I was browsing lesson ideas on Pinterest when I stumbled across ‘Paint Chip Improv‘ from Teach Piano Today. For a while I have been thinking of ways to get students playing and creating music from their first lesson before being introduced notation. I want the first lesson to be fun, engaging and motivate the student to want to learn more. When I read about this game I thought I’d hit the jackpot! I now use it during my first lesson with new students and it ticks every box.
From their first lessons students are able to play and create their own beautiful music! All the while learning fundamentals of rhythm and the connection between music with language and everyday speech (if students are interested in exploring this connection further creating a rap would be a good assignment. After all it is rhythm and poetry). ‘Paint Chip Improv‘ is easy to implement and free to make, click the link to check out how it works.
The game requires that teacher and student play together. I encourage students to use any black keys, rather than just the groups of 3. Students love the beautiful sounds they make with the accompaniment and the nature of the pentatonic scale they improvise over means they can’t do anything that sounds bad! For beginning students I recommend playing a simple accompaniment highlighting the rhythmic pulse to keep them on track. As students become comfortable with the exercise I love introducing a ‘copycat’ element. I’ll gradually increase or decrease speed or volume of the accompaniment to see if they follow suit. This ensures the student is actively listening to the music they produce. All this in a first lesson?
It’s worth noting that the game doesn’t have to be restricted to new students. This afternoon one of my students was particularly exhausted during their lesson. About half way through he completely gave up on playing from music, including the pieces he usually plays quite easily. I pulled out the game to give the student a bit of a brain break. When he started playing his face immediately lit up and it was clear how engaged he was in the activity, “we should play this more often!” This student has been learning for approximately three years now and still found the exercise to be enjoyable!
So much learning and so much fun! Students wrap up their lesson with a big smile on their face and motivation to discover and learn more. I can’t recommend this game enough. It’s free and easy to make and a very welcome addition to my collection of musical games. 🙂