Generic Composing Challenge

Continuing our theme of composing activities, here is a composing challenge that I use with multiple levels of students. I have sometimes given this out on the first or second lesson. I’ve also given it out for much more advanced students. The real difference is what elements you tell them they must include in their song. Do they need a certain form? Key signature? Intervals? Chords? Articulation? The most beginning students are told only that they need to think about speed, hand position, and dynamics. There’s no limit on how complicated you can get with the more advanced students.



Silly Composition

Piano blogs are full of composition exercises for kids, but most of them include lyrics that are so inane, I’m too embarrassed to use them with my students. My kids are capable of appreciating a slightly higher level of literary quality. Silly is good. Clever is good. Insipid is bad.

For our earliest composition attempts, I give the kids a choice of texts. They are all very short so as not to overwhelm anyone. 

I also offer The Catsup Bottle and The Duck by Ogden Nash. He’s a great poet for this. He’s brief. He’s witty. He’s brilliant. Unfortunately, he’s also under copyright. So I have not included the texts of these poems, but they’re quick to create yourself. You can find the text of the “The Catsup Bottle” here and the text of “The Duck” here. I use only the first half of “The Duck.”

(The graphics come from and

Method 1:
The kids write in finger numbers in the circles above the words. (We don’t worry about rhythm. They improv that.) If they are up for a challenge have them add a chord in the left hand.

This method is the easiest for kids who aren’t totally confident with note names yet. It’s also really great for kids who are learning different key signatures or positions because then you can have them transpose it into all the keys or positions they know.

Method 2:
The kids write in note names. This is better for reviewing those note names, but not as good for transposing.


*** This post originally appeared on my older site here.