How often do you compose with your piano students? Every week? Every other week? Once a month?… (gasp!) once a year? If your response bends towards the latter, today I’m going to show you how to compose with your piano students each and every week.
Composing with your piano students does not mean sitting down to pen the next masterpiece every lesson. It can easily (and should) be added to “start-of-lesson” activities just like finger warm-ups and scale practice.
When students compose they learn to connect with their music, they get a crash course in theory, they reinforce rhythm practice and much, much more; all things that are easily accomplished with quick composing activities and all things that should not be passed over in a piano lesson.
The most important thing to remember is that if you are trying to incorporate composing into each and every lesson, your focus should not be on completing a masterpiece… not even close! In fact, when I compose weekly with my students we simply focus on creating a single motive… it’s only a bar of music and it becomes the backbone of any piano piece.
Here’s How It Works:
1. Begin by brainstorming silly sentences with your piano students. Of course they don’t have to be silly… they could be a short description of one’s day or one’s mood, but as we all know, kids love silly… so it’s what I use. Here’s an example below.
2. Now that you’ve got your silly sentence, trying clapping that sentence to determine its natural rhythm (in 4/4 time). Once you’ve figured out its natural rhythm, write that rhythm out… as I’ve demonstrated below.
3. Finally, have your piano students experiment with some melodies to accompany that rhythm. Don’t be tied to C position… explore all the possibilities the piano has to offer. When your piano students find a melody that turns their crank, have them match the melody to the rhythm in Step 2. and write it out on a staff. Here’s my example below:
4. BAM! You’ve got yourself a motive… composing lesson complete!
Turning Your Motive Into a Masterpiece
If you compose like this each and every lesson, not only will your piano students reap all of the benefits that come along with being able to compose, but they’ll also have a great collection of cool-sounding motives. And what do you do with a bunch of cool-sounding motives?
Choose one and turn it into a masterpiece!
If you need help teaching your students how to compose full-fledged masterpieces from simple motives, then you’ll definitely want to check out our composing resource, The Curious Case of Muttzart and Ratmaninoff. It’s an exciting, and hysterical, journey that will have your piano students composing real pieces in no time at all!