Coming very soon! Here’s a sample page.

My son Jimmy (B.M., James Madison University, 2020) and I are writing a book of etudes that deliberately omit tempos, dynamics, articulations, phrase markings, and other expressive elements. All of those are left up to the individual player. We anticipate we will have 40 to 50 etudes ranging from 12 to 40 measures each. Difficulty level for this first volume will be for high school-level, maybe some quite advanced middle schoolers. We received positive feedback on our idea from the Creative Repertoire Initiative, so we expect to write a second volume focused on beginning to intermediate musicians.

Our intent is to give players as much freedom as possible to interpret our melodies. Many of these pieces will imply traditional harmonic progressions and phrasing, or tend to favor slow or fast tempos. Others will be much more open to wide interpretation. In any case, we highly encourage students to take the “bare bones” we provide and make the music their own!

(Have a look at the first etude on the sample page…the one in 9/8. Do you hear it as a very bright gallop, a lyrical pastorale, or somewhere in between? How would you articulate the descending line in measure 5? Would you add a ritard at the end?)

Why we think these will be helpful:

  •  They’ll keep students musically engaged during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • They’ll encourage thoughtful and expressive music making that can be developed and shared under less-than-ideal circumstances.
  • They’ll be easily adaptable for traditional or hybrid learning environments. They will encourage peer-review exercises and collaboration.
  • They’ll invite students to offer constructive criticism in encouraging ways and require them to defend their artistic decisions. Teachers may then assess both performers and reviewers.
  • They will be a mix of improvisation and composition.
  • For students who find composing a piece from scratch too daunting, Creatudes will provide a melodic headstart but give students maximum freedom to manipulate the other expressive elements of music. We hope students who enjoy molding the Creatudes into their own creations will dive deeper and compose their own musical lines.
  • They will encourage students to have fun making music!

Suggestions for use:

  • Students may choose etudes that they find interesting and want to tinker with.
  • Students may sightread etudes with complete freedom, performing the music in an improvisatory way. Alternatively, they may take hours or days to thoughtfully and methodically work through them.
  • Feel free to mark up the music with dynamics, articulations, tempo markings, etc.
  • Ensure students do not “compare notes” with others who have selected the same etude to prevent them from influencing someone else’s musical decisions. Only after some time alone with an etude should students share with each other. It’s our hope that students will be surprised at how differently another musician might interpret a piece. Those differences should provide the spark for new ideas and creative solutions.
  • Challenge students to prepare and play an etude in a completely different way. For example, if the musician takes a slow tempo, see if it works at a faster one. If a student writes a crescendo, challenge them to try a diminuendo. Such changes might have second-order effects for students to work through.
  • Encourage students to take risks. Don’t accept a moderate tempo at a medium dynamic for everything. Find opportunities to go for extreme dynamics or bold articulations if they seem appropriate. There are no wrong answers!
  • After encouraging risk taking, challenge students to defend their choices. If a passage is repeated and the student plays it the same way both times, ask them to consider changing something the second time around to keep things interesting.
  • Students may choose to play a passage a certain way because of expressive reasons, but they might also make decisions based on their technical capabilities. Take advantage of these moments to encourage your students to “woodshed” in the practice room and overcome those limitations. Don’t let a little thing like finger-tongue coordination get in the way of how a piece should really be played!

We sincerely hope this music will be useful and instructive for students and teachers. We hope to have it ready by mid-July.

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