Mystery Bag Improv Activity

This improv activity was a BIG hit with my students at group classes last week – we had so much fun that even my students who are timid about improvisation didn’t mind playing!   For our “Mystery Bag” challenge, students were asked to use their senses to discover one of 9 foods inside their assigned bag, then improvise a song about it on the piano as their classmates tried to guess which food they had drawn.

Before students arrived, I prepared a variety of foods with different textures, and hid them inside plain brown paper bags.   We used these foods: cooked spaghetti noodles, popcorn, jello, potato chips, fruit roll-up tape, dry ramen noodles, dry rice, big marshmallows and frozen peas.  (Note: for the wet or greasy foods, I used a second ziploc bag inside the brown bag so as not to give away any clues!) I created cards with a picture of each food and it’s name, and hung them on my clothesline.  When students arrived, they were instantly curious about what we were going to be doing!

Each student was allowed to choose a bag, then given a worksheet to help them think of all the ways to describe the food inside.   The worksheet also guided them through how they could turn the characteristics of the food into music.

Once they had completed their worksheets, students performed their food improvs, while  their peers guessed which card on the clothesline they thought best matched the music.  Once we had identified a bag, students were all allowed to peek inside, then we clipped the card on the front.

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy this was for my students, and how expressive some of their improvs were!  One of the things that I really like about this activity is that it lends itself to very abstract music – students can experiment with the expressive qualities of the sound without worrying about “wrong” notes.   That’s a very important safety net for some “perfectionist” students who fear improv!!

Both the worksheet and the label cards are available for download on my studio site.

Mystery Bag Food Cards
Mystery Bag Food Cards
Food Improv Cards.pdf
580.1 KiB
Mystery Bag Improv Worksheet
Mystery Bag Improv Worksheet
Food Improv Worksheet.pdf
52.6 KiB


Mystery Bag Improv Activity — 6 Comments

  1. Thanks, Jen, for this idea! I have groups instead of private lessons once a month also and try to introduce a composition or improvisation activity at each class. This mystery food improv and the Halloween song starters are great!

  2. Your blog is a very good resource in music teaching. I perfectly admire your generosity of sharing these points with your readers – passing your bright ideas to most music teachers out there. Please continue to post more and more creative and innovative music teaching resources that would all be useful and interesting to both parties. Thanks again and more power.

Leave a Reply