Over a period of three weeks, seven year old Fritz, who’d been taking piano lessons for about 7 months, composed a piece that he titled, “Finding Gold.”
The student has been using Faber Primer Piano Adventures, with my inserted modifications. He warmed up this past Monday with Lesson Book p. 24, C-D-E-F-G March transposed to A Major followed by A minor, in Parallel and then Contrary Motion. The consciousness of “minor” occurred way back at the very beginning of study when he played “Balloons” (floating notes) with a the black key Eb inserted. Ever since he has been playing Major and minor when any opportunity presents. (He is reading music proficiently for his level of study, and has reached p. 59 in the Lesson Book)
Fritz is a very imaginative child who was enthusiastic about creating his own music.
On 3/21 I asked him to compose a four-measure treble melody in C Position, in 4/4 time using any combination of quarter notes, half notes, dotted quarter notes, and whole notes.
He was then asked to play the second phrase in the PARALLEL minor.
(He is familiar with this vocabulary as it has been used redundantly when he plays his Primer pieces in Major followed by minor)
His melody was completed on 3/21 at his lesson, and I helped with notation.
As part of Fritz’s assignment for the following week, I asked him to compose a bass line, placing his hand in C position. He could use single notes, chords, ties, whatever he chose. (He was aware of the parallel minor in the second phrase)
3/28: Fritz played his piece with an added bass line, which I helped him notate on manuscript paper. He surprised me by ending his second phrase with a C MAJOR chord. For the following week I asked him to title his piece, add dynamics, words, and an illustration.
4/4/11: Fritz brought his composition with dynamics and words inserted.
He had also included an illustration. His words matched the emotional content of the music. The second phrase in minor had a sad lyric, but the final measure with the C Major Chord reflected the celebration of FINDING GOLD.
I made the connection to the great composers, such as Handel who carefully realized the text in his Messiah!
I like walking in the woods, It feels nice to me (first phrase)
Sometimes I feel lost and scared, but I find GOLD! (second phrase)
Fritz recorded his piece for You Tube on 4/4/11
Composing activities can be integrated into lessons periodically, and over the long term a student can produce a bound collection of pieces with accompanying illustrations if desired.
It’s not only a creative exploration but it advances knowledge of notation, form, and harmony. (A theory lesson is built into the activity)
Location: El Cerrito, California