Piano composition?

Wendy Lam said: May 5, 2013
 2 posts

My daughter is 6 and is mostly through book 2. She loves playing. I do not play any instruments and barely read music so i am the one trying to keep up. Fortunately our teacher is amazing ( level 5). My question is how any of you as Suzuki teachers or parents have handled kids who like to compose music? Our daughter is picking up certain variations from songs she has played or has heard and just makes her own music. She will do this on her own for a long time (we usually have to ask her to stop to go to bed or do something else). She is really into the ‘feeling’ of it and seems to ‘tell a story’ with the music. She says her last song is about a girl visiting a troll. This is just something she does on her own. How can we encourage, support or guide her? Any tips welcome!

Paula Bird said: May 5, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
404 posts

I record my student’s composition and put it on the computer. Then we give it a title and teach other students how to play it. My sister used to write songs all the time as a youngster. I vote for encouraging her. Make a recording so someone can transcribe it.

Some software programs can transcribe the music as the student plays it on a midi keyboard. Very cool that!

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Eleanor Bennett said: May 5, 2013
 Violin, Viola
62 posts

My daughter did that and I wrote out the music she played (I am a musician) and then recorded her playing it. Record the pieces she composes and save them like pictures in a scrapbook. When she studies music theory she will learn to write what she composes. Don’t pressure her. Just enjoy her. That will be encouragement enough for now.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID

SAA General Suzuki Forum Discussion wrote:

Eleanor Bennett

Wendy Lam said: May 6, 2013
 2 posts

Thanks Eleanor and Paula for the advice. Recording part of what she plays sounds like a great idea. I guess listening and watching herself can be good learning for her too. There is no pressure on my end (actually I don’t even know how to guide so it actually a nice time for her to do some free exploration with music and it is pleasant to listen to). At some point, though I think I’ll need to help guide and focus her ‘music making’. Right now, she’ll play variations with many ‘moods’ for 30 min straight. I sometimes have to remind her to practice her Suzuki songs.

We haven’t brought it up with our Suzuki teacher yet, not that I don’t think she’d support. It is mostly that our lessons are so full of the core song teaching, that we run out of time and I keep forgetting. The idea about learning songs from different students sounds interesting. I might suggest it.

Annella said: May 6, 2013
Annella PlattaPiano
Saint Paul, MN
1 posts

Talk to your teacher, if you haven’t already, and see what they have to say. I’m always thrilled to hear my students’ compositions, and we have lots of fun working on them together. I let my students perform their compositions in group class or recitals if they are polished and they love it! This also gets the other students interested in composing as well.

Let your daughter know how much you love her creativity and encourage her to keep composing and to play her pieces for you and her teacher. Composing is an excellent way for teachers to approach theory concepts in a fun way, using music written by the student.

Another thought—there might be a composition contest your teacher can enter your daughter’s piece(s) into! When I was young, my teacher did this for me and I was SO proud (and it didn’t even win).

Monica said: May 6, 2013
 Piano, Organ, Violin
9 posts

I was so surprised when I saw you’re post because it’s almost the exact same description of my little sister who I am teaching piano to…except she’s 6 years older. :) She “suddenly” gets these good ideas and stays at the piano making up all sorts of arrangements, accompaniments, duets, her own songs, you name it! She gets “distracted” with this during her practice and even though I encourage her and hate to stop her, sometimes I have to so that we can finish the lessons etc. 

The problem is, I’ve never really taught composition and I don’t really know how to go about helping her, either. I have been working with her in writing down some of her songs and she loves doing that though it takes a long time. Have you ever heard of the improvisation books by Alice Kanack? I’ve heard some good things about those, but can’t yet recommend since I’ve never actually used them before. If anyone else here uses those, would you recommend them for this situation? Also, thank you to everyone else for your comments, they’ve been a great help for me too! If you have any more ideas or any suggestions on composition books that I could read or work with, that would be wonderful!
Good luck with your daughter. Keep gently encouraging her, I’m sure she is
a great student!

Wendy Caron Zohar said: May 7, 2013
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
100 posts

This is such a wonderful thread. I think that composition is a natural outgrowth of a child’s exposure to good music, just as reflected in the Mother Tongue insight into language learning, that children at first parrot by imitation, and once they can, they start making their own strings of words, then phrases, and sentences, and off they go! In the same way, composition is a delightful process of self expression, and ‘prepares the ground’ for a well rounded musician!

Here’s what I do in a nutshell—but if anyone wants a more detailed description, you may write to me.

Right from the start we sing all the Suzuki tunes, either just the notes, or with words if I have good ones, then we sing and hand sign them in sol-fa.

They get immersed in the Aesthetics of Music without even realizing it. When students are ready and show an interest, I encourage them to come up with their own simple melodies. We begin within the confines of a limited set of notes, determine where doh is, where sol is if it’s included, and sing the tune in sol-fa. I help them get a feeling about the format an open statement/closing answer, or question/response type phrase structure. We look for balanced melodies that are beautiful, have musical integrity, that say something they want to say. We also look at the Bk 1 tunes for open and closed phrases, learning about structure from them.

Once they are comfortable reading music, I teach them to notate, including the rhythm. Their composing skills grow organically, together with the other music from the Suzuki materials they are learning to sing and play. From the initial 4 or 8 measure phrase, the next step is to create a harmonically interesting theme, and follow that with some variations of their own, similar to what Suzuki did with Twinkle. After all, that this is how Mozart’s father helped develop his son’s composition skills.

This creative experience of the student (and in this case, I am including all of us as students, as we are constantly learning and growing!), in realizing that we can imagine new music, and have the ability to write it down, greatly enhances learning to play, as well as to understand and memorize the great pieces that we encounter in the Suzuki books, and all other works in our repertoire. It goes hand in hand with becoming musically literate, sophisticated and sensitive players.

Wendy Caron Zohar

If we work hard, music may save the world.—S. Suzuki

Kiyoko said: May 11, 2013
 95 posts

@ Pianica19: Can you find a local music college or university and talk to a faculty member there about nurturing the interest in composition? As she progresses into her teenage years, she may want to expand on the artistic composition of music more.

Wow, it’s fantastic to hear about all of these little composers and all of the recent interest in improvisation and fiddling. It would be nice to see a natural outgrowth of the SAA to formally develop specific programs or workshops in how to integrate and support these aspects from both the teaching and student ends.

Emily said: Sep 22, 2013
 59 posts

This is a great thread! I really like the ideas mentioned about transcribing the compositions and performing with other students. This could also be expanded to include other students and other instruments as well, adding cello, bass, piano, parts etc. to the composition.

As an addition to the scrapbook, it would be fantastic to include illustrations of her compositions!

Emily Christensen
Music Teacher & Writer

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