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5 easy ways to add composition to your summer piano lessons

Summer is the perfect time to try something new in your studio. My summer lessons are more laid back and I frequently create themes to keep my students engaged and excited about attending their lessons. If you've never tried composing with your students, now is the time! Here are 5 things you can do with just a few minutes of preparation.

1 - Compose in individual lessons with a common theme - Animals are always a popular choice, but the sky is the limit. Have your students bring in their favorite art work from school, a picture of their favorite dessert or a place they went on vacation. Dinosaurs are ALWAYS a good idea. Write music that "sounds like" or describes their subject of choice. Hold a little recital or post the recordings online to make it extra special.

2 - Get together for a summer composition party - Holding a composition masterclass is a great way to create a sense of community. Have your students pick a theme or choose one for them. If you have students who struggle to play dynamics, rhythm, or articulations accurately, composing can make a huge difference. Get out some dice or flip coins to make musical decisions. You might end up with some interesting sounds, but that's all part of the fun.

3 - Compose the soundtrack to a story - I do this every year with my students and they love it! Choose a short story or a favorite children's book and have your students write motives for the themes or events in the story. What does riding a bicycle or jumping into a pool sound like? What about fireworks or tiptoeing up a flight of stairs? This is a particularly great way to involve beginners and more experienced students in the same composition. Listen to the last soundtrack my students composed here.

4 - Write a musical chain letter - I teach online, so creating a tight knit community is a real challenge. I frequently send my students letters and it blows their minds when they get something addressed to them in the mail. Creating a musical chain letter is so easy! I write a measure or two of melody and then send it to the first student on my list. They write a few measures with me in their next lesson. I record it in MuseScore and then send it on to the next student. You can make this go around your studio as many times as you like. Parents LOVE this activity and the students get to know one another.

5 - If you have students who are brand new to composition or music lessons, take advantage of the pentatonic scale and compose on the black keys. The look of joy on their faces when they realize they can write something beautiful in just a few minutes is so worth the effort of notating in D-flat major! I like to record these sessions, because once they get started, they frequently go faster than I can write it down.

Good luck and happy composing!

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