This improv activity can be done using these 5 steps:
1. Choose your inspiration.
Find a piece of art that your student would like to use to inspire an improv. Some of my students enjoy using their own original artwork for inspiration. For other students, we find images using a Google search or Pinterest. Artwork depicting nature, such as animals or landscapes, are always a good bet if your student needs help finding inspiration.
2. Choose 3 adjectives that describe the artwork.
These adjectives might describe the artwork itself, or they might describe how your student feels when looking at the artwork. For example, a painting of a waterfall might inspire the adjectives: flowing, peaceful, or colorful.
3. Decide how to represent each adjective through music.
Using the adjectives your student has chosen, experiment with sounds at the piano. What sounds would best represent each word--high or low, loud or soft? Would major or minor scales or chords work best? Should you use staccato notes, or hold the damper pedal? Have fun experimenting with ideas to fit each of the words your student has chosen.
4. Create a story using your adjectives.
Once your student has several musical ideas in mind, put the adjectives together with some action words to form a story. Using our waterfall example, our story might be: The water trickles slowly, then begins flowing down the waterfall. A peaceful pool forms at the bottom of the waterfall, where colorful flowers grow.
5. Put it all together.
Help your student put the musical ideas together using the story you created to structure the improv. Remember: there are no wrong answers!
What do you think? Do you use artwork as inspiration in your lessons—either for improvisation or performance? Let me know in the comments below!