improvisation Builds Confidence
Improvisation can help even the most apprehensive students overcome their fear of making mistakes because it allows them to experiment and take small risks in a safe and supportive space.
This can boost their confidence and help them feel more comfortable experimenting with unique sounds and rhythms, even if they’re a concrete-sequential learner like I am, who struggled with the more abstract activities like improvisation when I was a child.
By encouraging piano students to experiment and take small risks, you can create a safe and supportive environment where students feel secure in exploring their unique musical ideas.
This can be incredibly liberating for students (especially your concrete-sequential learners!) because it allows them to develop confidence in their playing without fear of making mistakes or doing something incorrectly.
When you teach piano students how to improvise, they can feel their confidence increase with each new improvisation activity.
4. Improvisation Develops Ear Training Skills
In addition to being a fun and creative activity, improvisation can also be a practical skill for students to develop.
By improvising along with you or with other piano students, simultaneously or in turn, they are developing their ability to listen, adapt, and respond to the music that is happening around them.
This is a terrific activity for develop your students’ ear training skills, which can be incredibly helpful in real-world performance situations where musicians frequently need to adapt to in-the-moment changes in tempo, dynamics, or other musical elements.
5. Improvisation Enhances Performance Skills
As mentioned above, improvisation can help students become more adaptable and flexible in their playing.
This is very helpful if they do a lot of accompanying (soloists, church, high school choir, etc.), performing with ensembles (especially jazz), or playing from memory.
Improvisation can be an excellent way for pianists to hone their performance skills during a performance, which can lead to more creative, expressive, and dynamic performances.
The more we incorporate improvisation into our weekly lessons and teach piano students how to improvise, the more flexibility and freedom they can experience as pianists, and the more creatively they can express themselves in their performances.