Grade: Senior
Subject: Music

#249. Creating a Timed Piano Improvisation

Music, level: Senior
Posted Tue Aug 11 10:43:17 PDT 2009 by Edward Weiss (Edward Weiss).
Piano Lessons by Quiescence Music
Quiescence Music, San Diego
Materials Required: piano or keyboard
Activity Time: 1 hour
Concepts Taught: Improvisation

Have you ever heard of a "writing prompt?" That's a tool creative writing instructors use to give students focus. For example, a writing prompt could be a photo of a beautiful nature scene. The instructor will then create an exercise where students write 1000 words or so about the picture.

The beauty of exercises like this is that it gives you focus! Focus to think of nothing but writing about and describing what's seen in the photo.

We musicians can do the same thing. We can use pictures, a descriptive phrase, or as in the lesson below, just a few chords. While the medium is different (music) the method is the same - get students to stop thinking and start creating!

The reason why this works so well is because you don't have to think about what materials to use. In the video lesson below, we have 4 chords to play around with. We know the names of the chords and we know the chord type (open position.) Now all that's required is to sit down and just play.

We're not worrying if the music is "good" or "bad." We just play. And the more involved we get with this exercise, the more the music "loosens up." No thinking is required here. Just the ability to play around with chords and melody.

When the allotted time is up, we can either stop or continue playing. I advise students to stop playing when they feel themselves growing disinterested or bored with their playing.

The more you work with the power of limits, the freer your music will become. Why? Simply because you are not concerned with the outcome! Instead, your focus is on the process. And from this comes a music that is never forced or willed into being but one that is inspired right from the start.