During piano lessons at EN Music Studio, I often incorporate composition/notation exercises for my students. While playing the piano is the skill of interpreting the music, composition is the skill of creating the music. Playing the piano can be compared to reading a story, while composing can be compared to writing the story. Just like someone who wants to learn English, the three most important aspects are speaking, writing, and listening. I believe that these 3 concepts apply directly to learning music as well. Therefore, composition is an important part of piano lessons!
What’s So Important About Composition?
When composing, students must actively think about the language of music. Having come up with a melodic idea, the student has to come up with how to notate this idea on a 5-line staff. By doing this, the student will gain a further understanding of how the notes they see on the page, relate the keys on the piano.
Similarly, students will learn the the basics of rhythm by composing. How many beats fit in a bar in 4/4 time? Can we have 3 quarter notes and 2 half notes? This is a crucial concept to understand to become a better piano player. While melody is important, the entire structure of the piece is based on rhythm. Audience members will notice errors in rhythm more than errors in melody.
Students will also get a chance to use musical terms that we encounter during our playing exercises. Where do we put a fermata in? How can we add an accidental? By writing down the notations, it further helps enforce their knowledge of these musical terms.
How is Composition taught at EN Music Studio?
Composition is taught by giving as much freedom as possible to the student composer. It’s important to let them explore. It is important to let them decide what they think sounds good, and decide what sounds they want to create. My role as a teacher is to give them basic (appropriate to their level) guidelines. An example of a guideline would be assigning the key that the piece is in. By giving the student a key to work within, the project of composition becomes less overwhelming.
It is also my role to guide them when they are stuck, or having trouble expressing an idea. Although there is lots of freedom in composition, it is important to give constructive feedback keep the students on a productive path. For example, sometimes students compose pieces that are impossible for the piano to play! These are limitations that students will bump into and learn as they explore.
Student compositions not only help build a larger and stronger music vocabulary, it also help the students establish that they themselves are growing musicians rather than a student.
Check out EN Music Studio’s instagram page for student compositions and other fun pics. There will be a composition event in February for all students!