Thursday, July 26, 2012

Student Compositions: Following Your Lead!

Do your students enjoy composing? Mine do! What steps do you take to help them learn to compose?

Yesterday in Ashlyn's lesson, we took some time to explore composition. Ashlyn, age 7, has had lessons for just under four months, and she has begun to read a few notes on the staff. I told her that we would be working together so that she could compose her very own piece of music, using the notes that she knows. Here is the process we followed, and the end result! Read on to take a glimpse into our composition session yesterday, which took only about 8 to 10 minutes of the 30-minute lesson.

M: Ashlyn, what would you like your piece to be about? A person, an animal, or a color?
A: Hmmmm.... it's hard to choose!
M: I'll help you narrow it down a little. Would you like to compose a piece about a color or an animal?
A: I'll choose an animal!
M: Do you have a favorite animal or a pet?
A: I have three dogs.
M: What kinds of things do your dogs like to do?
A: Well, one of them is old, so he doesn't do much, but the others like to jump, and they like to bark, and they howl too.
M: What do you think barking would sound like if you played it on the piano?
A: Like this maybe. (Experiments for a moment, then plays barking sounds, moving to a higher octave for each measure)
M: I like how you moved your hands higher to different octaves!
A: When I moved my hands higher, the dogs were jumping while they were barking!
M: That is a great idea, Ashlyn! What do you think howling would sound like if you played it on the piano?
A: (Experiments for a moment, then plays howling sounds, moving to lower octaves)
M: Wow, those were some really low howls! Let's put the piece together this way: Try playing the barking and jumping section first, then the growling section, then finish with the barking and jumping section!
A: (Plays eagerly, with dynamic contrast)
M: This is a really nice composition, Ashlyn! You did a wonderful job! What would you like to name it?
A: I'll call it "My Dogs".
M: After your lesson, I will enter a copy of "My Dogs" into a music software program and email it to your mom so you can add an illustration to it! I can't wait to see your drawing! (Jots down notation to enter into software program after lesson)

Please enjoy "My Dogs" by Ashlyn M., age 7!


  1. I enjoyed "sitting in" on your lesson. What software program do you use to print it out for your student?

  2. Thanks, Liz! It was a fun lesson :) I used MuseScore (from for this project because I was "checking it out" to see what it was like. It has a few limitations, but for a free download, it worked pretty well!