Welcome to I can compose!

by Feb 28, 2018Opinion

Hi I’m Rachel and I’m delighted to launch the first dedicated website for GCSE and A level composition.

Let me start by introducing myself. I’ve been a secondary music teacher for 12 years and taught across the age range, in three very different schools.  I’m a flautist and pianist, and have always enjoyed teaching composition.   My methods and lesson ideas have evolved and developed over time and I’m constantly reviewing what I do.  I have occasionally looked online for composition resources and ideas, and found very little.  I thought it would be great if there was one place where students could go to find inspiration and guidance for creating their own music.

Putting together this website has been a big learning curve for me, as I’ve tried to translate my classroom approaches and ideas into an accessible online format that all students can use.

My approach

Some people would argue that composition cannot be taught.  It’s creative and free and something which comes naturally.  Well, these people probably aren’t music teachers who have a weekly GCSE and A level composition class on their timetable!  Every teacher has a different approach to composition because it is indeed a creative process and one that is quite personal. Some teachers are prescriptive whilst others give pupils a lot of ‘freedom’, sometimes, perhaps, too much. I think I’m somewhere in between.  What I have always tried to do is to imagine that I’m sitting in my own lesson – would I manage that task? What questions would I ask? When will I get bored and need a change of activity? Asking myself these questions helps me to ensure that the lesson has purpose, pace and attainable goals. I’ve tried to incorporate these things into the tutorials that you’ll find on this website.

What I have found over time is that students appreciate structure and seeing a working model.  Where possible, I start to compose a piece alongside the class so that they can see and hear a composition being worked on and developed.  At the start of each lesson we spend a bit of time adding a bit more to the piece.  Students make suggestions, we try things out together and then the class go and work on their own compositions.  Some pupils go in their own direction, and others stay fairly close to what they have just seen in the working example.  I asked students about this method and they were really positive and said that they liked it because they could see me taking the risks and trying things out: it took some of the fear out of composing.

I’ve used this approach for the tutorials on this site.  In each course you’ll find that I compose alongside you, so that you can see how I’ve done it and then decide whether to follow what I’ve done or take it in your own direction.  You can then see how a piece can be developed  and it perhaps doesn’t seem quite so daunting.

How I can compose works

Now that you’ve read a bit about me and my approach to teaching composition, I’ll just explain a bit about this website.

Inspiration page

Listening is at the heart of composing. It’s where we get our inspiration and ideas. Because it’s so important I’ve dedicated a page of this site to just that: listening. Click on this page and you’ll find lots of different pieces of music, all categorized, with points to note, things to listen out for and questions relating to your composition.  This isn’t meant to be an in-depth analysis of each piece, rather it’s to offer inspiration for creating music.

I’ll be adding to this page regularly, so do keep checking to see what’s new.

Courses

I’ve written courses for both GCSE and A level students to help with different aspects of composition.   I’ve used methods and ideas that have been successful in my classroom.  Each tutorial is divided into sections with clear easy-to-navigate, interactive lessons, as well as example templates and compositions for you to download.  I’ll be regularly adding more courses, just as soon as I’ve written them!