Thursday, November 1, 2018

Creative Keys Workshop with Leila Viss: Creativity

Creative Piano Teaching

“Creativity is recombining elements that already exist in a new way.” – Wendy Stevens
Piano lessons for me as a child followed the traditional format of playing from the printed page, receiving feedback, and practicing it again until I got it right.
Although my teachers gave me a solid foundation of chord knowledge, creativity was not an integral part of weekly lessons, and I developed some fear of just playing around without a written score.  But, bloggers like Leila Viss, Bradley Sowash and Tim Topham and Wendy Stevens have transformed my teaching and playing into a medley of creativity and classics.  I gained so much insight and inspiration after her session on creativity it was hard for me to shut down the creative juices flowing in mind so I could sleep that night!  
Following are my notes and inspiration from the Leila's session on Creativity.

1- Borrow Freely from the Page

Example: Student playing his own version of “Piano Man.”  Great musicians borrow from other great musicians.
Lesson Book Bash (including a youtube video demo)
·         Choose a favorite lesson book piece and have student create a new version.
·         Demonstrate and give suggestions for student to try, then let the student decide if they want to take it or leave it.
·         Think like the eye doctor “Do you like this better or worse?” “1 or 2?”
Example: Teaching Variations on Pumpkin Boogie (Faber 2B) (or any Lesson book piece of your student’s choice)
·         Double octaves of the bass line or stagger
·         Double rhythms – Change some quarters to 2 eighths
·         Break up Harmonic intervals to melodic
·         Add R.H. copycat of L.H. bass line
·         Change to Major – Easter Bunny Boogie!
·         Give students a creativity punch/stamp card (free on  They earn punches every time they make a creative variation on a piece and earn a prize when it is filled.
·         Apply these and other variation ideas to any Lesson book piece of your student’s choice after they have learned to play it confidently as written.  This takes away the fear of just starting to compose from scratch!
·         For some additional ideas for variations see my previous post on Theme and Variation Cards.
Example: Twinkle with a Twist (available for purchase in Leila’s store)
·         C, Bb Ab G Repeating Bass
·         Make the Melody Minor
·         Adams Family Style (weave a familiar song/theme into the piece)
·         Rock Bass  (repeating octaves Low C High C, end with V7 chord walkup)
Example: Sugar Plump Fairy
Students took a solo and added new layers to create a trio for 3 sisters to play

2- Choose a Theme and Teach in Groups
·         Crazy Hair Day and Recycled Rhythm Instruments Themed Group Lesson
·         Glowsticks Cup Dancing in the Dark (Cups wrapped with a glowstick bracelet at the bottom performing Compose Create Rhythm Cups )

·         Blues Jam session with a group including percussionist (Toe Tambourine – Bradley Sowash), piano, keyboard saxophone
·         Birthday Bash Group Lesson (see Harmonize Happy B-day handout) Chord stack on worksheet
o   Start in private lesson then perform and record variations in group lessons
o   Student picks correct root chords by ear to harmonize the melody
o   Choose “chord slides” inversions
o   Add Intro V7 arpeggios + trill (more ideas on Bradley Sowash Easy Introductions)
o   Add Ending – glissando down (more on Bradley Sowash Improvising Outros)
o   Cowboy, Waltz, Tango variations
Additional group themed lessons in my previous posts include:
·         Technique and Artistry
·         Valentine’s Composing
·         Theme and Variations
·         Practice Smarter not Harder
·         Theory Carnival
·         May Mash Up (Note Reading, Chords and Intervals)

3- Plan Creativity into Every Lesson
5 Finger pattern Groove with I Real Pro around the Circle of 5ths
·         Steady Beat
·         Differ Articulation
·         Groove Theory – Mix up the note order like Scaling the Chords by Bradley Sowash
·         Change up the  Rhythms
·         Red cups with a clear solo cup cover to modify (add # or b)
Four Chord Special – The Heart and Soul of Pop Music
·         Back Pocket Patterns I vi IV V (Four Chord song)
·         Rote Teach Heart and Soul playing as many patterns as you can
·         Add Melody just on CDE CDE CDE changeup
When in Doubt Pent-Out (Pentatonic Scale Improv)
·         Nickels worth of Notes 1 2 3 5 6 (Pentatonic scale)

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