Monday, November 20, 2023

Composing and Improvising: Free Resources for December

December is such a perfect month to inspire imaginative creating and composing!

Free Piano Composing and Improvising Ideas for December, heidispianonotes, piano teaching

Piano students are eager to play their favorite Christmas songs and this provides a perfect springboard for ideas as they arrange, improvise or even compose music that creates the magical feelings of snowfall or Christmas wishes and giving. Which one will be your favorite?

Snowflake Composing?

Carol of the Bells or Full Circle Improv?

Jingle/Hymn Arranging?

Snowflakes Composing

Chrissy Ricker's Snowflake Composing Free Printable is an easy starter composing activity for beginning students to try with simple quarter half and whole note rhythms played in the pentascale of their choice.

Carol of the Bells Improv

A resource I recently discovered and can't wait to try with my students is Chrissy Ricker's free Carol of the Bells Elementary Improv activity. Almost every child I have taught is excited to play Carol of the Bells. My mind started spinning with variations of how this improv could be embellished to make it fun for intermediate students as well. 

By choosing Variation Cards Carol of the Bells can morph into many different moods. 

Carol of the Bells Intermediate Improv Possibilities

Lullaby of the Bells 

Transpose the pattern up 3 half steps to the relative major and create a slower tempo lullaby that starts with the intro but ends as you like.

Carol of the Pirates 

The strong pulsing minor melody "Carol of Bells" brought Pirates of the Caribbean to my mind. I've never seen the show but this energetic version by Jarrod Radnich is embedded in my mind and the simple Disney Faber arrangement makes this piece definitely more accessible for late beginner students. 

Student Challenge: Mix a few melodic ideas from the  "Pirates of the Caribbean" theme with a "Carol of the Bells" motif interlude to create your own "Carol of the Pirates" medley.

Carol Full of Scales

Use the elementary Carol of the Bells Improv worksheet as the framework for your own composition. 

First choose a left-hand pattern to mix with the treble intro in Step 1 (arpeggios, blocked octaves, broken octaves, bass roots, etc). 

Then improvise your own melodies over the left-hand bass harmonies. You could add racy pentascales with creative rhythms, flowing arpeggios or simple whole notes to create different moods.

Christmas Hymn Lead Sheet Arranging

Using the same steps as Count Your Blessings Arranging, students can choose a Christmas hymn to arrange or choose from the many Christmas Lead Sheets from Piano Song Download. Julie Lind's many leveled free Christmas arrangements of traditional pieces are worth checking out too!

Jingle Bells Arranging

Wendy Stevens and Leila Viss both shared the results of their studio Jingle Bells Variations Challenge. Watch the samples below to see the broad mix of student variations created from this well-known piece that could inspire you or your students to create variations of this or another favorite Christmas piece.

Create First Full Circle Improvisation

While the Full Circle Improvisation by Forrest Kinney isn't really tied to Christmas, the harmonies closely match The First Noel and create a peaceful feeling of tranquility that makes me imagine sitting by the sparkling lights of my Christmas tree watching the snowfall. 

More Resources for Composing and Improvising

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