As we saw in Part 3, improvisation has a rich history in Western classical music, but has virtually disappeared from modern piano pedagogy. Today, we are going to discuss the value of improvisation:
- Improvisation fosters creativity and individuality.
- Improvisation appeals to both the performer and the audience.
- Strengthens the connection between theory and practice in the developing musician.
We will consider each of these aspects individually below.
1. Fostering creativity and individuality.
Improvisation provides for the piano student opportunities to be actively creative during lessons/practicing, as opposed to reproductive activities. We live in a day and age when accurate, literal performances are favored, and individuality is often limited to one’s interpretation (the “stuff” that’s not indicated in the score). Creative activities (such as improvisation and composition) allow students another means to express themselves through music.
2. Its appeal to both performers and audiences.
Improvisation holds great appeal to both performers and audiences, in part due to the elements of spontaneity and risk involved during improvisation. There is something inherently attractive and entertaining about improvising music off the top of one’s head, or watching another musician do so.
3. Strengthening the connection between theory and practice.
When use effectively in the piano lesson, improvisation strengthens the connection between theory and practice in the developing musician. Improvisation can be used to teach the student how a particular musical concept is used in actual pieces (to be discussed in great depth later). On the flip side, improvisation may also be a way to evaluate whether a student comprehends a musical concept. Having a theoretical knowledge of a musical concept is the first step, but being able to also demonstrate and use it at the practical level is the essential.
Tell me more! How do we do it?
We’ve now established three major reasons why improvisation is a valuable skill to teach modern piano students. But what about those obstacles we talked about? What is an effective way to go about incorporating improvisation into modern piano pedagogy?
To be continued in Part 5: Incorporating Improvisation.
Series: Incorporating Improvisation into the Piano Lesson