Improvisation in the Elementary Music Curriculum

November 19, 2010 / By: Courtney Zupancich

This study is a collection of improvisation teaching techniques for use with elementary music students.  Improvisation is defined through a variety of sources, and descriptions of improvisation as a creative phenomenon within the context of music are provided.  Next, a set of improvisation teaching techniques for use with elementary music students are compiled.  The role of improvisation in both the Orff Schulwerk and Kodály approaches are included, followed by Orff- and Kodály-inspired improvisation activities for the elementary music classroom.

The need for this study was based on the researcher’s interest in nurturing the development of independent musicianship and creativity in children and her desire to provide a valuable resource for elementary music teachers to help their students develop improvisation skills.

The results of the research support the fact that a learning environment that includes improvisation can encourage the development of creativity and independent musicianship in students.  In Orff pedagogy, a four-stage learning process of gaining mastery of skills and concepts include imitation, exploration, literacy, and improvisation.  It is through these encounters that students can develop skills and concepts which promote independent musicianship.  Following a Kodály-inspired approach, improvisation and creativity are encouraged from the earliest ages.  Improvising, creating, performing, and listening are all part of musicianship.  The pedagogical order for learning at each level is hearing, singing, deriving, writing, reading, and creating.

Although the organization and sequence of essential learnings differ between Orff and Kodály approaches, the exercises and kinds of improvisation skills developed are very similar.  The areas in which improvisation skills are developed are rhythm, melody, harmony, timbre or tone color, and form.