Irish Improv

Here is a great improv to do for St. Patrick’s Day, but Irish music is great at any time of year, so there’s no need to limit it to March! Many of my early students have never played in 6/8 time, so this is a great opportunity to talk about time signatures.

Irish ImprovHow to Use:

  • Demonstrate the pattern.
  • Teach it by rote. Repeat until the student is confident.
  • Have the student play the pattern while you make up a melody above it using the notes of the A minor scale.
  • Switch parts.

Variations:

  • Change the key signature. Any minor scale will work. But you could also try it in major. Does it still sound Irish?
  • Add grace notes to the melody. Irish music is big on grace notes, which many students have never played. They can even use notes outside of the scale (black notes) and quickly slide off them onto the scale notes.
  • Accelerando. Some Irish music starts slow/moderately but at the end gets faster and faster for a dramatic finish. If you do this, add a crescendo as well.
  • Vary the pattern. The pattern doesn’t have to be static. As written the four notes in each measure jump from the lower octave up to the higher octave and then from the higher octave down to the lower octave. You could try it with the same rhythm but jump from low to high and then low to high again. You could also change the quarter notes into to two eighth notes.
  • Instead of making up the melody, try it with a lead sheet.

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