Roundup: Composition/Improvisation Resources for Piano Teachers

In today’s post, I’d like to round up a few of my favorite resources (both free and paid) on my blog relating to composition and improvisation.

Composition and improvisation are skills I love integrating into my teaching. When students show an interest in creating their own pieces, I always foster this and coach them through the process of formulating and notating their compositions. To help expose all of my students to composition, I offer a composition-themed summer camp at least every-other-year. I use improvisation, in simple but natural ways, in my teaching too — although I’d like to get better at doing more!

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In this blog post, there are three main sections: (1) First, I will first round up my free printables related to composition and improvisation. (2) Then, I’ll list some blog post links to some articles that discuss how to integrate improvisation and composition into your teaching. (3) Finally, I will tell you about two paid resources from my shop you might find useful for teaching composition and improvisation to your piano students.

I hope you’ll discover — or rediscover — some fun resources you can use in your teaching!

1. Free Printables

Improvisation & Composition Inspiration Cards | This 12-page document contains 96 flashcards of colorful clipart. I like to allow the student to choose a card and use it as a prompt for an improvisation or composition. This is a very popular free download on my blog. There are many ways to use these cards! Read more here. >>>

  Improvisation & Composition Inspiration Cards (4.8 MiB, 14,955 hits)

Staff Paper A-J | This PDF contains a variety of different sizes of staff paper, from large (for young students) to small (for older students). Read more here. >>>

  Staff Paper - A-J (180.5 KiB, 22,242 hits)

Music Staff Paper for Stickers | This PDF contains music staff paper sized for composing with stickers! You can find plain, round stickers at most office supply stores or even the dollar store.  Other stickers like star- or heart-shaped ones will probably work fine too, and might be a fun way to reflect whatever holiday is coming up.  On the bottom of each page in the pdf, it indicates what size stickers you’ll need with each sheet of staff paper.  The various colors of the stickers could be used to represent certain rhythm values or sections of the composition.  Be creative! Read more here. >>>

  Staff Paper for Composing with Stickers (93.0 KiB, 15,230 hits)


The 12-Bar Blues in C | This printable presents students with the notes of blues scale, the structure of the 12-bar blues, and some ideas for LH patterns then can use when playing the blues on the piano. This is a fun activity for private lessons or group classes! Read more here. >>>

  12-Bar Blues in C (642.8 KiB, 52,633 hits)

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Analyzing and Composing Music in the Romantic Style | I create this set of lesson plans and worksheets years ago one summer when I taught as a Theory & Composition Instructor at a summer music camp. The activities and worksheets in this PDF could easily be adapted for use in private lessons or group classes. Read more here. >>>

  Analyzing & Composing in the Romantic Style - Lesson Plans & Worksheets (1.0 MiB, 35,714 hits)

2. Articles about Improvisation & Composition

Check out some blog posts I’ve written over the years discussing how piano teachers can use improvisation and composition in their teaching!

  • Improvisation Yields Creativity and Musical Understanding | In this old post from 2010, I talk about some of the practical, tangible benefits of using improvisation with piano students. I also share an example of a student composition and note how it mirrors some of the concepts the student was learning in her lessons.
  • Incorporating Improvisation into the Piano Lesson | A six-part series of articles from 2010 exploring the value and benefits of improvisation and some guidance for incorporating improvisation into piano lessons. The information in these articles comes from a large research paper I wrote during grad school. There’s some great practical information here, if I do say so myself!
  • Making Time for Improvisation | Some thoughts from 2009 about how to include simple improvisation in lessons using the pentatonic scale.
  • Composing in the Piano Lesson with Beginner and Elementary Students | In this blog post, I talk a bit about the process I use with my young students when it comes to composing.

3. Resources for Composition & Improvisation from my Shop

And finally, below are two paid resources available in my shop. I appreciate your support of my work, and hope these resources will aid your teaching!

Prompts for Piano” is an e-book designed to provide an easy way for teachers to guide beginner and elementary students through composition or improvisation.

One of the first challenges of starting a composition is getting inspired. Simply telling a student to compose a piece is too broad of an assignment that often causes the student to become overwhelmed.

The other challenge to helping students with composition is helping them learn how to make music that sounds like the topic they have chosen. This involves setting parameters and learning to make musical decisions.

“Prompts for Piano” is designed to provide solutions for those two challenges.  Each of the 20 prompts provides a topic idea accompanied by a brief written description and an image, intended to help inspire and equip the student with their project.

Here is an example of a lovely composition one of my students created.

To download the “Monkey Business” prompt now as a FREE sample and learn more about Prompts for Piano, visit my shop here. >>>

Camp Curriculum: “So, You Want to Be a Composer?”

“So, You Want To Be A Composer?” is a fun, creative camp designed to inspire and equip your students to compose their own pieces of music! Students will leave camp knowing how to make a piece of music reflect its title, use motives, organize a piece using a form, and much more.  This camp is full of music listening, music making, and music composing. Learn more about my composition camps by visiting my shop page here. >>>

Thanks so much for reading this post. I hope you’re feeling inspired to integrate more composition and improvisation into your teaching!

Your turn: What are some of your favorite tips, approaches, or resources for improvising or composing with your piano students? Leave a comment below.

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1 thought on “Roundup: Composition/Improvisation Resources for Piano Teachers”

  1. Hi Joy, these printables were the exact kind of thing I was looking for for my daughter. She’s just starting to learn the piano and is really excited but all of the “kid” resources I’ve found lately have been well… boring. THanks!

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