By Julia Kossuth
As my personal studio of students has expanded and changed, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to change and hone my teaching style to match each student’s level and goals. Although I’m personally a music reader and not as strong an improviser, that certainly doesn’t describe all students.
One thing I’ve enjoyed exploring with my students is learning to play chords with a written melody. Often times there is a piece that isn’t in an arrangement that suits a student’s level. This presents a great opportunity to discuss not only music theory and chord structure, but also the creative aspect of playing the chords the way they like best.
Another thing I’ve done with my older students is assign them a melody to try to notate on their own, such as Happy Birthday or another simple song they want to try. When they bring back what they’ve written, we check their compositional neatness as well as harmonize the melody. Sometimes for fun we might try chords that are not what’s typically heard with the melody (deceptive cadences where there should be authentic cadences, etc.).
Finally, I like to include a few minutes of sight-reading during lessons most weeks so as to create well rounded students and increase their reading confidence.. For some students, it might be small excerpts of music, for others it might be purely rhythmic reading.
What are some ways you balance reading and improvisation with your students?