One of my favorite things about teaching brand new music students is that I get to help them get fired up about music. I had one of those experiences yesterday, and it was exciting.
I started teaching my niece piano lessons a few months ago, and she's progressed very quickly through it. However, like all brand new music learners, she doesn't know what she doesn't know. She hasn't experienced the thrill of a successful performance yet. She hasn't felt the pride and sense of accomplishment that comes from learning to play a piece that takes weeks or months to prepare. She doesn't fully know the life-giving and satisfying effects that music has on its performers. And how could she? She hasn't lived it yet.
Yesterday, though, after I told her that we are going to write a song and perform it together for her first Recital Soiree, I saw the excitement emerge from within her, as if she had witnessed a glimpse of that satisfaction to come.
Guided music composition is a beautiful tool that should be used more often than it is by music educators! Here's 3 reasons why your student should write music, and 3 bits of advice to ensure that they get the most out of it that they can.
3 Reasons why your student should write music.
1) Creating is the Highest Level of Learning.
Bloom's Taxonomy, every educator's go-to model of learning domains, states that there are six, tiered levels of learning that can occur in a student: Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating. In each new level, the student's grasp of a concept has to increase. You can't analyze a concept without being able to apply it, you can't evaluate that concept without being able to analyze it, and so on.
Composition is a process that exists in the Creating domain of learning, which will help your student internalize musical concepts at the highest level possible.
2) Composition puts the student's thumbprint on music.
Music is art, and art would not exist without the presence of both skill and imagination. Many students who are involved in music education only ever focus on the "skill" aspect, and they never learn to use their imagination.
When students learn to compose, they are given the tools and ability to to express themselves in a whole new way. What a gift!
3) The thrill of experiencing your own music performed.
There are few musical accomplishments more fulfilling and educational than performing a musical composition that you wrote from the ground up. For several years now, I've incorporated guided musical composition in my music lessons, and often, students will have opportunities to perform them at Recital Soirees.
So I know, first hand, when I say this: Parents, if you want your kid to love performing music, get them in to a situation where they can successfully perform music that they had a part in writing!
3 Ways to help them get the most out of composing.
1) Find a teacher who uses composition in their teaching.
Some teachers either don't acknowledge the value of using composition as a teaching strategy, or they don't have the expertise needed to implement it in to their curriculum.
Either way, it's a red flag.
Music is a dimly lit world for new students, and they need experienced musicians with flashlights to help guide them forward. So, especially in their formative years, students need to be exposed to as many different sides of music as possible.
So, get your students under the direction of highly qualified, professional teachers who will use composition as a tool for helping your student grow musically.
2) GUIDE THEM BY PROVIDING FREEDOM WITHIN BOUNDARIES.
More often than not, the amount of compositional options that a student has will actually be detrimental to their creativity, so I've found that students actually feel more unencumbered when I set up limitations to their options. Deciding some things for them, such as range of notes, form, tempo, or key will help them express themselves more successfully than if they had no parameters.
3) inspire them to take the first step.
The hardest step to take in musical composition is the first step. Once we start, then the ball is rolling, and we make decisions based on the momentum we've already established. Luckily, there are strategies and approaches to help us take that first step. Here are a few that have worked well for me and my students:
- Improvise the melody. Rather than planning what you're going to write, sometimes it can be effective to throw ideas against a wall and see what sticks. When you hear the right melody, you'll know.
- Start with a sentence or idea, then turn it in to a song. This gives you a clear direction that will inform every compositional decision you make.
- Modify an existing song. All great composers have been inspired by other great composers. Take something that already exists and change it until it is your own!
All music students have the capacity to write music, but few actually do. Maybe they needed inspiration to know where to start, or maybe they needed a teacher who could guide them through it. Composing solidifies a student's understanding of music on the highest level, and it offers a unique satisfaction when the composer experiences their music performed. The expert musicians at Vibe Music Academy recognize the value of musical composition and incorporate it in to their teaching from the start. Sign up for a free lesson, today!
- John Gotsis, Owner and Music Instructor at Vibe Music Academy, Hamilton County, Indiana