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The Improvise Approach

Inclusive and accessible music-making for people with special needs

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


The Improvise Approach is an exciting way of providing creative music-making opportunities for people with special needs. They can choose to play on their own or “jam” together. It’s designed for non-music specialists, to run solo and group sessions, using iPad(s) and 10 specially composed backing tracks (included in the book).

Easy step-by step guidance shows you how to set up one or more iPads for solo and group music-making, using the ThumbJam app.

Whatever melody you play, you are in tune with the 10 backing tracks. The slightest touch or movement on the iPad is all that's needed to join in and make musical sounds (and not necessarily with the hands - any part of the body can be used to control playing).

The resource is particularly motivating for people with  restricted movement as their success in playing encourages them to move independently.

Students with moderate, severe learning difficulties and autistic spectrum condition also enjoy the additional feature of using selected percussion instruments, making the music session a truly inclusive experience.

The Improvise Approach is simple to use and appeals to a wide age and ability range. It has been trialled for over 5 years in diverse special needs settings with great success.

The Improvise Approach is an effective tool in:
Developing musicality. Communication. Listening. Extending concentration and attention span. Tuning motor skills. Improving hand-eye coordination. Learning to sequence. Turn-taking. Developing exploratory confidence, spontaneity, creative understanding. Motivating independence.


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Customer Reviews

Fun, creative music for all!

I've known Carrie a number of years. We met whilst working at the same school, and I've witnessed Carrie's journey, and her passion and enthusiasm in creating and developing the Improvise Approach. I've observed first hand the approach being used with children with profound and multiple learning disabilities, who have very little movement but have found the motivation and strength to play along. I've watched their faces light up when they realised they were the ones making the harmonious sounds, it was pure delight!
The Improvise Approach is groundbreaking, it encourages and enables anyone to have a go and create music, regardless of their ability.

Easy to follow, easy to use

Carrie Lennard invited me to review this book because she knows that I have an extreme mobility and dexterity disability and that if I could use the Improvise Approach to make tuneful music then, almost literally, anyone can. After downloading the Thumb Jam app and following Carrie's crystal clear instructions laid out in this book I was making - if not beautiful music - then at least tuneful music within minutes. I have no innate musical ability but I found it easy and surprisingly satisfying to improvise along with the downloadable tracks provided. The set-up is easy but the actual music making is even easier. Touching anywhere on the screen produces a harmonious note. My 'dirty organ' riff on the Blue Car track would have made Rick Wakeman envious.

Coincidentally, whilst I was messing around with the app a friend, who happens to be a music teacher, arrived and was most taken with the book and the app. She could see immediately the teaching potential and knows the importance of students of whatever ability getting satisfaction and encouragement from producing tuneful, harmonised music. I lost track a bit when she started talking about Major Pentatonic and Chromatic scales but I checked later and it's all covered.

I must stress again that I am not musical but even I can use this app and when following Carrie's guide can make reasonably sounding music. I've tried other music making apps but lack the fine motor skills necessary to use them satisfactorily. Not a problem here. Oh, and by the way, I got good results using both my very un-dexterous fingers and a clumsily held stylus.

I heartily recommend The Improvise Approach to anyone working in SEND

"Of all the many brilliant iPad apps that can make participation in music making accessible to those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), Thumbjam is one of my favourites. Its interface is simple enough for anyone to get started yet has levels of sophistication that repay deeper exploration. That’s why I was so delighted to come across Carrie Lennard’s excellent iBooks resource ‘The Improvise Approach’ which is based around the creative use of Thumbjam.

‘The Improvise Approach’ is written with such detail, structure and clarity that even the most timid of music-leaders would surely feel confident in adopting the approaches suggested. Carrie is obviously no armchair theorist. This resource has many little practical hints and tips - hallmarks of someone who has “been there, done that!”

Too many manuals on improvisation fall into the trap of being too regimented and actually constraining any genuine creativity so I’m also greatly impressed by the fact that, while there is ample guidance, none of the musical activities in Carrie’s book are themselves too prescriptive. Instead, the book simply lays the foundations for teachers and students to have fun exploring and improvising together.

The layout and design are excellent - simple, colourful and inviting. The backing tracks are great fun too and will, I’m sure, become firm favourites with many groups.

So many times I’ve witnessed first hand the power of creative, improvised music making to transform lessons and lives and I heartily recommend ‘The Improvise Approach’ to anyone working within SEND.
Andrew Cleaton
Epiphany Music

The Improvise Approach
View in iTunes
  • £29.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Education
  • Published: 05 August 2016
  • Publisher: Carrie Lennard
  • Print Length: 52 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 3 or later and iOS 4.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings