For most children, the opportunity to create their own music is welcomed with excitement. They’re full of themes, titles, musical ideas… and once they’ve created one composition, they’re often begging for more.
But there are always those piano students who are reluctant to compose. They may refuse to participate, shrug their shoulders when asked for input and just act generally disinterested.
So, should we just let these students be “disinterested” and move on?
Why Composing With “Reluctant” Students Is So Important
I firmly believe that composing with every single student is important. We wouldn’t allow a child to choose not to learn to write, simply because she prefers to read… or because she just doesn’t really seem that interested in writing. And so it is with piano lessons – there must be a balance between learning to play the music of others and learning to create one’s own music.
But what can we do with reluctant composers? You can’t force someone to be creative!… Or can you?
Check Out Our 5 Ways To Inspire Reluctant Composers Below:
1. Create a safe place. Often reluctance to create comes from a fear of rejection or failure. For some children, asking them to “show themselves” by creating music is extremely threatening. For some it’s due to a past experience with embarrassment or other negative feelings. For others, it’s simply their personality.
As we all work with children, most of us know exactly how to create the feeling of a “safe haven” but keep an eye on your students’ body language to monitor their anxiety levels and forge forward or back off accordingly.
2. Offer structure. For most piano students, compositions work better if they are created using some sort of rules, limitations or structure. For example, a composing activity where you say “Let’s create a song that only uses these 5 keys” will be more successful than one where you simply say “Let’s write a new piece on the piano.” Rules are made to be broken in this instance, but starting with structure will help to provide a comfortable starting point.
3. Offer assistance. To help build confidence and trust, giving your piano students assistance with one portion of their composition can really help. For example “You create the right hand melody line and I’ll fill in the left hand.” or “You decide on the rhythm and we’ll choose a matching melody together.” If it’s a composition created by both of you, your students will find it to be a less threatening experience.
4. Tap into what inspires them. For some students, “creating a composition” may sound dull. However, if you’re able to tap into what excites them and offer a composing theme around this subject, you’re more likely to get enthusiastic participation. Does your student love Minecraft? Perfect… create a piece that sounds like video game music. Does your student play hockey? Awesome… choose a favorite player and write a piece titled “_____ scores!”. Any shred of interest they show can be turned into some sort of theme or musical idea.
5. Give choices. For students who are extremely reluctant to offer up any bits of musical ideas, start by composing in a “choose your own adventure” style. Give them a choice of two motives and have them choose their favorite. Give them a choice of two different “B Section” ideas and have them choose their favorite etc. Piece together a composition based on their choices and your musical ideas as a starting point. This will not only get the composition wheels turning in their minds, but it also shows them how painless it can be to create a great-sounding piece. Eventually they will start offering their own opinions and, soon, their own ideas.
Eat Your Vegetables… And Write Music
We all ask children to do things that may not initially thrill them. But we do it because we know that the outcome is in their best interests. Doritos may taste better than veggies. Playing the music of others may be easier than creating your own.
It’s easy to compose with enthusiastic children, but it is often the “reluctant composers” who stand to gain the most from the benefits of composing.
If you’d like your piano kids to also be “eating their vegetables” and learning to compose, but you have no idea where to begin, check out our composing resource “The Curious Case of Muttzart and Ratmaninoff”.
Designed to put even the most skeptical of students at ease this book leads you through 12 composing lessons that will have your students feeling comfortable and excited about creating music from the very first day!