Berkeley CA, composing at piano lessons, El Cerrito CA, piano students as composers, piano teaching and composing, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, word press, word, wordpress,, you, yout tube,

A Piano Student Practices his own Musical Creation (Video)

Fritz rose to the occasion following a 90-minute lesson last week that was packed with theory-related “stuff,” channeled nicely into composing.

That he learned about “MAJOR SECONDS” through individual, creative self-expression, helped soften the impact of a lengthy piano exposure.

As promised, I videotaped the student’s recent lesson to show his follow-through practicing, and how his piece evolved and developed. (He had refined phrases along the way)


Composing opportunities foster learning and deepen an understanding of music theory without the dread associated with it. Interval study, for example, can be nicely wrapped into this activity.

Finally, the video below affirms the value of taking creative journeys with students that will grow their intellect and imagination along the way while keeping them coming back for more individualized enrichment.

Flashback LINK to Fritz’s 90 minute lesson:

Piano Students as Composers

Berkeley piano studio, composing at piano lessons, El Cerrito piano studio, piano students as composers, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, you tube video, you, yout tube,

What to do in a 90-minute piano lesson? ( A 9-yr. old meets the challenge) Videos

Fritz is a bundle of energy. He comes to his 45-minute lesson each week before soccer practice and has an additional roster of sports activities that keep him in tip- top shape.

Into his third year of piano study, his favorite pieces include: “Bear” by Rebikov, which requires a rotation of the Left Hand to accommodate broken octaves in staccato. Next, “Clowns” by Gillock and “Lion” from Saint-Saens, “Carnival of the Animals.” You can tell that his adrenaline rush is well-channeled.

This past week, sister, Lucy, was off on a field trip so younger sib had a chance to double his lesson, to his dismay. I commiserated.

But how could we fill the time so it would pass by quickly without constant clock watching?

COMPOSING popped into my head. Why not revisit an activity that we’d tabled for a while?

In fact, two years ago, Fritz proudly displayed his masterpiece “Finding Gold” that evolved from an assigned five-finger position, or pentascale.

This time, the springboard would be our exploration of Intervals–specifically Major 2nds, known as whole-step distances.

(P.S. The French Impressionistic composer, Debussy, used this tonal palette in many of his piano and orchestral works.)


Our Creative Process:

Through a series of guided steps, Fritz created an engaging piece, titled “Ripples of Water” which enlisted random note choices from the original five finger whole-step position, and INVERSION, in which intervals of the primary melody are played in reverse. (a compositional device used by J.S. Bach and other great composers)

Fritz also learned about shifting registrations (playing two octaves up, for example) and creating a flourish or “roll” over his five-whole tones. (Or Major 2nds)

Finally, the use of sustain pedal was intrinsic to this exploration since it created a submerged sound that enhanced the “watery effect.”

Assignment: During the week, Fritz will practice his piece and prepare it to record for You Tube–a realistic goal to meet.

Flashback to Fritz’s first composing experience: