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#950419 - 11/14/08 06:22 PM Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Frances M Offline
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Is it common for piano teachers to teach elements of composing? And if so, at what student age? And how is it taught? Do some teachers specialize in this?

I've been thinking about how best to support my daughter's interest. She's been taking piano lessons for 3 years. She rarely practices her assingnments for longer than 10 or 15 min per day. (She is quick to memorize and has a great ear, so the lack of practicing has not hurt her as much as it might have otherwise.)

But she plays her own compositions, improvises, and plays pop songs by ear, often for an hour or more per day. She is able to play any melody by ear without hunting around for the right notes, and she usually makes up the harmony as well. For what it's worth, she also has perfect (absolute) pitch.

She often comes home from school with a piece of scrap paper on which she wrote the notes of a piece that she made up (without a piano to try it out on), with both melody and harmony already worked out. But "worked out" is not the way to say it. I want to say "visualized", but that's not right either. The thing is, she heard the whole thing in her mind, sketched it on paper, and then came home and played it. Of course, she also often comes up with fragments, that she plays around with, and occasionally adds to.

So I've seen the blossoming of her creativity, and I want to support it. That may mean doing nothing. Or it may mean finding an additional teacher to supplement what her regular teacher does. Or? Is there anything else I can do?

Thanks,
Frances

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#950420 - 11/14/08 09:07 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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I see no problem in teaching composition to young kids, expecially if they have interest in composition and already shown a predispotion to the creation of their own music. I also don't think, from experience, that composition is so much more complex that standard piano concepts kids are already asked to learn and memorize.

There are already young kids there composing.
Ariel Lanyi and Kit Armstrong come to mind as, younger than 10 year old composers with a thorough knowledge in harmony and orchestration.

#950421 - 11/14/08 09:11 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Gary D. Online content
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I don't see why not, if the child is ready.

I do think a child who is ready so early may be a bit unusual. I would like to hear from teachers who have personal experience doing this.

My concern would be much the same as with older people. I would want them to have enough skills developed, enough "fluency", to be able to turn to themselves for ideas. I began to compose when I was older, and I wish now that someone had started me earlier. I think I was ready.


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#950422 - 11/14/08 10:03 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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have you considered taking her to a conservatory? you will find many kids like her at one.

#950423 - 11/14/08 11:08 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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I teach all my students to compose. For those who aren't yet good at reading music, I work more on improvisation with them. Currently, I have my beginner students composing a canon. The older/more experienced students are working on a theme and variations. If her piano teacher is not qualified to help her with this, then find a teacher who can (as a supplement to her regular piano lessons). Chances are, the teacher just doesn't have an idea that she is doing this.


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#950424 - 11/14/08 11:09 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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The question would be "How would you teach composition to an 8 year old?" without hurting a childs creativity.

It sounds to me that it certainly would not hurt to find the right teacher that would help nurture your daughter's gift.

I do have some mixed feelings when it comes to "learning" composition. If she is already composing, well then, what more do you want? Especially at this age? Are her compositions not written down correctly and that is what you would like her to learn to do? Just curious.

If this is the case, can't her piano teacher help her with this? Have you asked her piano teacher what he/she thinks?


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#950425 - 11/14/08 11:16 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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quiescen Offline
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Absolutely! Although I primarily teach adults how to improvise and compose, I see no reason why children can't pen their own melodies.

The trick is to work with them and their own natural talents. I actually have a few videos on YouTube that shows how to compose an 8-bar phrase and how to compose a theme & variations. You can find these at http://www.youtube.com/user/quiescencemusic

---------------------------
Play New Age Piano
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Edward Weiss
Quiescence Music
http://www.quiescencemusic.com
#950426 - 11/14/08 11:29 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Kimold:
you daughter sounds exactly like my 9 y.o son, and i am so glad i enrolled him at a music conservatory two years ago....
Kimold,

You started three threads here this year to discuss your son and your frustrations in dealing with his musical talent—including choosing a suitable teacher. Nowhere did you mention that he was already studying at a conservatory.

A lot of people spent time and energy giving you counseling and advice. Some of us were skeptical at the way you dodged specific questions that were put to you and wondered whether your concerns were genuine or if you were just seeking attention as the boastful parent of a gifted "musical prodigy" child with an "artistic temperament" whose lack of discipline was "driving you crazy." Then you disappeared.

And you're back again with a different story with respect to one highly significant detail. What are people supposed to think now?

Steven

#950427 - 11/15/08 03:15 AM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Bring on the young composers of tomorrow, I say! smile

#950428 - 11/15/08 03:27 AM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Frances -

Not all piano teachers can teach composition. If your current teacher has done all he or she can, it'll be worth it to find a dedicated composition teacher. Expect a teacher to impart basics of notation, theory, forms (such as ABA form, rondo form, rudiments of sonata form), types of compositions (various dances, etc.), and shorthand. If your current teacher cannot do this, definitely find a dedicated composition teacher.

I've never taken composition because I'm terrible at it, but if I were hunting for a composition teacher, I'd look for someone who could turn a critical eye to the work, teach harmony from the ground up, teach figured bass and chord analysis, style, history, and advanced forms.

Best of luck!

Gary -

I currently have a 10 year old student who likes to make up songs. I've taken what she's imagined, and helped her shape it into three pieces she can be proud of. I don't see why young kids should stay away from composition. It's only a short way from taking dictation to improve note recognition, to dictating melodies, to dictating melodies that the student makes up himself. If only my teachers had time to devote to composition, when I was young!


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#950429 - 11/15/08 03:37 AM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Minaku:
Gary -

I currently have a 10 year old student who likes to make up songs. I've taken what she's imagined, and helped her shape it into three pieces she can be proud of. I don't see why young kids should stay away from composition. It's only a short way from taking dictation to improve note recognition, to dictating melodies, to dictating melodies that the student makes up himself. If only my teachers had time to devote to composition, when I was young!
My only problem is that I had a student a year ago who wanted to write his own music, but I got an avalanche of questions about how to do it that ended up turning our classes into ONLY composing.

I actually enjoyed it, but he was missing a lot of structure that I wanted him to have, and then he stopped because of "no time". He was another person who had to put so much of his energy into keep a high grade point average that he had no time left, which again is why I dislike our American school system so much.


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#950430 - 11/15/08 03:48 AM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Gary D.:
My only problem is that I had a student a year ago who wanted to write his own music, but I got an avalanche of questions about how to do it that ended up turning our classes into ONLY composing.
That's why if you can afford it get a dedicated composition teacher.


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#950431 - 11/15/08 04:11 AM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Minaku:
Frances -

Not all piano teachers can teach composition. If your current teacher has done all he or she can, it'll be worth it to find a dedicated composition teacher. Expect a teacher to impart basics of notation, theory, forms (such as ABA form, rondo form, rudiments of sonata form), types of compositions (various dances, etc.), and shorthand. If your current teacher cannot do this, definitely find a dedicated composition teacher.

Minaku,

I assume the eight year old would have to have an analytic and mature mind to be able to enjoy this type of instruction and she indeed may have, I think Francis (the mom) would be able to say.

But for most 8 year olds that are composing on their own, they may find this type of instruction a turn-off to composing, although it could be applied, but it would have to be done in a creative way, to not stifle their natural abilities.

I'm saying this as a "sounding board" for myself on how I would like to teach composition.


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#950432 - 11/15/08 05:53 AM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Danny Niklas Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by pianobuff:
The question would be "How would you teach composition to an 8 year old?" without hurting a childs creativity.

It sounds to me that it certainly would not hurt to find the right teacher that would help nurture your daughter's gift.

I do have some mixed feelings when it comes to "learning" composition. If she is already composing, well then, what more do you want? Especially at this age? Are her compositions not written down correctly and that is what you would like her to learn to do? Just curious.


In the conservatory, composing students of every age, have from time to time lamented the fact that their teachers, instead of teaching them the tools to compose what they already have in their mind, attempt to teach them "what" to compose, with not so subtle preferences toward certain sounds and styles.

But there's no reason for composition to hurt or limit someone creativity. You should not be learning "what" to compose, but how to better "express" what have you already "composed" in your mind.

In other words it's like providing a writing program and a printer to a kid who loves to write stories. You're leaving his personal creativity untouched, just giving him the tools to concretize it.

#950433 - 11/15/08 09:25 AM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Funny, I feel like the older version of your son (only I am girl wink ) ... Lately I have found myself improving a lot with chord progressions and melodies in the right, I would play around with certain themes and make variations then add ornaments.

I love doing it but I am trying to hold off it as I find myself spending 1.5 hours at the piano just improvising ... that will be all my practice time gone frown .

Sometimes I will scribble down my themes and variations ...

I am trying to concerntrate but I always have the tendency to improvise it's so distracting!

#950434 - 11/15/08 10:44 AM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Gary,
That's when you ask for more time in lessons so you can help the student with both piano and composition. Then you can dedicate the last 15 minutes or half hour to just composition.

pianobuff,
You are correct in that the teacher will have to know how to teach composition in a way that will continue to make it fun while encouraging the student to progress. Sometimes taking lessons from a composition teacher can be too serious, but really it all depends on the teacher.

Rebekah,
Your mind is screaming for this freedom probably because of the stress you've been under for the upcoming (?) exam. Try recording yourself as you improvise, and then you can come back later when you have more time to write down the good ideas. smile


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#950435 - 11/15/08 12:39 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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I would not do anything. It sounds like
she's doing just fine on her own right now.
In any case, it would be difficult to
find a composition teacher. You might
have to go to a university instructor,
and such a teacher would in all likelihood
teach her in the most unimaginative,
academic fashion, which would take all
the fun out of composing and quickly
destroy her talent. She doesn't practice
her piano lesson assignments much now--
doesn't need to with the kind of musical gifts
she has. Do you suppose she'll spend hrs.
doing boring composition drills assigned
by a composition instructor?

#950436 - 11/15/08 01:51 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Gyro, as I said yonger kids who compose or study composition exist. Some of them have even their music for sale. So this means that piano teachers who also teach composition do exist. In fact a previous teacher of mine had a degree in both piano and composition and had a creative and fun approach to both, not just with younger children, but everyone. His theory was that you can't learn art without having fun in the process. Yes, working hard but with fun and joy.

#950437 - 11/15/08 02:00 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Gyro Offline
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Also, there is the danger with a teacher
who takes on a largely self-taught prodigy,
that the very first thing he'll do is
to put the student in his place--give him
an inferiority complex right off the bat so
he'll know who's boss--by saying that
his stuff is childish, and unschooled,
and not up to accepted academic standards.
This can create an inferiority complex
in the student from which he never
recovers. This is how so many prodigies
are destroyed by teachers.

#950438 - 11/15/08 02:32 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Back in the dark ages when I was nine, my first teacher used the Pace method. Composition was an essential element. Composition seems like a sensible extension of theory. Why not?

#950439 - 11/15/08 03:22 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Gary D. Online content
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Quote
Originally posted by Morodiene:
Gary,
That's when you ask for more time in lessons so you can help the student with both piano and composition. Then you can dedicate the last 15 minutes or half hour to just composition.
Just 15 minutes? I wouldn't know where to START with so little time. frown


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#950440 - 11/15/08 04:07 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Danny Niklas Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by Gyro:
Also, there is the danger with a teacher
who takes on a largely self-taught prodigy,
that the very first thing he'll do is
to put the student in his place--give him
an inferiority complex right off the bat so
he'll know who's boss--by saying that
his stuff is childish, and unschooled,
and not up to accepted academic standards.
This can create an inferiority complex
in the student from which he never
recovers. This is how so many prodigies
are destroyed by teachers.
This would be very improper.
Composition means the set of tool required to compose: harmony, orchestration, counterpoint.
It doesn't mean teaching what to compose.
Theorically a composition teacher shouldn't even know what the composer student has been composing on his own, and is not entitled to judge it.
Accademical composition classes where you are taught very little harmony and are stiilistically forced into avant-garde (a very unproper teacher behavior) are not the standards. There are many ways to learn compositions. In most composition courses the irrelevant concept of "accademic standards" is not even mentioned. You're simply taught your harmony and your counterpoint. In a musicians associations I know, there are composition course for pop music and cinema soundtracks and many young people who attend them.
There are pop musicians out there who have composition knowledge, which they use in the creation of their own music, but almost none of them had to pass through the limited path of classical/avant-garde accademic composition. I know even an accademy that offers accelerated courses. Last time I checked the composers taught for 5 years were not any worse than those taught for 10 years. Besides the former, were less inhibited in their composition choices and future career as music-makers.

#950441 - 11/15/08 04:12 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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quiescen Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by Morodiene:
I teach all my students to compose. For those who aren't yet good at reading music, I work more on improvisation with them. Currently, I have my beginner students composing a canon. The older/more experienced students are working on a theme and variations. If her piano teacher is not qualified to help her with this, then find a teacher who can (as a supplement to her regular piano lessons). Chances are, the teacher just doesn't have an idea that she is doing this.
Hi Morodiene,

I like your method. I ALWAYS put improvisation ahead of composition. Why? Because unless a student can freely move ahead and express themselves spontaneously, how can they move forward past even the first 8-bars of a composition?

-----------------------------
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http://www.quiescencemusic.com


Edward Weiss
Quiescence Music
http://www.quiescencemusic.com
#950442 - 11/15/08 04:30 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Frances M - You asked:

Quote
Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?
Then you asked:

Quote
Is it common for piano teachers to teach elements of composing? And if so, at what student age? And how is it taught? Do some teachers specialize in this?
I don't know if you've found the answer you've been looking for, but by age 8, Mozart was already composing serious music at an upper intermediate, lower advanced technical level. And had composed a good quantity to boot, which we're still playing!!!

So my answer would be, if you're willing to devote the resources to your child, increase the number of lessons per week, and definitely, as others have already suggested, find a teacher who can teach compositional theory and help your child funnel the creative juices to something productive.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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#950443 - 11/15/08 04:30 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Morodiene Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by Gary D.:
Quote
Originally posted by Morodiene:
Gary,
That's when you ask for more time in lessons so you can help the student with both piano and composition. Then you can dedicate the last 15 minutes or half hour to just composition.
Just 15 minutes? I wouldn't know where to START with so little time. frown
I am the master of efficiency! I get composition in along with the regular piano lesson usually in 30 minutes. laugh Of course, I can't spend too much time on it, and the rest depends on the student to take the time during the week. But that's the case for anything, isn't it?


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#950444 - 11/15/08 04:34 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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I've always tried to teach my students composition, but lacking the skills myself, I didn't know how to proceed. I would just give them a piece of manuscript paper and let them write notes. As they got older, we would add bar lines, chords, etc. Then, We would start with a chord progression and make a melody around that. Usually, I would not get very far because I didn't feel comfortable writing myself, but I knew it was important for kids to develop so they wouldn't end up like me--Totally tied to notes. Thanks for this thread, I think it might help me in the future. I've only got a couple students at the moment.


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#950445 - 11/15/08 06:17 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Morodiene:
Quote
Originally posted by Gary D.:
[b]
Quote
Originally posted by Morodiene:
Gary,
That's when you ask for more time in lessons so you can help the student with both piano and composition. Then you can dedicate the last 15 minutes or half hour to just composition.
Just 15 minutes? I wouldn't know where to START with so little time. frown
I am the master of efficiency! I get composition in along with the regular piano lesson usually in 30 minutes. laugh Of course, I can't spend too much time on it, and the rest depends on the student to take the time during the week. But that's the case for anything, isn't it? [/b]
I agree with you Gary. To seriously teach composition and to make some headway it does take longer than 15-30 minutes. But you can touch on it.

I try and spend 15 minutes either using a line of rhythm where my students compose a 4 measure phrase using that specific rhythm that they pick, I also give them guidelnes such as what key, what notes they can start on, what note they should end on. Now this is for students that do not compose on their own, or they do compose on their own but not very well. I also have my students improvise using chord progressions that they are learning. Again, we only touch on this since time is limited.

It takes more time when you have a gifted student that does compose on their own and you are trying to teach form, imo; or a student that is interested in composition and you want to take them further than what you touched on in that 15-minutes of lesson time. Those students really need an hour a week lesson in composition.


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#950446 - 11/15/08 08:04 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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I would rather spend some time, whatever time I could (and whatever time the parent could afford) on teaching composition within the piano lesson than not touch on it at all. A student, especially a girl (edited to add: because we are so often playing music written by men), whose teacher never shows any interest in her ability to compose will assume that sort of thing isn't welcome, that she's not good enough, etc. This is my personal experience. I spend what time I can during the lesson on composition with every student, and we have longer periods during the monthly group lesson where I can assist students as they progress.

I am not talking about "seriously" teaching composition. If it were something that the student was really serious about, then we'd sign them up for composition lessons. However, I think all students can benefit from learning some compositional principles, and so I address it with all my students with what time is available.

Many of us play composed music, and yet who does the composing? We leave the art to a select few, rather than encourage it in all students. I'm sure many teachers would be surprised to find out which students of theirs are out there working with bands or doing open mics of their original works. Why wouldn't their piano teachers know about this? Because the student didn't feel it was legitimate enough for their teacher. It is sad, but true.


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#950447 - 11/15/08 09:48 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Horowitzian Offline
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Horowitzian  Offline
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I'm not a teacher, but I personally love composing and think that everyone ought to have some exposure to it.

The only thing I'd keep in mind about composition for an 8 year old is that formal composition plus piano might be a little much to have on one's plate at that time of life. IMHO, it would be better to reinforce a child's theory by rigorous work with scales, arpeggios, and basic harmony at the piano. That's what gave me the basic foundation I needed to begin composing. Now I study works of the masters to analyze form and harmony. That has helped me to move my composing to a higher plane.


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#950448 - 11/15/08 11:45 PM Re: Can (or should) composition be taught to an 8-yr old?  
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Journee Oubliee Offline
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Journee Oubliee  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2008
Posts: 556
Orlando
Quote
Originally posted by Frances M:
Is it common for piano teachers to teach elements of composing? And if so, at what student age? And how is it taught? Do some teachers specialize in this?

I've been thinking about how best to support my daughter's interest. She's been taking piano lessons for 3 years. She rarely practices her assingnments for longer than 10 or 15 min per day. (She is quick to memorize and has a great ear, so the lack of practicing has not hurt her as much as it might have otherwise.)

But she plays her own compositions, improvises, and plays pop songs by ear, often for an hour or more per day. She is able to play any melody by ear without hunting around for the right notes, and she usually makes up the harmony as well. For what it's worth, she also has perfect (absolute) pitch.

She often comes home from school with a piece of scrap paper on which she wrote the notes of a piece that she made up (without a piano to try it out on), with both melody and harmony already worked out. But "worked out" is not the way to say it. I want to say "visualized", but that's not right either. The thing is, she heard the whole thing in her mind, sketched it on paper, and then came home and played it. Of course, she also often comes up with fragments, that she plays around with, and occasionally adds to.

So I've seen the blossoming of her creativity, and I want to support it. That may mean doing nothing. Or it may mean finding an additional teacher to supplement what her regular teacher does. Or? Is there anything else I can do?

Thanks,
Frances
Frances, I read your comment and I could not help but to tell that you should definitely encourage her interest, or at least I see it as her natural interest in composition. I was not blessed with perfect pitch from birth, but I also had an increasing passion to compose the more I learned piano. It turns out I dropped piano lessions just to receive composition lessons. If your daughter does drop piano lessons, there is no indication that her piano playing abilities will actually perish. Sometimes, as I consider in my case, those abilities do not just disappear, they actually grow pretty fast from there because the love for composition will make one write music that one him/herself will practice. Composers are well aware of what they write and their musical abilities are usually up to par with their compositional talents. I strongly recommend that your child be given composition lessons as a whole separate class, given that she wants to continue piano as well. I remember taking 1 hour for piano, and then 1 hour of composition, but the piano didnt interest me much so I dropped it. Your child could have that same feeling where she's thinking why play others' music when I can compose and play my own. I personally had this passion for it that it was an obssession and I ended up using all available scores in sight as basic guides for what I wanted to do. I am really happy for you and I hope your child progresses beyond your dreams.

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