Your student can't concentrate his way out of a paper bag? Or you're in an afternoon slump? Or you want to try something different with your students, get a second wind?
In that case, I recommend free improvisation.
Free improvisation means: I play the music that is happening right now, nothing else.
Free improvisation also means: I play free sounds, look for sound quality, colors - I don't try to compose.
Free improvisation means, therefore: I don't think about what great, fantastic ideas I'm going to play next, or about where this music could go - I just play. I hear what music is happening right now and I add something or try to influence it in another direction.
When I improvise with others, for example with my students, I try to offer something and to react to what the student is offering me. Leading and following - at the same time.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Tim, with whom I improvised in his trial lesson. I want to explain this exercise in more detail here.
An easy improvisation with instrument students
The exercise starts with each of us playing one note. Any note. We play them one after the other and let the two sounds vibrate together. Thus, we have next to our two sounds a third sound, which is formed by the two sounds together.
One after the other, we then start changing our note, and so we keep having new sounds, new third sounds.
Also the note will change when the accompanying sound changes. My note will sound different even though it stays the same.
In this sense, this is a listening exercise, not a playing exercise.
Thus, we have two people who are listening together, offering sounds to one another and perceiving what they hear before reacting to it.
That is the basis to play any music - listening before playing. The playing is subordinated to the listening.
From there, it can go anywhere.
We can add more notes, we can move the music, slow it down, we can "disturb" our partner or harmonize with her, we can lead and follow at the same time.
Playing like this with a partner is absolute bliss - you can just drift and follow the music, until it dies at some point by itself - our music, our sound, our moment. It creates communication, togetherness.
And at the end, I feel more calm and energized, both at the same time.
I love this exercise.
Use of Free Improvisation in the instrumental lessons
Basically, there are five situations in which I use Free Improvisation in my lessons.
1. To give the student space to arrive in the room and in themselves. Be it the first lesson or that the student arrived a bit scattered or distracted. It's a simple way to get in contact without too many words. Children understand this language well, since they still inhabit the world of emotion more so than adults. Thus, I can come to meet them without using words. The exercise conveys: you are ok as you are.
2. After exercises which require a high degree of concentration from the student. After those exercises I just say: now, let it all out, anything goes, just do it. We sit together at the piano and off we go. I thus offer them the opportunity to let out everything that had been building up until that moment.
3. To foster creativity and liveliness. Making music doesn't mean moving one's fingers or pylaing the right notes at the right time. To bring out music or the musical emotion is a skill. This skill is innate in all of us; some have just forgotten it. With free improvisation, it's possible to train this skill. Ideas, colors, textures - students can experience the language of music, beyond the fact that they could read music or not. I find it important to convey this to students.
4. To bring myself and/or the student out of an afternoon slump. Through movement comes the liveliness. And through music making, too.
5. For a good and rounded finishing of the lesson. When we improvise at the end of a lesson, this is a gift from us to each other and to ourselves. To share some moments together, experience music, and leave the lesson joyful.