Saturday, June 29, 2019

Composition Tips from Jordan Roper

Following are a few of my favorite composing tips for beginners given at a UVMTA workshop that I attended by composer Jordan Roper.
Memorable Melodies begin with an interesting kernel or motif that often repeats throughout the song or is manipulated in different ways intermixed with new material.
For example
Beethoven's Fifth  (melodic motif) "- - - __"
Star Wars - rhythmic motif  "short short short -Long"

3 Simple Steps to creating a Memorable Melodic Motif
1- Stepwise motion (run)
2 - Occasional leaps (m3 or bigger)
3 - Repeated Notes (least important)

Bradley Sowashes "Scaling the Chords" method is a greater starting point to help students experiment with creating motifs within a scale.

Often beginning composers tend to use too much repetition wearing out their audience with the same theme.  Look to other good compositions and compare the amount of repetition in their pieces for a rule of thumb.

Feedback on student compositions:
  • For a piece mainly centered around middle C: Increase the range higher than an octave.
  • For a repeated bass accompaniment: Invert the bass accompaniment interval for more variety. Analogy "apple pie tastes good but it can be even better when you throw in a bite of ice cream (change) every once and a while."
  • For a song containing only Primary chords: Add more chord flavors, sub out majors with minors.
  • For a song in ABA form: Change the 2nd A a little so it is ABA'

Explore Chord Functions:
I= Home
ii iv V or vii - "Get to " chords that lead to another chord
IV or ii - possible endings but never end on V or vi

Use a Thesaurus to help with naming pieces.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Two Dozen Piano Teaching Blogs That Have Transformed my Teaching

Two Dozen Piano Teaching Blogs that have Transformed my Teaching

Piano Teaching Blogs are Changing Music Education

Fifteen years ago I was drawn into the online world of piano teaching tips as I was searching for ideas on how to best introduce musical concepts to my first piano student... a 4 year old.  I was fortunate to land on the piano teaching home page of Martha Beth Lewis and I eagerly read page after page of "How To's" ranging from topics like technique for beginners (with m&ms and hot fudge) to how to teach feminine endings ("grannies").  The creativity and playfulness of her approach had me hooked and I eagerly perused all of the articles on her site.

Friday, June 14, 2019

What Happened at Prospective Student Piano Camp? Plus More Fun and Games

This week at piano camp the activities that students sampled were based on the 4 Arts of Music: Improvising, Reading, Arranging and Composing (see Forrest Kinney article)  This pedagogical framework in piano instruction enables students to become more expressive and creative at the piano as well as entrenching a solid understanding of the reasons behind the organization of the music they read on the page.

We started out with a simple improvisation duet on the black keys (key of F#) using the MusicClock app as a backtrack.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Piano Improvisation: Scale Practice and Composition with BenSound

Teaching Piano Improvisation with BenSound, piano student improvising with right hand

Recently I received  a tip from one of my piano students about a fun site with "backing tracks" in a variety of styles that provides the perfect backdrop for beginning pianists to improvise with.  Although BenSound isn't specifically designed for this purpose, the repetitive themes provide a nice background for the budding composer to "play around" on scales in a variety of keys while choosing a variety of themes and moods.