We Know It’s Important, But How Do We Do It? Engaging Beginning Aural Skills Students Through Meaningful Improvisation Activities

Jeffrey Lovell

Improvisation as a core component of music curricula has been a topic of great interest in higher education in recent years. Articles on the subject are numerous and music theory and musicianship textbooks increasingly incorporate improvisation activities within their pages. The immediacy of improvisation tells us something about the way in which the inexperienced student assimilates essential bits of musical vocabulary in real time, and in the service of aural skills training is an effective tool for evaluating musicianship development. Recognizing that this learning tool was only a peripheral aspect of my own first-year aural skills curriculum, I retooled my courses to include more meaningful, graded improvisational exercises. This paper details my structured approach to introductory improvisations in beginning aural skills, how I assess them, and what I’ve learned by placing emphasis on improvisation as an integral learning activity.