Online music education isn’t just about rote learning where your students simply imitate and repeat things. Though planned lessons and practice sessions are an essential part of the learning process, improvisation too should be encouraged. Whether you’re conducting virtual one-to-one classes or online group classes, encouraging your young students to improvise is a crucial element in music education.
Studies have found that the human brain functions differently when someone is playing from memory vs. when he/she is improvising. Wondering how? Certain regions of the brain get activated and deactivated during such actions. And the interesting thing is that these patterns are basically the reciprocal of each other. This means the regions of the brain that get activated during improvisation are deactivated when a person plays from memory.
During improvisation, a region in the brain’s top front section (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex), which is believed to help in problem-solving and conscious performance monitoring, slows down. In the meantime, a central region in the brain’s front-most section (medial prefrontal cortex), which plays a considerable role in self-expression and creating a story, becomes more active.
But what do all these mean? It appears that when improvising, the brain’s evaluating and self-monitoring region gets deactivated. This frees up part of the brain to be more creative. This, in turn, allows the person to spontaneously create unique and unplanned musical ideas and gestures that would have been inhibited otherwise.
Some studies even suggest that musicians who’ve been trained in improvisation are likely to be more capable of giving their creativity a free run, in general, as compared to non-musicians or musicians not trained in improvisation.
How your young students can benefit from improvisation?
Being trained in improvisation from a young age would encourage your students to gather, process, and react to music suitably. Additionally, their creativity would be unleashed, which would boost their confidence. Even when these students slip in their performance due to forgetting a particular rhythm or note, they can quickly improvise until they find their way back to something familiar.
Students attending your online group classes must actively engage in the learning process. By encouraging improvisation, you can help them to actively construct and ‘play’ or manipulate this knowledge. This, in turn, will let them master the things taught or shared, thus motivating them to work hard and paving the way for their musical growth in the future. But improvising, especially when performing in a group or in front of an audience, may raise one’s self-consciousness. This could potentially trigger feelings of fear and anxiety. As a music teacher, you need to guide your students the right way to help them overcome these negative feelings to enjoy improvisation.