Teaching Improvisation in the Classroom & Ensemble Using the iPad


This course is designed for elementary and secondary general music teachers and ensemble directors (vocal, strings, band and jazz ensemble) who want to enhance improvisation skills in their students and who have access to an iPad (iPad 2 or later, iPad Air, iPad Mini or iPad Pro) for use in the classroom/rehearsal as well as teachers who are working in a 1:1 iPad classroom. Participants will use GarageBand for iOS, iReal Pro and SmartMusic to create custom improvisation materials and discover existing resources, as well as how to share these materials with students via YouTube, Dropbox and/or Google Drive. Participants will learn the basic mechanics of improvising and the essential music theory elements needed to teach improvisation including modal improvisation, the blues and simplifying chord progressions. No previous experience with improvisation is required.


  • Teach core improvisational concepts (modal improvisation, blues improvisation and simplifying a chord progression) to students in the general music classroom or ensemble rehearsal.

  • Select appropriate repertoire to teach improvisational concepts.

  • Create custom accompaniments using iReal Pro and GarageBand for iOS.

  • Integrate Smart and Touch instruments (GarageBand for iOS) in student performance to teach improvisational concepts.

  • Discover and use existing exercises, repertoire and methods available in SmartMusic.

  • Share materials with students using YouTube, Dropbox and/or Google Drive.

  • Create an implementation plan and budget to integrate improvisation into your curriculum.

Improvisation is an important part of musical development in general music students as well as ensemble students of every age. This course will teach you basic improvisation pedagogy and guide you through using technology as a tool to foster improvisation in students. Participants will develop materials/lessons to implement improvisation in their classroom/ensemble.


Instructor: Michael Fein

Mike_FeinMichael Fein earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Rutgers University and a master’s degree in jazz saxophone performance from Rowan University. He released his debut jazz album, Four Flights Up, in April 2005 (available on iTunes). Fein has presented numerous sessions at music and technology conferences including the 2005 National Education Computing Conference and the 2009 and 2010 TI:ME National Conferences. He was awarded the TI:ME Teacher of the Year in 2007. In 2010, Fein co-authored Making Music with GarageBand and Mixcraft, a music production curriculum text, and recently authored Teaching Music Improvisation with Technology, published in February 2017. Fein currently teaches graduate music technology courses at the University of the Arts, and music technology electives and jazz ensemble at Haverford High School.

VanderCook College of Music - (312) 225-6288