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#1253526 - 08/21/09 04:25 PM When to start studying composing?
MA Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/27/06
Posts: 302
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area
My son probably has some talent in composing. Last semester, he "composed" a little melodic tune on the piano in a practice room. Then he played it to his sister and asked her to play it while adding harmony/chords himself. I was amazed but soon forgot about it.

After a couple of months of summer break from the piano, he has resumed his piano lesson. A few days ago, he played another "composition" in D minor, which sounded like a chord progression. There is a beautiful melody within the progression, and he played it with such a phrasing and articulation that it sounded just wonderful.

He is 6 years old and has studied piano for almost a year. His piano lesson is 1 hour long but usually goes 15+ minutes over. He is finishing up a 3-movement sonatina, and has started a Bach invention, a waltz by a Russian composer, and a modern rhythmic/jazzy piece. He will get a Chopin piece next. He reads music well and can sight-read some early advanced pieces HS.

I wonder whether I should let him formally study composing with a composer/teacher. His piano teacher thinks that it might be a good idea but warns that too much theory too early might limit his imagination and creativity. I can wait and let him explore on his own for now. Which way should I go?

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#1253535 - 08/21/09 04:32 PM Re: When to start studying composing? [Re: MA]
AZNpiano Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 6169
Loc: Orange County, CA
Never too early to start composition lessons! All kids should be encouraged to compose music.

It's always interesting to write stuff down now, and then go back to those pieces later on, once the theory is learned.
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

#1253625 - 08/21/09 07:14 PM Re: When to start studying composing? [Re: AZNpiano]
dumdumdiddle Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1269
Loc: California
I see you live in California. Is your teacher a member of MTAC? There are two programs his teacher should definitely check out: Composer's Today and Improvisation. There's a syllabus for each with leveled activities and assignments. Here's the link to their website: http://mtac.org/

I would encourage perhaps improvisation first (creating pieces without notating them), but I have even my youngest students (4's and 5's) do simple melodic composition. Then we add chords, etc... It sounds like your child is creating music at a level beyond his theory knowledge.
Music School Owner
Early Childhood Music Teacher/Group Piano Teacher/Private Piano Teacher
Member of MTAC and Guild

#1253705 - 08/21/09 08:53 PM Re: When to start studying composing? [Re: dumdumdiddle]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4930
Loc: South Florida
Most important, if possible:

Make sure his creations get notated so that there is both a record of what he has done and a means to return to things later. When students show this kind of interest in lessons, I immediately begin showing them how to get it down in notation. That means a lot of help in the beginning, but it is worth it.
Piano Teacher

#1254157 - 08/22/09 05:20 PM Re: When to start studying composing? [Re: Gary D.]
MrsCamels Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/18/09
Posts: 178
Loc: Los Angeles
I agree with Gary D. notation is huge when it comes to composing. I begin composing with my students immediately. Notating what you've written tends to be more difficult than creating it. So, as you're looking for what's next for your son, make sure he's notating.
Teaching since 2004
Private studio owner since 2008

#1255579 - 08/25/09 01:03 AM Re: When to start studying composing? [Re: MrsCamels]
MA Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/27/06
Posts: 302
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area
Thank you all for the advices!

dumdumdiddle: my son's piano teacher is not a member of MTAC. Maybe I should look for a composer/teacher in MTAC. My son hasn't been taught theory formally, so the music he has created is beyond his theory knowledge as you suspected.

AZNpiano, Gary D. and MrsCamels: you all stressed the importance of notating the music. Does it matter how it's done? We have a digital piano that can record whatever my son plays in MIDI, which can be transferred to a computer and read by music software to create the score.

#1255692 - 08/25/09 09:04 AM Re: When to start studying composing? [Re: MA]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 13331
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I don't think it is too early to start composition lessons, but that all depends on the composition teacher. You'll need to find a teacher that will encourage his creativity and help him to recognize basic composition principles without telling him what to write. Also, the notating part will be extremely difficult for him at this time -- he's still new to writing words! -- and so the composition teacher has to keep that in mind. I think a good teacher would allow him to be free to notate however he likes at first, and then gradually get him to notate correctly.

As far as translating a recording on MIDI to notation software, the problem with this is your son does not play precisely enough - no one does - to match what he computer can understand. Therefore you'll end up with 32nd rests and other oddities in the score which will make it almost illegible. The best thing to do is have him write things down by hand first onto staff paper, then copy it into the notation software by hand. This will really help his reading ability along and he will get faster at it the more he does it.
private piano/voice teacher FT

#1256250 - 08/26/09 02:34 AM Re: When to start studying composing? [Re: Morodiene]
MA Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/27/06
Posts: 302
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area

Thank you very much for your input! I will keep it in mind if I decide to let my son study composing now.

As far as translating a recording on MIDI to notation software, the problem with this is your son does not play precisely enough - no one does - to match what he computer can understand. Therefore you'll end up with 32nd rests and other oddities in the score which will make it almost illegible.

Very good point! It seems that there is no shortcut in notating. I will let him try to write some of the pieces he learned last year to see how it goes.


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