Composition Sessions for Students Part 2

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Composition Sessions for Students Part 2

The last blog focusing on how teachers can guide their students on how to compose their own pieces discussed basic composition elements and tips. It can be found here in case you didn’t get a chance to read it and are interested: Composition Sessions for Students Part 1. Now we will delve a little deeper into how to progress this essential component of music education that will help grow the next generation of musicians!


Incorporating this into your music lessons will definitely help boost your students’ creativity overall, and inspire them with potential ideas to use in their next composition. As with composing, set a few ground rules and limitations first. For example, you can instruct your student to only use notes from a certain scale, or to only use note values that they have learned so far. You may even want to play along with a simple accompaniment to ease them into improvising.

Moods and Stories

Asking your budding composer to first think of a topic and then frame the music to fit that idea will help give them a launching pad of sorts to develop melodic and rhythmic motives, novel harmonies, and unique combinations of expression markings. You might want them to first listen to fine examples of program music by past great composers, such as Mendelssohn, Liszt, Mahler, or Gershwin.

Various Compositional Techniques

Introduce the basic methods of reworking a simple musical idea: transposition, inversion, retrograde, retrograde inversion, imitation, augmentation, diminution, etc. It would be better for them to start with a simple four-measure phrase using the more basic permutations and then allowing them to experiment with combinations. With these tools at their disposal, the possibilities of variations is endless!

Sections and Form

Now set your students’ eyes on the bigger picture: the overall structure of their work. Show them several examples of songs and pieces that employ more common and familiar forms, such as a pop song that uses a verse-chorus-bridge structure or simple folk song that relies heavily on a strophic form. However, don’t forget to show them fine examples of classical music forms, such as Sonata Form. Be sure to point out the importance of having some unifying common element, such as a chord progression or rhythmic ostinato.

Teachers, just remember: prime your students’ creative juices through improv sessions, guide their musical ideas by having them brainstorm abstract ideas or stories, discuss various forms of composition techniques, and have them branch out to composing similar and different sections to create form in their works. Once your students start to grasp this level of composing, they will feel much more confident creating (and even showing off) their own unique pieces!


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