5 Good Reasons To Teach Piano Students How To Improvise

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5 Good Reasons To Teach Piano Students How To Improvise

If your own music learning experience didn’t include improvisation, you may be wondering why it’s important to teach piano students how to improvise.

Improvisation is a skill that can help piano students develop their creativity, musicality, and confidence.

It allows students to express themselves in their own unique way with their own ideas and perspectives that are different from anyone else’s.

By incorporating improvisation activities into your lessons, you can help your students become more imaginative, creative, and confident musicians.

Here are 5 important reasons we should teach piano students how to improvise.


1. Teaching Piano Students How To Improvise 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.

Some students are timid when it comes to expressing themselves, so they may need a little extra encouragement to “find their voice” in improvisation.

If you teach piano students how to improvise, you can help open the door to massive creativity!


2. Teaching Piano Students How To Improvise 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 in future blog posts)

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.


5 Good Reasons To Teach Piano Students How To Improvise Girl Playing Piano


3. Teaching Piano Students How To Improvise Builds Confidence

Improvisation can help even the most apprehensive students overcome their fear of making mistakes.

It allows them to experiment and take small risks in a safe and supportive space (in improvising, there are no “right” or “wrong” answers; there are just musical decisions, made by the musician).

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. Teaching Piano Students How To Improvise 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 developing 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. Teaching Piano Students How To Improvise 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.


How to Teach Piano Students how to Improvise

If the idea of teaching your students to improvise is intimidating, then we have some easy ways for you to teach improvisation coming soon!

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You can teach structured improvisation and also use improvisation to strengthen students’ understanding of music theory in a very hands-on way that will make it fun for both you and your student.


Have you Taught your Piano Students how to Improvise?

If so, I’d love to hear why you think it’s important and also what tips you’d have for a piano teacher just starting out in teaching piano students how to improvise.


Even more creative piano teaching ideas


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Melody Payne

Dr. Melody Payne is a pianist, teacher, and educational resource author who believes that all piano students deserve the best musical experiences possible, in every single lesson. Melody self-publishes pedagogical materials for piano students as well as piano teaching articles and professional development courses for piano teachers. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Music with emphases in music education and piano pedagogy and a Master of Music in Piano Pedagogy from Louisiana State University, and a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music through the Music Teachers National Association. Melody and her husband Greg live in Marion, Virginia, a small town nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, where she teaches children and adults of all ages and abilities in her online piano studio.

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Hi! I’m Melody Payne, a pianist and piano teacher, educational resource author, a fun-loving wife to the most wonderful and talented hubby I could ask for, and a lifelong learner who loves to share. I want to make your life as a music teacher easier by writing and sharing helpful and relevant music teaching articles, and by creating educational resources with your very own students in mind. If you are a parent who wants to enroll your child in piano lessons, I’d love for us to get started building those skills that can give your child a lifetime of musical enjoyment!

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