Does teaching composing to piano students make you nervous? Are you not sure where to start? Or perhaps you struggle to find the time to fit it in?
I hear you. But if you think about composing the way I now do – you’ll have the drive to include it in your piano teaching.
Because teaching composing isn’t just about composing. It has so many other benefits.
I’ve written about some of these before, but I want to go deeper on the four big benefits of composing here.
Teaching composing to your piano students gives you an opportunity to teach them music theory, allow exploration, and get into the bones of the music. Music makes so much more sense when you see it from all sides.
1. Creativity and Exploration
This is probably the first benefit of teaching composing that comes to most people’s minds. And it’s a good one.
Creativity is often cited as a reason for taking piano lessons. But there’s nothing creative about reading and performing music exactly as it is written. Nothing creative at all.
Freedom. Giving students the opportunity to write music means they can explore the whole keyboard – long before they would be able to read music in such a big range. This freedom to investigate all the sounds the piano has to offer will also, in turn, give them more confidence when it comes to reading adventurous music.
Teach your students to compose and you’ll be giving them true means of creative expression.
2. Incognito Theory
Do you ever struggle to get your students to do their theory work? Well, teaching composing could be the answer.
When students need to write their own compositions down, they have the motivation to ask for the theory knowledge. They’ll come to you with questions about notation. How great is that?
- If they want their piece to start at the very top of the piano, they’ll need to know about the 8va and 15va signs.
- If they want the loud section to sound dramatic, they’ll have to make the part before it soft to contrast.
- If they come up with a syncopated rhythm, they’ll need to understand how that’s constructed.
And obviously to write notes down – they need to know where they belong on the staff.
That’s not to say I make all my students write down all their composed pieces. My younger students are welcome to draw a picture or write letter names to help them remember. But when it’s beneficial, you can bet they’ll be writing it down and getting some incognito theory into the deal.
3. Real Understanding
Speaking of theory, teaching composing isn’t just more likely to get done than worksheets are. It also leads to a much greater insight.
Writing your own piece is a much more involved and well-rounded process than some arbitrary exercise. It allows you to get under the skin of the music. To gain real understanding.
It doesn’t stop at understanding the notation better either. Composing music means students will understand the composers of other music better. They’ll start to see the why behind all the little choices in the music they’re reading and learning to play.
When students understand music on this deep level – they can better interpret and absorb it. They can see inside, underneath and read in between the lines.
4. Practice Motivation
If you went to the trouble of writing your own piece – you’d want to be able to play it well…right?
That’s exactly it. Self-composed pieces are some of the best practiced pieces in my studio. Students love showing off their piece to friends and family at every opportunity.
Piano students will also push themselves to learn to do things technically that they wouldn’t otherwise have reason to do. My students often end up composing pieces which include a glissando, or acciacatura, or chromatic scales.
Most of all, I love the motivation and enthusiasm that teaching composing brings out in my students. That alone is completely worth any wrangling of lesson time you need to do to fit it in.
Ready start teaching composing?
Hopefully I’ve convinced you by now of the value of composition in the piano teaching studio. Now it’s time to get started!
Try these resources to get your students creating:
- Animal Menagerie Composing Project
- Spring Themes Composing Project
- Happy Birthday Variation Project
- Fishy Fables Composing Book
And once you’ve got your students creating their own music, you should definitely consider putting together a studio album. Find out more about how to do that here.
More benefits of creative music teaching
Tell me your favourite additional benefit of teaching composing over in the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers community on Facebook.