Beginning Piano Improvisation Activities

This post will explore beginning piano improvisation activities and why improvisation is so important.

Objectives, For students to feel comfortable making their own music. To inspire creativity. To build confidence and comfort at the keyboard.

“Improvise means make it up as I go along

I can play some music, and improvise a song”

Improvisation is an important part of learning to become a musician. Improvisation helps build ear training, technique, and creativity. Improvising also makes the student comfortable at the piano. Not to mention the fact that improvisation is fun!


Here are my favorite beginning piano improvisation activities I use with my youngest students.

  1. Use the black keys to improvise beautiful music that features the pentatonic scale. Have your student hold the pedal down (or hold it for him).
  2. Have your student improvise a melody to a simple poem.
  3. Play an improvised musical phrase and have your student “answer” with their own improvised phrase
  4. Use pictures or other objects (prompts) to spark improvisational ideas.
  5. Suggest a set of notes for your student to use while improvising (for example C, E, F, and G).
  6. Suggest rhythmic patterns for improvising
  7. Suggest that your student improve using right, left or both hands.
  8. Read a story and let your student improvise the background music
  9. Improvise using different sounds on a digital piano
  10. Watch a video of a famous artist playing and let your student “Play along” with the artist in the video.

The sooner you start beginning piano improvisation activities with your students the more comfortable they will be. Improvisation helps students to feel confident and creative. Most people associate musical improvisation with Jazz. This is because Jazz relies heavily on improvisation. But any style of music can be improvised.

Improvisation has many benefits, it helps students to feel comfortable at the keyboard. Being able to improvise means that if you have trouble during a performance you can keep going. It means you always have something to play.

Improvisation builds strong technique, strong aural skills, and flexibility. Improvisation leads to music composition. Improvisation is a critical part of becoming a musician.

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Teaching Piano Lessons to Family and Friends

Should you teach family and friends?


It goes without saying that some of your students will come to you because of people you know or are friendly with—friends of your children or children of co-workers, etc. I have found that this works out fine. I give them the Studio Policy, and they are treated as I would any other student. However, when it comes to teaching piano lessons to family and friends it can be a bit more challenging.

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Evaluating Piano Student Progress

“What is measured gets improved” Peter Drucker

Evaluating Piano Student Progress

The school year is drawing to a close. The kids are counting down the days, so are their teachers.

For most piano teachers this means year-end recitals and getting ready for the summer teaching schedule.  For school-aged students, the end of the school year is a milestone. They receive year-end grades and test scores. Children get promoted (hopefully) or move on to new schools.

Yes, indeed though we are only halfway through the calendar year the end of school is a time of transition. A time to reflect on progress made during the year gone by and look forward to the future. A time for students to take a look at what they have accomplished and evaluate themselves. A time to celebrate what they have done well and plan to make future improvements. The perfect time for evaluating piano student progress.

As a teacher, this information is useful for me as well. I want to make sure I am teaching all the skills and concepts necessary for my students to become accomplished musicians. (Of course, not every category is applicable to every student.)


Assignment Book

I have each student keep an assignment that we write in each week. This makes it easy to go back and see what has been assigned and completed.


Progress Worksheet


I use this worksheet to help with evaluating piano student progress.






Here are some of the things to look at when evaluating piano student progress,

  1. Technique-Make a list of the scales, arpeggios, and technical exercises that have been covered. How many can be played from memory?
  2. Repertoire-List the pieces you have learned to completion. List any accompanying or ensemble playing you have done.
  3. Music Theory-Make a list of music theory concepts learned throughout the year. Include things like musical terms, key and time signatures, musical form or any other music theory that may have been learned. Ear training can be included in this list.
  4. Music reading-Compare your reading skills with your reading skills at the beginning of the school year. Notice any improvement you have made in your sight-reading level.
  5. Musicianship-Consider any general musicianship skills you have worked on or improved throughout the year such as. Learning to play using chords, improvisation, playing by ear, or composition.
  6. Music History/Listening-What did you learn about composers, genres, and/or periods of music history? Make a list you have probably learned much more than you realize.
  7. Performances/Festivals-Have you played in performances of any kind? Recitals or church services? How about accompanying? Have you made any recordings or videos of your playing?


Evaluating piano student progress may be surprising,

I’ll bet that your student will probably be surprised (hopefully pleasantly surprised) at how much has been accomplished throughout the school year. For some students, this may be a “reality check” letting them know that they need to work a little harder in the future.

Lastly, the end of this school year is an opportunity to set goals for the summer and for the coming school year. You may want to let your students take a week to consider what goals are important to them. Ask them to imagine where they might be with their playing at this time next year.

At the next lesson sit down with your students, go through the skills listed above and set some goals. With younger students, you may want mom or dad to weigh in while setting goals for the coming year.

Keep the Piano Progress Sheet in front of the student’s notebook. At the end of the next school year take it out and see how this year went.


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