Resource Roundup: Composition

It is time for a new resource roundup, and I am so excited about this one! This past summer I used Nicola Cantan’s “Fantastic Fiction Composing” project throughout my studio, and it was a huge hit among all ages! I generally weave in composition work throughout the year, but there is something exhilarating about the whole studio community being involved in something together 🙂

I have begun posting each student’s work on our studio facebook page along with the story behind the song. If you’re interested in keeping up with it, check us out here!

Because this project has me so excited, I think it’s only fitting to share some of my favorite composition resources with you today. I realize that composition is one of those musical elements that often gets pushed to the side. There never seems to be enough time. Some students are vehemently against the idea. And sometimes we even tell ourselves that it’s not worth the time.

So my goal today is to encourage you … Composition can be EASY. Composition can be INSPIRING. And composition is EXACTLY what your students need!

1. Because I have been deep in the trenches of the Fantastic Fiction Composing Project, we’ll start here 🙂

This resource has been fun, easily adjustable per the student’s level, and methodic but not restraining. Each of my students picked a book that they had read or were reading, and from there we used a character or scene from the book to create a song. Nicola does a fantastic job of walking the student through each element of composing a piece! Once my students took the time to give it a try, they found it was not nearly as intimidating as they imagined it would be! My students also did a fantastic job of using elements of the repertoire they are currently playing in their practice pieces, and I call this a huge success in creative reinforcement!

But by far my favorite part has been the reaction my adults had to this project. Every single one of them thought I was sending this out for the kids only. But I also happen to know that I have some avid readers among my adult students. And so I pushed a bit. Each adult gawked at me and didn’t quite know where to start. But I have been so proud of them! They all gave it a try and realized that they had a lot of fun doing it 🙂

You do have to submit your email, but Nicola will send it to you for free – you can check it out here 🙂

2. Moving onto one of the resources that has become a staple in my studio … TeachPianoToday’s Composition Story Books!

With very colorful and engaging artwork, Andrea and Trevor Dow take your student through a story where they must create motives in order for the hero to save the day. I love these and the seamless way my students are able to create and explore in a structured setting! They have 3 primer levels available on Amazon – Barnyard Brooke, James B. Daring, Penny Petticrew. You won’t want your students to miss this!

Because Andrea and Trevor are amazing, they also have a selection of free composition projects (just one song each) where you can check out their motive method. They’re at the bottom of this page, and have composing projects for all seasons!

3. The last resource I have to show you today dissolves the problem of stifled creativity. Joy Morin at has created piano prompts that are so fun to work with! These can be used as a quick activity in the lesson (usually improvisation) or to create a fun, written piece.

Her goals prompt the student to think through what they are composing in thoughtful and compelling ways! Click here to snag your printable PDFs today 🙂

If you are still getting your feet wet, she has provided some free pictures as inspirations cards to get you started as well:)

So why compose (especially with beginners)?

~ Students who compose early will be comfortable composing later.

~ Students who compose early will be comfortable with creativity and be more readily willing to try new skills!

~Students who compose early will be better note readers because they have also been forced to write notes.

~ Students who compose early will have a better understanding of the repertoire they are playing in general (think theory work without them even realizing it!).

Over the years composing has taken a very important place in my philosophy of teaching. In school it is understood that you will learn to both read and write. Knowing how to write gives a better understanding of the words a child reads. Why should music be any different? Learning to compose music helps students better understand what they are playing. Do you compose with your students? What are some resources you use often?


3 thoughts on “Resource Roundup: Composition

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