Resource Site for Improv and Composition

Photo courtesy of Dave Hogg on Flickr

Do you have students who perform regularly with a worship band or in a traditional service at their church?  Since many of the skills required for church playing (lead sheets, improv, modulations, etc.) fall outside of the “traditional” piano curriculum, it can be difficult to find curriculum and resources to use with students.  I’m always excited and grateful to find web resources that help fill … Continue reading

This is Your Brain… on Music! (Part 2)

This is Your Brain Logo

I promised last week when I posted my new studio incentive program for the coming school year that I’d share more about the resources that I’m using for all of the different elements on our syllabus this year.    Here’s a look at some of the things we’ll be doing to get our brains hooked on music!   General Syllabus Objectives Both this year’s “This is … Continue reading

Review: Spirit of ’76 (A Patriotic March for Solo Piano)

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Happy (early) 4th of July to all of my American colleagues!    I’m happy to admit that I started my holiday celebrations a bit early this year – I spent the past weekend enjoying family, tasty BBQ and fresh watermelon.   I also had the opportunity to play through a delightful new patriotic solo by composer Betty Lea Martocchio that’s hot off the presses and perfect for … Continue reading

DIY Sheet Music

Compositions from earlier this spring.  The piece on the right was inspired by one of the fantastic composition project sheets on Susan Paradis' site.

Has anyone met a piano student who doesn’t LOVE sheet music?   There’s something especially exciting and motivating about the stuff.  My students love to play it… and some of them also love to MAKE it. During summer lessons, I make an extra effort to encourage creative projects in my studio.  Many students opt to compose a piece or two (or three…).  Once they’re satisfied … Continue reading

Christmas & Winter Composition Starters

Reader Bethany Ostler wrote to me this week and gave me permission to share this fun winter-themed composing worksheet she created: Students can choose an idea from the sheet and use the lyrics given to create the first line of a composition, then add several more lines of their own.   Some students might also choose to use the ideas as an inspiration for a … Continue reading

Writing by Hand Makes You Smarter…

Many of my elementary students are bringing in first drafts of their Halloween compositions to their lessons this week, which has been a breath of fresh air for me!  I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how competent many are becoming at writing on the staff, and also at how creative they’ve been about adding “sound effects” like pedal and 8va markings, dynamics and articulations to make … Continue reading

Halloween Composing Ideas

This week is the first group week of the new school year in my studio!  I’m really excited to be starting group lessons again – they’re always my favorite part of each month.   I’ve been busy working on some new activities, which means I’ll have LOTS of new things to post over the next week or two (to make up for all the posting … Continue reading

Composing Sheets

One of my goals for this summer’s lessons is to have my students do more composing.     There was a really interesting article on the ComposeCreate blog last month that inspired me to incorporate more writing into my lessons.   In a nutshell, the author suggested that writing music is great training for reading music – especially for students who struggle with notereading.   … Continue reading

Harmonization Worksheets

As a follow-up to the Connect-A-Chord game I used at my April group classes, I whipped up several short melody harmonization worksheets.    I’m planning to do more composing and improv with students over the summer, and these make a great “warm-up” activity to get us thinking that way again. The Connect-A-Chord game challenged students to think of all the possible triads that could go … Continue reading

12 Days of Halloween: Rhythm & Composing Activity

It’s group week in my studio this week, which meant it was a perfect week to work on some Halloween-themed activities.   I always use group lessons as an opportunity for students to perform for each other, then spend extensive time on rhythm, listening and theory for the rest of the hour.  Here’s what we’re doing this week: I found some fantastic re-written lyrics to the … Continue reading