Due to the nature of their craft, composers are intimately familiar with the inner workings of music. This familiarity with the core language of music allows composers to be fluent musicians and well rounded artists. In the context of piano, composers can gain the ability to improvise their own music on the spot and create their own musical vocabulary.
Being a composer means that you are not restricted by what others have written. If there is something you want to express or a piece of music you want to play in your own way, composition can enable you to do those things without having to learn the works of others: it opens up a direct dialogue with your soul.
Learning composition also means that learning an instrument is markedly more intuitive. A fledgling pianist with knowledge of theory and composition can accelerate themselves quicker than one who is primarily studying repertoire and technique. You can take the knowledge that you have and extrapolate new ideas and teach yourself about many aspects of music. A compositional approach to piano learning also allows for you to be that person at a party or a jam session who can just sit down and play along with others or even play the piano while singing yourself.
A compositional approach to piano learning is best suited to those who are either naturally very creative or to those who do not wish to be confined within the western classical idiom. The best thing about this approach is that it sets up students to bridge themselves into other dialects of music. For those who may find the RCM system to be too much extra work, a compositional approach can work wonders. One should be mindful that in following this approach, piano technique will not be as prioritized as it is with a more traditional piano methodology. In terms of age group, this approach finds most success with adult beginners.
Depending on the type of student, composition lessons will take two forms:
The lessons will start with understanding the fundamentals of theory and how to apply them to the piano. This will involve learning scales, chords, key signatures etc. These studies will be supplemented by exercises to work on at home as well as applications of these teachings in the form of making song covers and improvising.
Alongside these skills, students will be trained in the usage of the notation software of their choosing (Sibelius, musescore, and dorico). They will also be given suggestions for music to listen to for inspiration alongside their current listening appetite.
After building a foundation, students will be introduced to more intricate theoretical concepts like counterpoint and voice leading.
The goal is for students to write down and perform some of their own music for concerts. The best student compositions will be published in annual student feature books.
These lessons will be reminiscent of composition lessons at a higher level music institution. Students will be expected to write new music regularly and to bring these works in progress to lessons. The teacher will go over the work with the student and suggest new directions for the composition. The teacher can analyze what parts work well and what parts don’t fit in as well and guide the student to a more refined version of their music. Improvisation will be a centerpiece of lessons and will be used to help the student come up with new ideas for their music.
New learnings will include more advanced counterpoint, phrase structure analysis and advanced harmony. If desired, students can also be trained in instrumentation/orchestration and 12 tone techniques.
The goal for lessons is to build a musical portfolio of personal compositions. Students can perform their compositions at recitals and submit their works for competitions. The best student works will be compiled and published in annual student feature books.