Student 12-Bar Blues Improvs (Part 3)

The recordings below feature Isabela, age 10, beginning pianist and adventurous improviser. Her first bluesy improvisation enjoys a delicious swing that’s laid back and smart at the same time:

As Isabela was noodling around with the 12-bar blues, she discovered her classical style at the piano. Since she is an experienced student of classical ballet, I take this improvisation as a nod to that part of her:

group piano league city tx

Left to right: Clara (age 8), Gabi (age 11), Ana Carolina (age 6), Carla (the teacher), and Isabela (age 10)

Beginning improvisers make music that interests and motivates them to practice. They suit the difficulty level of their music perfectly to their needs. Sometimes improvisations are well within their capabilities, and so students communicate with ease in flowing, convincing performances. Sometimes what they create is right at the threshold of their technical abilities, and so they challenge themselves to master new techniques – those of their own choosing – to enter new realms of pianistic expression.

Students and teachers also need exciting repertoire for beginners to expose them to a variety of sounds, styles and techniques, stimulate their curiosity and challenge them. I am grateful to the dozens of excellent composers who are studious and committed to providing this repertoire. You can find long lists of great beginning pieces in the NFMC Festivals Bulletins. However, a constant insistence on fidelity to the text, piece after piece, without encouraging students to create their own pieces, tires some students out. It may also make them feel like they can’t identify with the art of piano playing.

Besides the Music Moves for Piano series, another source of inspiration for student creativity that I recommend (as a supplement) is Feito à mão: criação e performance para o pianista iniciante (Handmade: Creation and Performance for the Beginning Pianist). Music educator Cecília Cavalieri França selected 12 of 142 recorded compositions of piano students between the ages of 11 and 13 to publish in a guide for other students to create their own music. Fruit of her doctoral research, the book succinctly shows students how the budding composers came up with their music and presents the scores of the compositions, which the students created without notation, revealing a sophistication that they could not have achieved if limited by their notational skills at the time of composition. It is available for download at

–by Carla J. Seibert

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