Setting Up Successful Class Improvisation

Easy Setup TIps-Fur Elise Flashmob

Lesson Plan Example, Cont'd: Für Elise Flash Mob
1. Keep things fun—quit while you’re ahead! At first, do just one or two sections of the activity in each lesson—all sections are short. Combine sections later on.

2. Start simply, having students line up at the piano. Explain/demonstrate how each will take a short turn playing their “Part” and then return to the line’s end. Later on, after students have familiarized themselves with the activity, let them enhance the “staging.” For instance, they might add flash-mob-like ways of arriving at and leaving the keyboard. 

3. Give students a preview before “running through” a whole section. 
For example, if a section directs students to invert the melody or otherwise vary it, ask students to demonstrate an example of how they will do this, prior to having them go through the entire section. 

Try out the rhythm patterns of a section by asking all to say the words or rhythmic values as they 
1) clap/tap in time, and 2) play along on one or a few of the notes that are indicated. Students may play their examples separately. Or, all may play together. For instance, all might use “A,” and following that go-round, use “A” and “C,” or “A,” “C,” and “D.” When using sets of two or more pitches, each student in a group may be on different notes at the same time — Cacophony is fun!  

4. Call attention to the variation in stronger and weaker accents 
as students say and clap words: "They say Beeth-o-ven wrote the pieceWrote it for some-one named E-lise!..." At first, have students exaggerate the difference between the accented and quieter syllables—they’ll have fun with this. Encourage students to "jazz up" the sound by trying different accentuations as they match what they play to what they say. Help them discover that there are many different ways to accentuate each phrase. 

5. Left and Right are Equal! 
Be sure students use their left hands in Parts 12-13. In other parts, too, right and left hands may also be interchanged to practice both equally.

6. Have students check one another to see that they are following (or intentionally varying) 
the dynamics, touch, etc. indicated in their music. They should also pay attention to using dynamics in their own variations. 

7. Let students play or listen to Beethoven’s Für Elise 
(original and adapted versions included in Für Elise Flash Mob
and find elements borrowed by Für Elise Flash Mob. These include: 

  • Blues tones A, C, D, D#, E, found in the original Fur Elise’s first measures, 
  • The skipping melody fragment from Fur Elise’s closing arpeggios, and 
  • Flash Mob’s ascending E octaves referring to those of Fur Elise. 

(Some students may also enjoy taking off on other elements from Für Elise, or other pieces they know).

8. Make Für Elise Flash Mob a departure-point for lots of further adventures: 
Encourage students to expand upon some Für Elise Flash Mob lesson activities at home during the next few weeks. For instance, one week they might be asked to: 

  • Practice making a flowing “Für Elise” theme contrast vividly with a jazzy swing bass. 

Over several subsequent weeks, students might: 

  • Improvise new variations each day for a particular section,
  • Use the cue cards at the back of their book to involve friends and family in some improvisation, 
  • Create new word/rhythm patterns for improvisation, 
  • Transpose, 
  • Play the melody along with the bass,
  • Extend the blues scale over an octave, and so on.

9. Add new elements when basic procedures become familiar. 
For example: 

  • Devise new ways to proceed to the keyboard (quick walk, sauntering in time to the music, popping out from behind a piano, etc). 
  • Add other keyboards, props (hats, etc.). 

These are a few of many possibilities for some creative fun. Für Elise Flash Mob is meant to be adapted to varying needs in limitless ways. ”Introducing Students to Für Elise Flash Mob” is but one of many ways for starting students with his activity. 

During lessons over the next several weeks, keep this game-activity fresh and fun by using short segments in lots of different ways. Examples include having students: improvise—one after the other, create new word phrases, listen to someone's hands-together improv performance (bass and melody). Use as an ice breaker or “scenery changer” in lessons or recitals.

Wishing you and your students lots of enjoyable creative expression with this light-hearted nod to a famous piece.

by Cynthia Pace

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No reproduction of this material permitted in any form without written permission of the copyright holder.