Composition & Improvisation Prompts for Piano eBook

NEW: Prompts for Piano, Set 2 is now available!

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.

“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 the student and generate enthusiasm for the project.

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The “goals” listed on the prompt are intended to help the student successfully create a piece that will sound like the topic they have chosen.  For example, for a piece about rain, students might be encouraged to use staccato sounds.

At the end of the PDF, there are a few pages of staff paper included to print for your students.

To begin a composition assignment with a piano student, I allow the student to choose one of the prompts.  I keep printed copies of the prompts near my piano, but I also have the PDF loaded onto my iPad so I can print directly from there (I use the GoodNotes app for this).  Students are usually very excited about the topic they choose, which leads nicely to a discussion about how we can go about creating music that will emulate that subject.

Mack T - The Dinosaur 2

Over the course of the next few weeks/months, the student slowly adds new measures and properly notates their composition onto staff paper.  When it is finished, I transcribe their composition into Finale and ask them to illustrate their composition.  You can read more about how I go about composing with my piano students here. On the right is an example of a composition created by one of my students. And here is another example, on video:

And here is a video example submitted by a teacher from Texas. Her beginner student followed the parameters for the prompt “The Dinosaur” to the letter, and the piece sounds amazing!

Have you ever thought about doing a summer composition project, or holding a composition recital with your students?  Using these prompts can help make sure that your students choose varied topics during a studio-wide composition project.

Your purchase includes a Studio License allowing you to print as many copies from this PDF as desired, forever – as long as you are using them with your own students. You may also use the PDF as needed for online teaching purposes with your students.

Download a sample page from Prompts for Piano Set #1 below. Enjoy!

  Composition/Improv Prompt - Free Sample (102.8 KiB, 17,081 hits)

Level:Beginner/elementary students, but may also be appropriate for some intermediate students
Pages:28 pages
Format:PDF (email delivery)
Terms of Use:Studio License

Permission is granted for the purchasing teacher to make unlimited printouts and use the digital files for the purpose of teaching their own students. Sharing printouts or the digital files beyond that purpose is not permitted. The purchaser is not permitted to resell the item(s), or alter, modify, or create derivative works.

What is the difference between Prompts for Piano Set #1 and Set #2?

They are the same, format-wise; but the 20 prompts in Set #2 are completely different from the 20 in Set #1. If you are trying to decide which set to purchase, it may also be helpful to know that Set #2 includes a few prompts that are slightly more “advanced” — perfect for those students progressing into intermediate levels. If you have lots of students, you may wish to buy both sets so your students have lots (40 total) of choices!

Prompts for Piano has been purchased by over 400 teachers! Check out what a few teachers have to say about it:

“My students and I have been using this set of prompts with amazing success this summer. I love the goals and the prompts. I have three students who have already completed their first composition and they are over the moon with excitement at what they have accomplished. I never imagined I would be able to guide them through this process so easily.” –Heather Best

“I’ve enjoyed the support and encouragement from your blog and site for about 3 years now. The Composition and Improvisation prompts as well as your Composition Summer Camp plan was a big hit when I used it in 2019.” –Shelley P.

“I used several of the free printables this past summer for piano kits for my online students, but my favorite purchase has been the Prompts for Piano book. My students love creating new pieces with those guiding ideas. Thank you!” –Angela R.

Please note: This is a digital product, to be emailed after purchase.

Camp: “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.   Read more about when I held this camp in the summer of 2012 and view a peek at a student composition.

When you purchase, “So, You Want To Be A Composer?,” here is what you will receive:

  1. The complete Lesson Plans (21 pages), clearly outlining (with accompanying photos) what to do each day.  The appendices at the end include a list of alternative classical repertoire to study, instructions for making a musical instrument each day, and instructions for setting up a water xylophone.
  2. The “Elements of a Great Composition” workbook (16 pages) to print for each student, covering topics like motives/themes, form, accompaniment styles, and proper notation.
  3. An editable “Folder Cover” file (Microsoft Word docx), so you can insert the year and your studio’s name.  This sheet is for students to cut out and glue to the front of their camp folder (which will holds the workbook mentioned above).
  4. “Quick Composition” activities.
  5. Over 15 varieties of staff paper.
  6. …and more!

Here are some specifics about how the camp is designed:

  • Meets for 4 days, for 3 hours each day.
  • Intended for 1st or 2nd year students (including complete beginners); however, the lessons plans are easily adjustable for more advanced students.
  • A group of 3-4 students would not be too small.  A maximum of 8 students is recommended, due to the fact that you will need to borrow enough keyboards for the majority of your students to be able to be use them simultaneously during the free composition time.
  • At the end of the week, parents are invited for a Composer Showcase, where we let everyone browse the compositions and then enjoy a mini-recital of some of our favorite compositions from the week!

The various worksheets and composition activities included in this camp have an added benefit:  Many of the activities included in this lesson plan could be used during studio group classes, or even with some of your private students who are interested in composition.

Have you always wanted encourage and help your students to compose their own music, but have been unsure where to start?  The “So, You Want To Be A Composer?” camp just might be the solution for you!


  • After purchase, follow the instructions to download and save the file onto your computer’s hard drive. The file will download as an archived folder.  Unarchive the folder (your computer should do this automatically) and then you will be able open the folder to browse all the files inside.
  • The first file is the lesson plans.  The other files are various worksheets, composition activities, sample compositions, and staff paper — all mentioned in the lesson plans.

Questions?  Read the Terms of Use here.

Level:Beginner to intermediate
Pages:90+ pages
Format:ZIP file containing a folder of PDFs (email delivery)
Terms of Use:Studio License

Permission is granted for the purchasing teacher to make unlimited printouts and use the digital files for the purpose of teaching their own students. Sharing printouts or the digital files beyond that purpose is not permitted. The purchaser is not permitted to resell the item(s), or alter, modify, or create derivative works.