Jump Start Your Creativity!

…with Mozart or Beethoven! At one time, using another artists idea to build a masterpiece was considered an homage, a great honor! (These days it’s called plagiarism!) So, we won’t need to take it straight off the page, but gleaning another artist’s great idea and using it as a springboard into improvisation or original composition, is something quite worthwhile.

I would like to share just a few improv/composition exercises that use previously written music as a starting place. Since I have discussed in my earlier articles more specifics on motifs, development and form, please refer back to Parts 1 and 2 of “Get It Going” if you haven’t previously had a chance to read them!

Theme & Variations

This is probably the most obvious place to start. I’d suggest to start by listening to some examples. Here are a few suggestions:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman” (K. 265 / K. 300e)

Ludwig van Beethoven, 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120

Max Reger, Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Mozart, Op.132

Make a simple lead line chart of a familiar tune (I like to use Twinkle, Jingle Bells and Jesus Loves Me, to name a few).

  • Write (or have the student) write out the melody line. You may choose to use just the starting note for the melody, and then only the lyrics.
  • Using the most basic chord choices (I, IV and V in the given key), play the melody, and let the student  [···]
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After last month’s article, are you still looking for:

  • A few ideas for a fresh new way to start off a lesson?
  • A few quick improv games to use in a group setting?
  • A reward activity for a student’s hard work on an assignment?
  • Starter ideas for the next composition:

In each part of this series, we are exploring a different angle in the music creativity process. So, today we are going to explore improvisation with an activity I call…

“Walking the Dog!”

Excuse Me? You may be wondering what exercising your pet has to do with improvisation techniques? I have found this to be one of the best and ways to help my students to understand and practice development of motifs and phrases. Most people can relate to having a new pet with fond recollection, and so you’ll immediately have their eager attention to try this exercise when you greet them with “Today we’re walking the dog!”

The Motif: A Mini Melody

I first ask the student to play a mini, or baby melody, 3 or 4 notes (recommend mostly steps and maybe one larger interval).  [···]

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