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In the Gap! is a brand new, beautifully illustrated book and CD, aimed at introducing young children to improvisation within their individual and class music lessons. Written by musician and teacher, Hannah Brady, it lays out each lesson clearly with original catchy songs and ideas.

The seven songs cover a range of topics including healthy eating, Spain, traffic/vehicles, weather etc. The activities are suitable for learning purely as a means for encouraging improvisation and building confidence in the classroom or, alternatively, these songs could be built up to be performed as concert pieces. The pieces are suitable for a variety of instruments and both concert and Bb transcriptions are included.

I used the upbeat song, Vamanos Amigos, in my Year 5 ukulele Wider Opportunities lesson and, I have to admit, I was pretty nervous about the idea of getting 30 lively 9-10-year-olds to improvise but they absolutely loved it! I found the planning clear and helpful. I personally adapted it to work with my class but I believe that it would be just as successful delivered exactly as prescribed in the suggestions. The song was immediately popular and the performance track got them dancing; always a good sign... We were able to have an in-depth conversation about improvising and I found that even those who were not keen on it in the first week were enthusiastically joining in by Lesson 2, trying out new techniques and commenting on and complementing each other's efforts.

The song can easily be adapted to instrumentalists of varying levels, from the very beginner to small ensembles, with different parts to play. Planning, as mentioned, was very straightforward as each song comes with such a comprehensive set of notes including information on and suggestions for:

  • Style and background of song
  • Things to listen out for
  • Rhythm work
  • Melodic work
  • Improvisation

In the Gap! suggests that it is suitable for use with Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) straight through to Key Stage 2 (KS2). I believe that the Early Years would enjoy listening to and perhaps singing some of the songs but I think that the activities are far more suited to KS2 as the EYFS are naturally inclined to improvise anyway so it might provide too much structure, therefore limiting their creativity. Having said that, I can see some of the simpler songs working with, for example, a Key Stage 1 (KS1) recorder ensemble.

In the Gap! provides opportunities for experienced and less-confident music teachers alike to plan and deliver engaging lessons, with opportunities for the children to improvise creatively alongside learning fun new songs, for performance opportunities or purely for the experience. Piano parts for the songs are available to purchase separately on the website for £3.99.

All in all, my students and I enjoyed the experience of using In the Gap! and it has given me the confidence to experiment with improvisation more in my planning. I would recommend it to KS1 and KS2 peripatetic and Wider Opportunities teachers alike.