Why should we include composing in our piano lessons?
I’d like to answer that questions with another question, why do English teachers teach creative writing? Is it so that their students can become writers if they so wish?
Partially, yes. But it’s so, so, so much more than that.
When a student learns how to write a speech, an essay, or a poem; they learn what goes into the creation of the media. If you told a 12 year old the rules for creating a haiku, and had them read a bunch of haikus they might understand it right at that minute but it’s easily forgotten the next day, week, or year.
When I was 12 we were given the task of writing a haiku, and mine got published in the school’s year book. I could still tell you today how to write a haiku. I’m not a poet by any means, but I do know something of what goes into writing poetry and I can appreciate the craft.
When we teach composing to our piano students, however simple it may be, we are giving them this gift of understanding and appreciation. Let’s take a look at all the undercover learning that happens when we teach composing to a piano student.
If you’re sick of telling your students to…
“Practice your scales because you’ll need them one day!”
Then it’s time for that one day to arrive!
When she sees that she can use that scale to build a song scales don’t seem so irrelevant.When she understands the chords that will go best with it to create beautiful music that’s when something goes *click* and theory isn’t boring and old-fashioned anymore.
Have you got a piano student struggling with the notes on the staff? Perhaps in a new position after being in C major for the first while?
Teach composing to him and have him notate it himself. It really makes the geography of the grand staff so much clearer when he needs to find the write place to draw the notes so that he can read it back.
What better way to understand the importance of paying attention to dynamics and articulation than trying to convey a feeling in your own music?
Say your student writing a piece about a butterfly. Ask her whether the playing should be smooth or choppy; loud or soft; and have her write in the notation for her choice.
Most importantly of all, when we teach students to compose we are helping to foster a lifelong love of music making.
That’s what we all strive for in the end, isn’t it? To pass on the love of our life to the next generation, and allow them to experience what we have. When we write our own music, we take ownership of our craft, understanding the why and how, not just learning to regurgitate pieces.
Want to get your kids composing but not sure how?
Check out my latest resource, ‘Fishy Fables‘, the fun and simple way for kids to create at the piano!
Each of the five songs tells the story of a sea creature, starting with adding a rhythm to the lyrics, then an improvisation section to discover ideas, creating a melody, and notating it on the staff.
White key only pentascales are used as the basis for each composition. It’s perfect for level 1 students; and as an added bonus, the teacher duets for the improvisation sections are included as mp3 files.