• Laura Kalnajs

Learning to Improvise and Adapt with Music!


For me, one of the most fun things about playing music is improvisation! Reacting to the sounds around me, filling in the spaces, creating something brand-new with the tools I have available. There's nothing quite like coming up with a guitar or bass solo on the fly, working to fit the notes and rhythms into the framework that I and my fellow musicians have laid out.

Improvisation is an enjoyable and interesting challenge in a musical setting, but it's also valuable in everyday life. We often find ourselves needing to adapt to unexpected circumstances. It could be something on the smaller side, like a missing ingredient for a recipe, or a traffic jam. Or it could be something bigger - a major transition or development! Either way, the ability to improvise through unexpected changes is a vital life skill.

So how can we use music to help teach this skill to the young children in our classes?

For starters, instrument play-alongs are an awesome opportunity for children to play music in an unstructured, improvisational way! We offer a variety of different instruments to explore, and provide play-along music with a steady rhythm or familiar tune. Children are free to experiment with music using their choice of rhythm instrument. A younger child might explore sounds by tapping on all different parts of a drum, or comparing the sound made by playing with hands vs. a drum stick. An older child might be working to play in steady rhythm, or trying out various dynamics. Each child plays along according to their own skill, improvising and contributing to the music with their own ideas.

Often when we use instruments or other hands-on items in class, there are a variety of choices, plus a variety of personal preferences. Sometimes a child will find that their favorite color scarf is not available, or that someone else has beaten them to their preferred drum. This is actually a great opportunity for a learning experience in adaptability and improvisation! As parents and teachers, we can guide children to share or to choose another item without dwelling on disappointment.