P2 - C1

Improvise rhythmic and melodic phrases freely or within given structures, individually or as part of a group

Ask learners to improvise musical sounds and phrases freely in response to a picture or story.

Introduce learners to improvising by selecting patterns and phrases over diatonic harmony and common chord schemes:

  • demonstrating the idea to learners
  • selecting a range of notes that will fit a simple chord scheme
  • playing the chord scheme on the piano or using an appropriate backing track
  • helping learners to select notes that fit each chord
  • asking learners to play one of the appropriate notes as each new chord is sounded, trying different options when the chord comes round again
  • continuing by adding passing notes that lead through the bar from one chord change to the next
  • exploring the effect of moving in step and by larger intervals

The chords of a major scale can be used for the chord scheme. Simple patterns are:

  • I III IV V
  • I VI II V
  • 12-bar blues

There are many backing tracks freely available online, as well as apps that will generate a backing track if you enter a sequence of chords, such as iReal Pro.

As the ear develops, learners will realise that a ‘wrong’ note is never more than one scale degree away from the ‘right’ one; moving quickly to a higher note therefore turns a ‘mistake’ into an accented passing note!

If a keyboard or backing track is unavailable, the activity can be done without an accompaniment: learners play question-and-answer phrases with each other and/or with the teacher.

Encourage learners to build up melodies from pentatonic patterns to blues and other scales by:

  • experimenting with patterns
  • shaping improvisations within a developing simple structure
  • discussing the results
  • performing to each other

As an extension activity, learners can create their own patterns or build on melodic and rhythmic patterns taken from pieces being learnt.

Ask learners to improvise modal/blues melodies using call and response, with increasing expectation of accuracy in terms of rhythm, dynamics and articulation.

Introduce a simple structure by asking learners to improvise a ‘sandwich’ rondo. Swap roles: teacher plays rondo and learner improvises episodes.