Composing & Arranging

I like my students to write music.  By trying it themselves, they better appreciate the music they learn, understand more about the structure of music, usually learn some surprises about how to write music down, and realize why written music is just a skeleton needing interpretation and feeling.

It’s a tough assignment, asking them to write a tune.  I encourage it, but also leave it optional.  A few students take to it eagerly, and are often surprised when I help them make sure the music is written out properly.  Even if they’ve seen written music for years, this in itself is a great learning experience.  Does the time or the key signature come first?  Which is written once, and which on every line?  How do pickup notes and bar lines, and repeat marks, and first and second endings really work?  And what compromises are necessary to make the melody readable?   It’s always interesting to notice which musical ideas must be left to interpretation, and which can really be notated.

But most students feel writing a tune is out of their league.  So, occasionally, we write a tune together in class, to see how easy it can be, in its simplest form.  This takes a bit of finesse on the part of the teacher, but it’s fun for everyone.  Here’s how I do it, and a sample from one of my classes: [···]

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OH! The HOLIDAYS!

As teachers, we’re not the only ones with ever increasing lists of “To-Do’s”. With extra performances, programs and parties it can become overwhelming, can’t it? Our students and their families also have their busy holiday schedules, and, as most of you can agree, the focus can just go completely out the window! So, how do we keep the lessons productive and fun throughout these seasons? Whether it be Christmas and Hanukkah, birthdays, Ground Hog Day, or summer vacation, the list can go on and on! [···]

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