Does this statement sound familiar? Don't get me wrong--I am always happy when my students take the initiative to be creative, but sometimes it can be hard to be both creative and productive in the same lesson! There is so much to learn, and so little time.
However, over the years I have learned that when my students show these little sparks of creativity, it is well worth the time spent in our lesson to encourage them. By creating their own music, students are truly applying all of the skills they have learned at the piano.
Taking it a step further, I think it is possible (and worth it!) to carve out a little time to help students be creative at every single lesson. Encouraging creativity doesn't have to be time consuming or complicated. In fact, you can start by using your students' existing repertoire as a launching point. Here are a few simple activities to encourage creativity in just a few minutes at each lesson:
Think like a composer. Encourage students to delve deeper into their music by asking them questions such as:
- What do you think the title of this piece means?
- Why do you think the composer made those notes staccato (or legato)?
- Why do you think the composer chose those dynamics?
- Does this piece tell a story? How did the composer use the music to communicate his or her ideas?
- What would you have done differently if this were your composition?
Play the "what if" game. Once your students are thinking like a composer, ask them a few "what if?" questions. For example:
- What if the title of a piece were changed? Instead of "Little Frog," what if the piece were titled "Big Bear" or "Sneaky Snake?" How would you play it differently?
- What if the piece were played an octave higher, or an octave lower--how would that change the sound and the mood of the piece?
- What if the piece were changed from major to minor (or vice versa)? How would this change the sound? Would the title still be appropriate, or would it need a new name?
Create a special intro or coda for an existing piece of music. Look for short patterns or important notes (like the tonic and dominant) in the piece that can be used to create new intro or coda sections. For extra practice, ask students to notate these short sections on the staff.
Turn technique time into creative time, too! Even warm-ups can be creative if you ask students to play their C major scale like a bunny, or to make their primary chords sound like a thunderstorm.
What do you think? Do you do any special activities with your students to encourage creativity? Please share in the comments!