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YMSD: To stir the young musical minds to explore and create.

For music educators,we derive much gratification in attempting to stir up the musical minds of eager young musicians to get creative and explore musical ideas to incorporate into their music. The joy of being able to enhance their music by adding embellishments, etc to their music gives them the chance to experiment and put musical ideas into practice. Such explorations will give any musician more purpose to learning and knowing music.

Normally, the YMSD programs that I conduct are centered on piano students. Recently, I was invited to be a clinician during the Butterworth Chung Ling Secondary School's music camp. It was an opportunity to conduct the YMSD program for an entire orchestra and bring a different experience and perspective of musical performance to these young musicians.

It was a full day camp involving various students music ensembles that the school hosts. I was assigned to the Wind Orchestra and it was indeed a wonderful session that I experienced with them.

The YMSD program comprise various musical elements with improvisations being at the core. However, with an orchestra comprising more than 70 young musicians, it was not possible to have everyone improvise when they do not even know the word and what it means in music particularly. I cannot use any of the classical works either as it would tantamount to desecration. Improvisation had to be presented in a different manner using a contemporary musical piece that they can perform well.

We explored with rhythmic ideas for the percussion section to add, and for the brass section's tutti passages that can be altered to enhance the groove of the piece. Using various elements of music theory like musical scales, additional lines (melodic ideas) were layered in to add more 'color' to the musical piece. I wanted all the young musicians to know that they have quite a lot of theoretical knowledge to use creatively 'to own' the music they are playing.

It is just not merely reading, performing and reproducing music exactly from a score that can be purchased commercially. Any ensemble around the world can purchase the same scores and will all sound similar as each other if they perform the music as is. The YMSD program was to offer them ways in which they can add and alter parts of the music creatively.

I hope to encourage them to begin such musical explorations as an ensemble or individually on their principle instrument. I did explain about melodic improvisations and demonstrated how it is done too. It will be a process of trial and error for them to discover which ideas will work. However, without any attempt to explore music further, it will not hone any musical though or skill. Of course, to attempt such ideas in such a large ensemble will also require the participation and direction of a capable musical director/conductor.

I can only hope that I have stirred up their musical minds to get them eager to explore music in a more creative manner, and to perform their ideas. It will require willingness and perseverance on their part to achieve any success. I can only try to open the 'doors' of their musical mind and show them what is possible. They will have to walk down that journey themselves.

YMSD Improvisation Workshop 6

After my last report, the students and I met for two more sessions to work on rhythmic activities. We worked on rhythmic flow in a steady pulse as the young students need to learn to settle down and not run away with the tempo, which many often do. Teachers do frequently find their young beginner students playing a song with irregular tempo, speeding up and/or slowing down.

The metronome can be used to help young students develop a better sense of steady pulse. First, the young student must be able to read the notes well, play the song without mistakes and at a much slower tempo if necessary. The next step is to play the song up to mark using the metronome to keep time. In the early stages, this has to be done regularly during lessons and during practice by the student at home. Likewise, the metronome is most ideal to use for finger exercises involving scales, arpeggios and broken chords.

While working on the rhythmic activities, I was also preparing the YMSD students for a year end assignment by encouraging them to create a simple improvisation on a song of their choice using all the improvisational ideas we have explored so far.

The following week after, only young Emily was able to attend class and she chose the song "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" as Christmas was approaching. Very appropriate! I asked what improvisational ideas she had for this song. She suggested a rhythmic idea using repeated notes and melodic alteration where possible. Of course, she is not yet capable of a complete improvisation of the song and can only apply improvisational ideas sporadically while keeping most of the song intact.

We discussed her ideas and I offered some suggestions where in the song would her ideas apply best. I asked her not to write down her ideas but to remember them, hoping that it would allow her to expand those ideas or develop new ideas as it swirls around in her head.

At this week's session, the 'missing' students showed up and Emily was ready with her presentation of the song that she has been working on for the entire past week. Below is a clip of Emily's simple improvisation as she performs the song.

The entire clip features three continuous sequences of the song. The first is an actual sample of the song as it appears in the Piano Lesson Made Easy Level 3 book. The second sequence features the use of repeated notes in Bar 3, 5, 7 and 8. The third sequence features melodic alteration in Bars 3 and 5, and repeated notes in Bars 7 and 8. Bar 1 contains an anacrusis, which is a pick up note to the song.

With this song, We Wish You A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!

Recorder Ensemble performing the Music Jamboree theme song

SJK(C) Perempuan China (Penang Chinese Girls' Primary School) has been the hands-on venue of the Music Jamboree for numerous years. Music teachers from around the region who attend our annual music jamboree would put into practice teaching concepts explored during their training program with the students of this school.

The school has a music club and they are proactive in musical activities, having in their midst, a recorder ensemble and choir as part of their extra-curricular activities for their students. It is enlightening to know that the school is aware of the benefits of music and sees fit to have this music club.

The focus of the music jamboree program is based on our Young Musicians' Skills Development (YMSD) program that includes musical improvisation. Therefore, it is fitting to have their recorder ensemble perform our Music Jamboree theme song with an improvised section.

I arranged the piece in four-part SATB and handed the arrangement to their teacher in charge, Ms. June Loo who incidentally is musically learned. The improvised section is at the beginning of the second chorus during the repeat in the A and B part. The young musicians of the ensemble had little time to practice and rehearse as it was the time of year-end examinations. This recording was done during the last week of the school year after their examinations and it turned out very well. Indeed, these young students are quite a capable group of musicians.

Watch and listen to the performance of the Music Jamboree theme song titled 'Pineapple Island' performed by the school's Recorder Ensemble. I hope you enjoy their performance as much as I did.

YMSD Improvisation Workshop 5

A music gathering cum party was organized with the music school for my YMSD students to invite some of their friends to my workshop. The purpose is for the YMSD students to introduce music and share some musical moments with their friends by performing together.

About a fortnight prior to this event, my usual group of students were put through preparations for the gathering. We worked on the musical activity that was to be featured at the gathering because the YMSD students have been tasked to lead their friends during the event. Tapping a bit into their artistic skills, the YMSD students were asked to create invitation cards for those friends they were inviting.

On the day of the gathering, the YMSD students and their friends who showed up learned and experienced a musical performance by forming a percussion ensemble. There was an assortment of percussion instruments made available and the students were asked to select a percussion instrument that they would like to play.

We began by understanding something about these percussion instruments. Then we explored ways to play each instrument to discover the timbre produced. After which, different rhythm patterns was assigned to each instrument and rehearsed to be performed to a prerecorded musical piece. The challenge was for the children to perform their assigned rhythm pattern without wavering.

To carry out this performance, I informed the children that they would have to listen attentively to the music, to themselves and to each other. I had them realize that they need to develop critical listening to perform well as an ensemble. Once they understood what was required of them, they were very focused and excited about performing music together.

They demonstrated that they were quite capable and performed decently well during the workshop. As long as they enjoyed what they did, the experience would leave a positive mark on them. For me, it was mission accomplished when they expressed to me that music is fun and about enjoyment.

I would encourage music schools and music teachers to organize similar gatherings to spread the joy of learning and playing music. Plan and organize some musical activity to involve everyone. Give your students a chance to teach and lead their friends. It will surely help you to know your students better. You can be surprised by what your students are capable of if given the opportunity.

YMSD: Exploring musical creativity, a continuing series of programs.

Early this week, a visitation to a school to meet primary school students who study music was organized for me by the school's music club. There were 43 students in total who attended the workshop.

For these series of visitations and workshops that is on-going, I have a mission to create greater music awareness to encourage students to understand the purpose of studying and knowing music. Similarly with all my other workshops at schools, the workshop began by linking music rudiments and music theory to practical application and musical creativity. Music begins with music literacy and applying it to the musical instrument and beyond to composition, improvisation, etc.

Stressing the need to connect the three main components in their music education syllabus, which are, theory, practical and aural studies, will create greater appreciation for music. The workshop was to help the students understand how to use music theory creatively in practice. For example, some students were invited to the piano to explore creative and improvisational ideas using scales. We also worked on music from the popular Piano Lessons Made Easy series that all these students are familiar with as they used these publications when they began music lessons.

I also appreciated the school's music teacher spontaneous thought of bringing out a song that the students are familiar with and are learning for me to help them understand how to interpret and perform the song. Taking the song to the piano, I asked for the students to gather around me to discuss musical ideas that they could employ to perform the song. After which, I performed the song using the musical ideas discussed. Hopefully, the ideas I shared with the students will encourage them to begin exploring the song creatively as well as any other musical pieces they know.

YMSD: Exploring musical creativity

A recent workshop with secondary school students who have music certification from the intermediate level upwards gave me the opportunity to help them put music rudiments and music theory that they have learned into practice.

It is easy to forget what one has learned unless it is put into practice. In music, the more one applies music theory in the music-making processes via composing, arranging and performing music, the more one comprehends music theory. It would justify learning music theory and makes learning music theory much more meaningful.

We began by identifying specific topics in music theory learned throughout their graded music studies and how to use them to create and perform music. This is wholly done with the hope of validating their years spent learning music and to create greater awareness and appreciation in music for them.

Being a strong advocator and practitioner of music improvisation, I particularly focused on how music rudiments and music theory can improve their musical perception using improvisation. Engaging the students individually at the piano at improvising was a new experience for all of them.

Obviously, their musical abilities and skills differ but their attempts did demonstrate some musical thought and substance when properly guided. It shows that music students are capable in their own way of musical creativity if given the opportunity.

I hope to have opened up their musical minds to encourage them further to explore musical creativity by putting music theory into practice. Hopefully, it would validate the years they spent learning music, find relevance in it and enjoy musical explorations in whatever way they can.

YMSD Improvisation Workshop 4

After having had a few sessions on improvisation with the same group of students, the recent session produced some results that I was looking for. As school exams were being held then, not all the students were able to make class. Those who attended class allowed me quality time with them and it was 6 year old Emily who demonstrated that she understood what was required of her to do simple improvisations.

Having explored improvised melodic ideas over the past few sessions, the ideas began to sink in for this young student. I just wanted to know if she can improvise on her own without my guidance as she has been listening and observing intensely during our few sessions so far. I casually asked what her favorite song was that she can play on the piano and she said 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' from Piano Lesson Made Easy Level 1.

Then I asked if she could try improvising on this favorite song of hers and she nodded. Obviously, her familiarity with this piece of music helps because she would have been playing it repeatedly. Like her, we will keep playing our favorite pieces over and over many times. That's what we all do!

Though it was a simple improvisation, she did it musically and was able to enjoy what she was doing. What impressed me was that she demonstrated the ability to 'feel the phrases' in this piece of music to improvise accordingly. She beamed when I told her that she did very well. Encouraging her builds confidence and assurance that she is doing things correctly. From here on, it would hopefully pave the way for her to develop a creative musical mind.

Teaching anyone, especially a very young student to improvise can be quite a challenge. However, with perseverance, patience, proper guidance and a believe that the young student is capable of improvisation could eventually produce some result.

Note: Proper posture of sitting and hand position on the piano, please click on Sitting correctly at the piano

A story of true passion, dedication and selflessness.

One evening some weeks ago, while having dinner in a restaurant at the historical Mixed Clans Jetty in Penang, I heard the sounds of numerous musical instruments emanating from the house next door. Curiosity got the better of me and I walked over to have a look. I saw a group of teenagers practicing various musical instruments, from Western and Chinese classical music instruments to the modern electric guitar.

I wondered who they were and what was their involvement with music. I caught their attention and after a brief chat, I learned that they are an independent musical ensemble. I wanted to know more about them and made arrangements to meet a fortnight later.

This is their fascinating story that I would like to share here. The founder of the ensemble is a 15 year old student named Khor Kar Hoe (front row extreme left in photo) who formed the ensemble back in 2009.

They humbly call themselves the Zero Orchestra, which I thought was rather odd because who would ever want to label themselves as a zero. Khor explained that they are all amateurs and see themselves as a zero for now. They hope to become heroes some day when they achieve a much higher level of musical skills and performance.

The orchestra was created for a few noble reasons. Primarily, it is out of pure love for music. It also serves as a platform for school leavers who were members of their school orchestra to continue their musical journey. It is also for those who desire to get involved in performing music. Being together allows them to share music with each other and with the public as well.

They recruited members through the Facebook social network and through friends bringing friends who are interested. However, not everyone who joined are able to play a musical instrument. So, Khor took it upon himself with other ensemble members to teach these members at no cost at all. Khor says everyone who joined are committed to the same cause and that is the reason he is more than willing to help them learn music. Every member is encouraged to learn at least two musical instruments. Khor excels in quite a few instruments. Today, they have 60 members comprising students and young working adults whose ages range from 13 to 23 years.

Their wish is to recruit more members and turn this
outfit into a professional orchestra someday. They have no funding nor a proper venue to practice. All activities are conducted at Khor's family home. The entire living room is turned into their music room with the blessings of Khor's family who are very supportive of his efforts. Since the living room is unable to accommodate 60 musicians, they form into smaller ensembles taking turns to practice every Sunday. It is just pure passion for music that brings them together and their willingness to overcome any shortcomings to pursue their dreams.

Their weekly routine comprise music theory and instrumental studies every Friday and orchestral practices every Sunday. They set a target to perform at least ten times annually if possible. They were either sought by people who heard about them or like in my case, happen to stumble upon them when at the restaurant next door. They attempt all genres and styles of music from classical to contemporary music. They also experiment using a mix of Chinese and Western classical instruments in their repertoire like what they did with Bach's Canon in D when I visited them.

Another interesting fact is their involvement in the Penang Youth outfit where it serves as a platform for the youth to play a significant role in community development dedicated to helping young students. Their efforts are indeed highly commendable. To me, the Zero Orchestra are already heroes for what they are doing for the community and for each other.

YMSD Improvisation Workshop 3

In this continuing installation, we shall focus on triads (chords). Chords provide the harmony that accompanies the melody and improvised melody. Music without the support of chords will sound empty and not so interesting to listen to.

In music theory, the study of Triads lead to understanding chords. Let's quickly summarize what triads are:
  • Triads are the most basic form of chords consisting of three notes, which are; the tonic, third and fifth.
  • Each triad has three positions, namely Root position, 1st inversion and 2nd inversion.
  • Each position creates a slightly different sound of the same chord.
Let's begin with a simple chord progression using chord I and chord V in C major key. This chord progression requires you to start with C chord going to G chord and back to C chord again.

Chord I is C chord, which consist of three notes namely, C E G.

Chord V is G chord, which consist of three notes namely, G B D.

Since there are three positions for each chord, there will be three variations of playing this chord progression as shown below. Be attentive to the finger positions and movement of the chord progression below.

Notice that any chord progression will sound good when there are shared common notes, and by keeping the movement of chord notes as minimal where possible, within a whole tone or semitone. Try the examples below to know better.

1. Begin with C chord in root position going to G chord in 1st inversion and back to C chord in root position again. You will realize; the finger movement between the two chords are easier to play, it sounds better and there is room for the melody. Therefore, movement has to be kept as minimal as possible. The common note between these two chords is G note. Play this chord sequence one octave below Middle C.

C chord in root position

G chord in 1st inversion

2. Compare the above example with the one below, starting with C chord in root position and going to G chord in 2nd inversion. Notice that the E and G note (in C chord) has to move up by a third to G and B (in G chord). It does not sound better than the above example.

Now, try playing C chord in root position going to G chord in root position and you will realize it sounds even more unmusical.

Play the following chord sequence one octave below Middle C.

C chord in root position

G chord in 2nd inversion

3. Begin C chord in 1st inversion going to G chord in 2nd inversion. The common note between these two chords is G note. This chord progression sounds better than the one above. The left hand thumb is on Middle C note.

C chord in 1st inversion

G chord in 2nd inversion

4. Begin C chord in 2nd inversion going to G chord in root position. The common note between these two chords is G note. Left hand 2nd finger on Middle C note.

C chord in 2nd inversion

G chord in root position

Now that we have studied these two chords, let's apply them to the improvised melody of 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' from Piano Lesson Made Easy Level 1. In the video clip below, two young students play this together. One plays the chords in Alberti bass accompaniment, while the other plays the improvised melody.

Part 2: To learn music is to apply music

Recently, I sent out a questionnaire to some musicians about learning music theory. Among the replies, I have selected two to feature here from accomplished musicians who did not begin their musical journey by taking formal music lessons. Obviously, they chose a career in music because of their passion for music.

Their realization about the relevance of music theory came when pursuing a career as a musician. Here are some words of encouragement and advice from these musicians to share with all of you.

This is what bassist and band leader Frankie Chai of "Jazzhats" has to say:

1. How did you decide upon choosing a career in the musical arts?
When I was 20 and when asked by a friend to join their band.

2. What instrument do you play and what made you choose your principle instrument?
I actually started with the acoustic guitar. One day a friend told me they were looking for a guitarist for their band, and if I was interested. I said yes, met the band and found out they were actually looking for a bassist, which was how I got started on the bass. From then on, the bass has been my principle instrument.

3. Did you formally learn music when you were young?
No, I did not have the opportunity.

4. If you did not learn music formally, how did you begin to perform music?
I just listened and memorize all the bass parts just to reproduce almost exactly.

5. What made you decide on learning music rudiments and theory?
I started late upon realizing the importance of music literacy. It was difficult having to catch up on so much music theory that is required to understand music.

6. Would you say that knowing music theory has helped you in your music career?
YES!! Definitely.

7. How did knowing music theory help you? What were you able to do with knowing music theory?
Learning and knowing music theory helped me understand music better. Now, I can compose music, arrange music and lead my band.

8. What are your thoughts about music theory? Is it important? Why?
Knowing music theory is very important!! Besides being able to read, write and transcribe music, music theory is required to analyze and know the inner workings of music better. Being able to read and understand music also allows me to be a recording studio musician as we need to read charts well.

9. What advice do you have for music students about learning music theory?
It is a must for all music students. As for me, it was really difficult at first because my command of the English language was poor. But I just wanted to learn it and finally I did manage to learn a lot of music theory and I am still learning. If you want to know how I did it without knowing much English, let me say its all about passion and a strong desire to learn to be better.

This is what guitarist and band leader Kelvyn Yeang of "Ocean of Fire" has to say:

1. How did you decide upon choosing a career in the musical arts?
I always had a passion from the start, and I guess it was somewhat a calling.

2. What instrument do you play and what made you choose your principle instrument?
I play the guitar because other instruments were too expensive and we had no pianos lying around at home.

3. Did you formally learn music when you were young?

4. If you did not learn music formally, how did you begin to perform music?
It was a matter of listening and figuring things out. Joining the school marching band did help a little. I was a clarinetist with the school marching band.

5. What made you decide on learning music rudiments and theory?
I never forced myself, it was natural. When you see a need, you go ahead and do it. Admittedly, I do not have super levels of theory knowledge but learning as much theory as possible has enabled me to move forward musically. The basics were taught in school when I was with the marching band. After that, it was a gradual process.

6. Would you say that knowing music theory has helped you in your music career?

7. How did knowing music theory help you? What were you able to do with knowing music theory?
You can expand your limits and you realize...its limitless!!!!

8. What are your thoughts about music theory? Is it important? Why?
It is similar to understanding grammar and literature in language. You speak more eloquently or with better "phrasing".

9. What advice do you have for music students about learning music theory?
Do it! You will thank yourself for it.

Knowing music theory opens up a whole world of music to you. There is a lot of music that is accessible to you. The music can be from different genres featuring diverse styles but you can make sense of it if you can read, understand and interpret the music.

With music theory, you can become a composer or an arranger like the two musicians featured in the above questionnaire. They compose and arrange original music of their own creation. That would be the greatest gratification for any musician, which is, to write and arrange their own original music.

Part 1: To learn music is to apply music

Music is a language on its own and like all languages, there are visual symbols used in writing music. It is through these symbols that musicians use to compose and communicate with each other when performing music. To gain literacy in music, one has to learn music rudiments and music theory to be able to read and write music.

With literacy comes the need to apply what one has learned. There are two main areas of application here, which are, to perform and to create music. To perform music well, one has to be able to understand every notation, symbol, musical term, style of music, etc. To create music is to compose music. Just like in languages, learning the alphabets and using them to write an essay is like composing a piece of music. Where composing and performing happens simultaneously, it is called music improvisation.

The knowledge of the music theory therefore empowers the musician to be able to read music, to perform music, to analyze music and to create music. While every music student learns music theory to be able to read and perform music, few use music theory to compose and/or arrange music. Even fewer know how to use music theory in improvisation. To me, this is where one of the thrills of learning and knowing music lies.

Improvisation is where music creativity is taken steps further. To improvise, one needs numerous facilities in their musical mind to work together. Here are some words to share with you from Jonathan Chen, a performing musician who has a Masters Degree in Music:

"I've been exposed to music since I was a child. However, it has only in the last five years or so that I've been able to fully appreciate the art of music making, which I discovered when first experimenting with contemporary Western music, namely, jazz. It involves improvisation, which simply put, it is spontaneous composition followed by the immediate execution of a particular musical idea. Such ideas are usually heavily dependent on what is, or has been played as an accompaniment at that particular time. Improvisation allows me to freely express my musical artistry as well as to see how I may push the boundaries of conventional harmony (making "wrong" notes correct ones, in a specific context)"

YMSD Improvisation Workshop 2

A music melody without chords to accompany it will feel very bare and dull. Since the days when early music began by knocking sticks and stones, music and musical instruments have developed progressively to the diversity that we have today.

What are the two basic 'ingredients' that we find in music? One is the melody and the other is the accompaniment to compliment the melody. While the melody consist of stringing together single music notes to form a tune, there is much more happening in the accompaniment.

The accompaniment in popular music today comes from the drummer, the guitarist and/or keyboardist, and the bassist. These musicians form the backbone of a musical performance. There is also the possible addition of other musical instruments to add more 'color' to the music being performed.

Improvisations are primarily based on the chords of the song. One will require ear training, music theory and application to understand and appreciate chords. Being able to identify the type of chord to respond to it with an improvised line instantaneously would be the ultimate achievement in the music making process for any musician. This would have to be learned, and practiced constantly.

In improvisations, there are no notes to read and play. Everything is the perception of the musical mind. What do you hear? How do you want to respond? You will need to consider your overall skills to be able to improvise. To lead students into improvisation, I begin with chord studies. Below is a clip of my recent session with the students.

Music Jamboree 2011

Rhythm MP's annual music jamboree was held recently from 6 - 11 June 2011 in Penang. Participating music teachers from around the region were checked into a downtown hotel in the Heritage enclave where the jamboree was held. Obviously, the purpose is to let them discover historical Georgetown on their own and savor what Penang has to offer.

The four-day event was divided between the workshop program at the hotel's conference room and a hands-on program with students at the Penang Chinese Girl's Primary School. The main feature of the jamboree is the opportunity to explore ideas for creative and fun music lessons, and test the ideas with music students. Below are the teachers with the Headmistress Mdm. Ewe Beng Guat (front row 3rd from left) and Ms. June Loo (front row 2nd from left), the music teacher and key person from the school who was instrumental in recruiting students for the jamboree.

The workshop program also includes creative and stimulating activities for individual music instruction that is more synonymous with piano teachers. Activities involve exploring ways to put music theory into practice, ways to instill musicality and musicianship in the students, etc. A session on rhythmic activities was also conducted by Ms. Lucy L, who is the co-author of the Because Of Love series of publications from Rhythm MP.

In the itinerary was a visit to the Music Department, School of Arts at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). This visitation has been an annual affair from three years go. It gives the teachers an opportunity to experience tertiary level education, though just for a few hours. It also serves to inspire them to constantly upgrade and be better at what they do.

The jamboree teachers were addressed by Mr. Victor Kam, Head of the Music Department who spoke about the music department and the university's music program offerings.

Following Victor's opening address, the jamboree teachers were treated to two short lectures by Dr. Jason Tye and Dr. Yumi Yoshioka.

With the various activities and ideas explored during the entire course of the jamboree, teachers leave with a mind full of exciting activities for their students. Having experienced the hands-on workshop with students, their teaching and instruction skills can be further developed. We hope all the teachers had an enjoyable and productive time in Penang. We thank you for your time with us and we wish you success in your musical endeavors.

Click on Music Jamboree 2011 report.pdf to download as PDF or print.

YMSD Improvisation Workshop

Improvisation is quite a lost art in the classical world for quite a long time. I do not know of any classical music program that includes improvisation as a required subject in its syllabus. I would be glad to know if such a program exist somewhere.

Classical composers like Bach, Mozart, Clementi, Schubert, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Debussy were some of the most renown improvisers of their time. It is said that the genius of Albert Einstein was triggered by his improvising on the violin since he was young.

Practitioners of improvisation today are those from the contemporary music world, especially jazz musicians. Back in the 60s and 70s, popular music did feature a solo (improvisation) that is usually played by the guitarist or keyboardist.

Personally, improvisation is a natural progress in musical development when one seeks to create music instead of just playing prepared music. To improvise requires many facilities to come together and these facilities have to be developed from the first day of music lessons. Developing a good appreciation in pitch and an understanding of harmony is primary.

Perhaps not all, but most music can be improvised on. One only has to know enough to do the right thing. In the attached youtube clip, the students are merely trying their hand at improvising for the first time. They are kids who began learning music about 2 to 3 years ago.

Using a very familiar song from the book they began learning with is important. In this case, the choice was Mary Had A Little Lamb. In this first workshop, they are learning to embellish the melody through hearing and imitating the idea.

In the second clip below, the student is improvising to an accompaniment of the same song. It was solely the creativity of the student and no written improvisation of the song was provided. I only had to demonstrate a few versions of improvisation of the song for the students listening appreciation. After which, I invited them to try their hand at it and this student produced the best improvisation during the workshop.

Never too late to make another resolution

Coming close to a month since the new year began, the anxieties and excitement of anticipating the start of the school term should have subsided by now. To all students who are going about with the new school term, I would like to suggest to those learning music to add another resolution. Hopefully, you have made some for this year. If not, let this be your resolution.

Resolve to be able to compose music. Recently, we announced a composition event for young music students. It is a simple 8 bar composition where students are just required to create the melody. We have received some entries and will be sorting them out soon to be featured. This event got us thinking of ways to encourage students to put their musical skills into practice.

To know music also means to be able to create music. Therefore, begin learning to compose. This is a great way to use your musical skills and creativity. You do not need to have a lot of years learning music to compose. Normally, a few years learning music would be sufficient to begin making simple compositions.

The instrumental pieces, basic rudiments and music theory you learned during the first two to three years of music lessons can be used to compose a simple tune. Musical pieces you learn to play should give you melodic, harmonic and accompaniment ideas. Listening to music 'opens your ears' to appreciate sounds and rhythms.

Playing music and listening to music helps you in music appreciation which simply means, you hear a complete piece and can appreciate the melody and accompaniment that makes it sound that way. Especially for a favorite song, you will listen to it or play it many times. The more you do this, the more you understand the song.

With the ability to to read, write and play music, the next step should be to compose music.

COMING SOON! Another composition event for music students is in the planning. It will be announced once all details are sorted. Stay tuned, we will keep you posted.


Click on MPA composition 1 to view or print.