Setting the scene is important in any music session and in the classroom or rehearsal space this usually begins non-verbally with the arrangement of the furniture that greets participants when they enter the ‘music space’. If the session is taking place in the general living area, there may be limited scope for rearranging the physical setup but it’s vital that the the music leader should be able to get close to each participant and make eye contact. The best arrangement is to seat them in a semi-circle around the leader and/ or accompanist. Anyone who needs a wheelchair tray or small table to support an instrument or switch should have this in position, ready to receive an instrument at the appropriate time.
When sessions take place in the living space, televisions, music-players, etc., should be switched off well before the session. In this ‘quiet time’, attention will be engaged by watching the leader set up for the session. When the moment to begin finally arrives, the air of expectancy may be further enhanced by the leader playing a very quiet and simple tune on melody instrument, whilst endeavouring to make eye contact, or singing a song such as “Something Is Going To Happen”, written by Clive Robbins and Paul Nordoff, expressly for this purpose.
‘Gathering’ songs further secure the engagement and will pay dividends later in the session by focusing attention. This is particularly true of those which elicit both a verbal response and physical activity, such as tapping an instrument, clapping hands or raising arms.
See Living My Song Specials to download sheet music and listen to two examples. You can also see the lyrics and listen to the music of “Come On, Everybody, It’s Music Time!” by clicking here.
Update 23/9/2914: (The music of the latter song is the same as for “Come on, Everybody, Let’s Sing God’s Praise! which is a free pdf download on the Sacred Music page)
To some extent, improvisation is a state of mind. A lot of people feel they could never do it because they have a model in mind that is unattainable. When piano teachers adopt a creative approach to tuition, though, the pupil feels free to explore the simple resources to which they are exposed in the early days of tuition and it is more likely that they will continue to experiment when left to their own devices.
The latest addition to improvisation-based resources on www.fullpitcher.co.uk is an article suggesting simple improvisatory activities for absolute beginners. The important word here is ‘simple’ because, in truth, great music is essentially simple and the same resources can be used by players at different levels of ability and experience, with very different results.
The article quotes the Dalcroze teacher, Laura Campbell, whose book “Sketching at the Keyboard” won the ‘Music Teacher’ Magazine Music Education Award in 1983. That publication and its follow-up, “Sketches for Improvisation” is full of examples of famous composers building their works from the same simple ideas suggested to the readers. These courses have been followed by ” child piano pupils, amateur adult piano pupils, professional music students and class teachers”. Highly recommended!
So, what I am saying is: don’t dismiss the ideas suggested at the following link because they are accessible to absolute beginners. There are things we can all learn by focusing on the basic building blocks of music from time to time. :>)
See: Improvisation for Beginner Pianists.
Getting started with improvisation can be more daunting for pianists than for players of melody instruments because of the need to combine both melody and accompaniment. Nevertheless, we have uploaded some ideas for improvisation which can be explored by absolute beginners, whilst remaining absorbing and useful activities for more advanced players.
See Improvisation for Beginner Pianists