Elementary Improvisation

Kelly M. Prior
[email protected]
Anna McCabe Elementary School, Smithfield RI

TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:





General Music


Electronic Keyboard Lab
MIDI Files (Band in a Box)


60 Minutes

Prior Knowledge and Skills:

Students coming into this lesson have knowledge of the following skills: (Grade 5 lesson)
1. note reading
2. recorder skills (can play all of the notes on the staff)
3. have an understanding of the structure of a scale
4. can play a ‘C’ major scale on the xylophone and electronic keyboard
5. have an understanding of steady beat and how to count notes.

NAfME Standards of 1994 Addressed:

NAfME Standards of 1994: Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.

NAfME 2014: Performing 

NAfME Standards of 1994: Improvising melodies, harmonies, and accompaniments.
NAfME Standards of 1994: Composing and Arranging Music within specified guidelines.

NAfME 2014: Creating 

NAfME Standards of 1994: Listening to, analyzing and describing music.
NAfME Standards of 1994: Evaluating music and music performances.

NAfME 2014: Responding 


electronic keyboards


Students will be able to play a ‘C’ major scale and improvise a melody through:
1. Playing the xylophone
2. Playing the recorder
3. Playing the electronic keyboard
4. Improvising and recording a melody using ‘Band in a Box’


1. Will begin by reviewing the ‘C’ major scale, its notes, and how to play it on the xylophone and keyboard. 5min.
2. Students will then practice playing the notes in a ‘C’Major scale on both the xylophone and the keyboard. (Students will be assigned to a station at either a xylophone or keyboard to practice and will switch stations after 5 min.) 10min.
3. Will introduce the concept of improvising by explaining that some musicians play tunes without looking at music, but instead will play a series of random notes and rhythm from a specified scale. 2min.
4. Will demonstrate improvising by asking students to take their recorders and play the notes C, E, and G (quarter note steady beats) in any order they want. 5min.
5. Students will then be asked to play the rhythm pattern: 1 2+ 3 4 (quarter note, eightnotes, quarter note, quarter note or C-EE-G-G). 5 min.
6. Finally, before students will improvise using ‘Band in the Box’, they will play the same pattern, but use random notes from the ‘C’ Major scale. 5 min.
6.I will then demonstrate ‘Band in the Box’ and how they could improvise using the keyboard once the chords are set-up. 3min.
7. Students will each be seated at an electronic keyboard station (with ‘Band in a Box’ and the CMajor chords already set up) and will be told to practice playing (in random order) notes in the ‘C’ M scale. 10min.
8. Students will record themselves improvising. 15min.


Students will be evaluated on this lesson through observation of their playing the xylophone, recorder and keyboard. Students will also be given a rubric to self-assess their understanding of the concept of improvisation.

Follow Up:

A possibe follow-up lesson could be to have the students start experimenting with improvising using a variety of scales and rhythms.


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