P5 - C1

Improvise extended musical ideas with a sense of direction and shape as they develop their own personal style

Ask learners to improvise a piece involving a simple modulation, possibly within a given structure, e.g. A (tonic) B (dominant) A (tonic). Explore techniques involved in modulating and apply them in other improvisations.

Ensure that technical points are fully understood and absorbed, e.g. modulations to relative keys.

Continue to link improvisations to repertoire being studied, e.g. learners improvise a short piece in the style of a well-known composer.

Ask learners, or possibly teacher and learner, to extend a melody by improvising in turn, each player basing the improvisation on the previous section. Aim for coherence and expression within an agreed style.

Encourage learners to improvise a cadenza for a concerto or ornaments for a baroque or classical solo piece.

Improvisation provides an obvious and enjoyable way of exploring musical devices and conventions. It often provides the groundwork for more extended compositions. These advanced improvisations can be as challenging for the teacher as the learner!

Teach a well-known jazz standard, e.g. ‘I Got Rhythm’:

  • play learners a recording of the piece
  • familiarise them with the 32-bar A A B A form and teach them the chords and melody. Play it with them as a learner/teacher duo, swapping roles
  • demonstrate how to embellish the melody freely and encourage learners to do the same when their turn comes
  • finally, ask them to improvise over the chords, making fewer references to the original melody

Latin-American jazz styles also provide an accessible way into jazz improvisation. The samba employs ‘straight’ as opposed to ‘swung’ quaver rhythms, while the use of ‘chord tones’ as a stock improvisational device, i.e. playing the notes of the chords rather than scales, limits the number of notes learners need to hear and use at any given point.

Ask learners to devise/use a graphic score as the basis for a free improvisation in a contemporary style.