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You Too Can Play and Teach Improvisation. Philip Joyner, Jr. Memphis City Schools Instrumental Music Specialist. What is Improvisation?.

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you too can play and teach improvisation

You Too Can Play and Teach Improvisation

Philip Joyner, Jr.

Memphis City Schools

Instrumental Music Specialist


Webster’s New World Dictionary:Improvise:1. to compose and simultaneously perform without any preparation; extemporize2. to make, provide, or do with whatever is at hand


Multicultural music may be defined as music produced to reflect the artistic and social mores of people representing ethnicities, races and/or parts of the world.


World Music

Native American Indian








American (Hawaiian, Bluegrass, Country, etc.)


Middle Eastern

Caribbean Island


Teaching Challenges

10. Overloaded Curriculum

9. Insufficient educational background

8. Insufficient music available for use

7. Insufficient musical instruments available

6. Insufficient administrative support

5. Inadequate instructional space

4. Lack of student interest in multicultural music

3. Lack of teacher interest in multicultural music

2. Inability to authentically represent music from other cultures

1. Insufficient time


Why Improvisation?

1. It encourages creativity.

2. It enables a greater aural awareness.

3. It provides a mode of tension relief.

4. It helps introduce multicultural and interdisciplinary study.

5. It empowers students.

6. It contributes to greater command of the instrument.

7. It leads to more confident playing.

8. National and State standards.

9. Job security

10. It is FUN!


NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR MUSIC EDUCATION 1. Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music. 
2. Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music. 
3. Improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments. 
4. Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines. 
5. Reading and notating music. 
6. Listening to, analyzing, and describing music. 
7. Evaluating music and music performances. 
8. Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts. 
9. Understanding music in relation to history and culture.


Content Standard 3.0: Improvising Students will improvise melodies, variations, and accompaniments. Learning Expectations: The student will 3.1 Create a simple rhythmic or melodic improvised solo over a given chord progression, through the medium of a traditional ensemble. 3.2 Create an improvised solo on melodies over a given chord progression, through the medium of jazz. 3.3 Create an improvised solo within specified guidelines, focusing on rhythm only.


Performance Indicators: At Level 1, the student is able to create a rhythmic improvised solo on a single pitch; create an improvised solo using only three (3) pitches over a given chord; create an improvised rhythmic solo without an accompaniment



1. Plan

2. Include it in an upcoming performance

3. Collaborate with colleagues for an integrated lesson plan

4. See performances – Live and videos

5. Model


General Music

Have the students complete a story…

“The old car in my neighbors driveway seemed to deteriorate for years. To my surprise one hot and dry day...”


Instrumental Music

Offer the students 20 to 60 seconds to improvise on their instrument to these titles:



A bug in the classroom

The sunset

Pizza and sodas


Instrumental MusicIntroduce students to the music of India- Land of Himalayan peaks, the TajMahal, elephants and tigers, over one billion people, summer temperatures over 100 degrees, etc. Instruments: tabla, tambura, sitar, sarod


Teach Improvisation

Publisher Websites:

Improvisation Education - Veteran Jazz Educator: Jamey Aebersold

Multicultural Music Websites:


Presenter contact:

Philip Joyner, Jr.


Phone: 901.598.4730