Composing and lessons - Do you teach it? would you like to learn

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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Fri Jul 23, 2004 11:08 am

When most of us think about "composing," we think of the great composers like Beethoven, Bach, Mozart etc. However, anybody who likes music and is willing to learn some basic music theory has the capability to compose music. These days, notation software makes that easy, gives a great-looking printed score, and even allows you to hear the music that you've composed, played by the computer, so you can improve it in "real time." So, do you teach composing music in your lessons? As a student or prospective student, would you like to learn? Would it make a difference in your enjoyment of lessons or your willingness to take lessons if you could learn to write your own music? If you'd like to learn a little more about composing, check out the Composing thread in another forum of the PEP Message Board. :;):

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Postby 65-1074818729 » Sun Aug 01, 2004 5:58 pm

Speaking from a students perspective, I would be very interested in taking some “composing” lessons. I think it would give added insight to the “music learning” , and would probably give me a whole new appreciation of the music that is already out there.

As one of the contributors in the other composing threads stated, sound knowledge of theory would be necessary. Without knowing much about the subject, it strikes me that a good background in theory would be a must.

Am I correct in assuming that a student should be fairly well advanced in their piano studies before attempting composition?
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Postby Mins Music » Sun Aug 01, 2004 6:47 pm

AFlat wrote:Am I correct in assuming that a student should be fairly well advanced in their piano studies before attempting composition?

My take on the matter is 'no'. But what you said before is true. You do need a knowlegde of theory. But you can compose appropriate to your level of knowledge, and if you know the name of the notes, where they go on the staff, a little bit about note values, time signatures then you're well equipped to begin composing.

Of course if you'd like to produce something worthy of Chopin, then yes, you would need to be rather advanced in your piano studies, or at least have a great deal of exposure to quality music. (Many people write music on programmes such as Sibelius and Finale and admit that they can't actually play what they've written!)

I like to start improvistations with my students from the very first lesson. And then about a month into lessons I introduce worksheets that teach them a little bit about composition. They're basically a way for me to check if they know terms such as 'semibreve' etc, but those students who have been doing them for a while are becoming very creative.

If you'd like to have a look at the worksheets, go to my Resource Page under the section on Composition. There are quite a few of them, and they do range from very easy to .... well, not quite as easy (but they're not in any particular order.) They were designed with young beginning students, but my beginner adults have enjoyed them too. (You need a bit of patience loading my site ... it takes a while :( ) Feel free to download a few and give them a go. Everyone has to start somewhere!
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby Lyndall » Wed Aug 04, 2004 6:09 pm

I just tried composing with my piano camp group of 6 late elementary students. To get them started (often the hardest thing to do in my mind any way) I began by writing a C major scale on the whiteboard, then wrote the numbers 1-9 + 0 underneath to create a 'code'. Then I wrote my phone # & decoded it into letters, then played my 'song'. Next we moved some of the notes either up or down an octave to make them sound better.

Then we figured out it needed a left hand accompiment so we tried to play LH an octave lower in unison but decided that wasn't interesting enough. We discussed other types of accompaniment & came up with chords, blocked or broken. We built a chord based on the first note of the song & held it down while we played the RH until it no longer sounded good to us, at which point we figured we must need to change chords. Next chord was built on the note that sounded bad with our first chord. Finally, we decided to vary the chords, playing some broken, some blocked, some dotted etc.

The 6 then made their own phone number melodies & played them back to everyone. You'd be amazed at the variations, even though most of our ph #s start with the same #s!

The only theory we were using was knowledge of how to build a root position chord & what sounds good to our ears based on our 'classical' training.

If it hadn't been for this week-long camp I don't know when I'd have gotten time to do this in the lesson unless I devoted a whole lesson to it. I feel so much pressure to get through scales & repertoire that I hate to 'give up' a lesson even for something as important as this. Also, in a group setting you only have to say things once!

I love Min's idea of giving idea sheets out too. Kind of like what we used to come up with an idea for writing a story. Excellent.

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Postby Beckywy » Mon May 16, 2005 6:25 am

My younger students (beginner to late beginner) come in everyweek with a new song they've made up on the piano. I make the effort to write it down on staff paper for them while they're performing it for me. We title it, and they're happy taking this composition home with them to show to their friends and family.
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