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Creativity, Composition and the Piano


Online Lessons with Diana Mascari
Diana Mascari-Piano Teacher for Adults

Today's article follows up on my recent blog called How Playing the Piano Might Help You Ward Off Symptoms of Dementia

Reading or reviewing this may be of some help to you as we build on Creativity, the Piano, Mental Health and the role composition plays in all of this.


For some background on the impact that composition i.e. writing music has on your piano playing take a look at my article A Powerful Perspective on Your Piano Playing-Composition Unlocks the Door



Learning to Compose and Express Your Creativity Will Benefit You

As an adult piano student, you probably think that finding enough time to practice your lesson assignments is such a big challenge, that taking on an additional component of your musical life is simply too much. However, if you think about the fact that playing the piano can possibly help you ward off dementia, isn't it worth at least exploring the benefits of learning to compose.

Here's why:

Learning to compose and express creativity through the piano offers significant benefits for adult students. When you add composing to your piano studies, you find that the experience enhances not only your musical abilities but also your cognitive and emotional well-being.


Enhanced Cognitive Function

Engaging in piano composition stimulates the brain, promoting cognitive functions such as memory, problem-solving, and abstract thinking. Adult learners who compose music regularly may experience improved mental agility and sharper focus.

When I first started composing many years ago, I was totally surprised by how many musical items on a typical page I took for granted. When I went to write music, I didn't know exactly where to put the time signature, how to line up notes between the right hand and left hand, how many measures to put on each staff, and many more details. As a result, I had to look at music to see the answers to my needs and then put these details in my score. Ever since then, I have looked a music differently when I play the piano as well as when I teach. So as you can see, the process of creating music involves complex mental tasks, including understanding musical theory, arranging harmonies, and developing melodies, which collectively enhance cognitive resilience.


What If I Don't Have Any Creative Ability?


This is a very common question. In the community where I live, retired nurses become bakers of delightful sweets, many people paint, work with clay, do stained glass creations, others sing the the community chorus, do tap dancing, play a variety of instruments from the piano to ukulele, cook dinners with the flair of an expert, make designer gardens with colorful plants, etc. Are they masters of their creative endeavors? Certainly not! However, they are expressing their creativity. I have a neighbor who insists that she doesn't have any creative skills, but after telling me this, she said "I create mayhem". Notice the word create. That's exactly my point. Most people have creative gifts, but often don't use them. Julia Cameron wrote a ground-breaking book called The Artist's Way

Julia has helped many individuals discover and implement their creative skills and develop and sustain them as well. She's written 40 books on the subject because so many people wanted to implement their creativity. It's the act of spending a little bit of time, that reaps tremendous rewards and ROI as well.


Emotional Expression and Stress Relief

For many adults, the piano becomes a powerful outlet for emotional expression. I have seen this over my many years of teaching adult piano students. Not only does playing the piano offer opportunities for expression, but daily practice also provides students with a fantastic mechanism for focusing on something constructive while becoming free from the distraction of day-to-day tasks and worries.


Boosted Creativity and Innovation

Learning to compose on the piano encourages adults to think creatively and innovatively. Experimenting with different chords, rhythms, and melodies fosters an open-minded approach to problem-solving and artistic expression. Practicing the piano focuses on being able to play music with expression and feeling, composing music helps pianists learn to channel their emotions into a creative form. Every day, I both practice the piano and also compose concert music (i.e. contemporary classical). Each one has a different focus and style, yet each one is a creative outlet for me. Playing the piano offers me the "in-the-moment" experience of practicing the song with spontaneous variations in the arrangement and then experimenting with improvisation. It's fast, exciting, energizing and fun. Composing is a much more cerebral, quiet, introverted and self-nurturing experience. The music expands slowly, steadily, one or two notes at a time. With Sibelius music notation software I can play back what I have written and this allows me to write music the way one would write an article or even a book using Microsoft Word. No wonder this type of creative thinking can end up positively influencing other areas of life, such as work and personal projects


Personal Growth and Confidence

Although I mentioned how music I like using music notation software, many of my ideas are generated on the piano. Even after I've started a piece, I spend quite a bit of time playing and testing ideas on the keyboard. Since I spent my first 12 years of composing sitting at the piano and writing out the notes by hand, I can tell you that composing music on the piano can significantly boost an adult piano student's confidence. When you compose even a simple piece of music and are able to play it, you will truly feel a sense of achievement. Once you see your skills improve and hear your compositions come to life, you will gain a deeper appreciation for your creative potential and find yourself feeling more confident.


Lifelong Learning and Fulfillment

Composing is a continuous process as is playing the piano. Whereas practicing the piano helps you to master technique, articulation, dynamics and expression in a way that makes your music sound more "professional". Composition offers something else. Whether composing simple melodies or intricate pieces, the pursuit of musical creativity keeps the mind active and engaged, contributing to a fulfilling and enriching life.


Conclusion

The piano is a versatile and rewarding instrument for adults to explore their musical creativity, whether playing different arrangements of songs, improvising or learning music theory. The result of taking lessons and developing your piano playing will undoubtedly lead to your personal growth and a deeper appreciation of your artistic abilities.

When it comes to composition, adult piano students who learn to compose find that exploring their creative expression enhances cognitive function, provides emotional relief, boosts creativity and confidence, and fosters lifelong learning.

 

About Diana Mascari


Online Lessons with Diana Mascari
Diana Mascari-Piano Teacher for Adults

Diana Mascari has taught piano to hundreds of adults and children for more than 45 years. She holds two Masters of Music degrees from New England Conservatory and taught keyboard harmony to music majors while pursuing doctoral studies at Boston University. She was the music director for a multi-cultural Presbyterian Church for four decades, and her jazz and classical compositions have been performed worldwide. Diana has been performing for more than 50 years. From solo jazz piano to commercial groups touring the East Coast to leading her own jazz ensembles at colleges and jazz clubs throughout New England.



To get Her FREE Course: Song Playing Starter Kit for Pianists, click here


To schedule your FREE 30 Minute Piano Lesson Consultation on Zoom, click here.


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