Jumpstart creativity with DIY tools and cool apps

First, a confession, then on to creativity…

The Music in Motion free catalog came in the mail the other day. You can download a copy here. The catalog is promoting “music go-rounds” which are durable silicone disks with letters, pictures, note values (you name it!) that cling to any surface.

The colorful disks are immediately appealing and the catalog offers all kinds of innovative ways to jumpstart creativity. I toyed with the idea of getting some myself but, felt like I didn’t need to. I’ve got enough off-bench manipulatives to organize already, AND I like the challenge of morphing common household items into teaching tools.

When I saw the music-go-rounds, I immediately thought how easily I could use mason jar lids for the same purpose. Did you know the white side of the lids are dry erasable? You can draw anything you want on them with a dry erase marker. They are extremely durable, too! The only pitfall, they don’t cling to any surface and they don’t come pre-printed in fun, bright colors….but…they are a lot less expensive and SO versatile.

After experimenting some, I realized that the lids can become “magnetic” quite easily with the help of Mighty Magnets that I purchased years ago from my favorite store: Container Store.

So, if you like the cute and colorful music-go-rounds (I can’t blame you!) then order them from Music in Motion. Get the real Music-go-rounds here.

If you are open to creating your own disks, here’s what you’ll need:

#1 Mason Jar Lids and Rings like these.

#2 Two-sided magnetic tape or squares like these.

OR any other two-sided magnet you have around the house that could do the same thing.

OR Poster putty works, too!

OR Stainless Steel Mighty Magnet dots like these. These are working like a charm for me!

#3 Students willing to explore their musical imaginations.

#4 Optional: an iPad and some cool apps to enhance and extend the creative experience.

Jumpstart a chord progression

Learn how the magic of four chords (the ones in found in just about every pop tune) can instantly turn on imagination “light bulbs” by downloading one of my most popular FREE downloads here.

When introducing chord symbols, write them on the mason jar lids and ask students to play whole notes on each chord so they get use to identifying and connecting the symbol with how it sounds and feels on the keyboard.

Lids are stuck to my white board thanks to my Mighty Magnets

Encourage students to master playing the chords in this order by experimenting with various LH and RH patterns and rhythms. Next, ask students to rearrange chord symbol lids and play them in the new order. Continue until students find a new favorite chord progression and use it as a basis for improvisation and/or composition.

iPad Extension: Tin Pan Rhythm

Assign students to enter these four chords in Tin Pan Rhythm and orchestrate a loop. Record the loop and email it to the students mobile device so students can jam along with the chords at home.

Tin Pan Rhythm

Jumpstart a Rhythm

Explore new ideas within rhythm with numbered lids. Add “&s” if students are familiar with 8th notes. Ask students to place rings on random lids and then notate the rhythm indicated and use that rhythm as basis for improvisation.

iPad Extension: All kinds of rhythm apps

There are so many rhythm apps so instead of picking one, check out my favorites here.

Jumpstart a melody

First, it’s good to review scales and how to construct them. The lids are a perfect fit on my fabric keyboard from the TCW Kreative Keyboard Games and Activities Kit. The rings reinforce where the half steps occur: scale degrees 3 and 4 and 7 and 8. My students are asked to memorize the major scale code: 34-78.

After students review pitches in a scale, let them choose four scale tones, and match them with note values. Ask them to play the combo and decide if they like it. If not, encourage them to keep changing up the scale pitches or note values until they find a keeper.

iPad Extensions: Tenuto, MusiClock and Dragon Scales

To master scale spelling, assign students to complete drills in Dragon Scales and/or Tenuto. Encourage students improvise within designated scales with MusiClock.

If students (or you!) question this method, remind students that Beethoven’s 5th begins with just 4 notes and a simple rhythm! Nothing needs to be complicated.

Jumpstart a composition

Once students get an idea cookin’ then what? That question and many more will be answered at our next 88 Creative Keys online clinic called Cultivate Creativity.

The March 5th clinic is packed full of what you need to take your students further along in their creative journey…

Wynn-Anne Rossi – Learn a streamlined approach to promoting creativity and teaching composition that includes three-minute improv creations to set the stage for composition, tool-based composition exercises, and a peek at Rossi’s “Creative Composition Toolbox” series, books 1 – 6a (not included).

Bradley Sowash – Learn to compose a basic blues on the piano using a clearly-defined process developed by Bradley Sowash for his online jazz piano class. If you can do it, your students can do it!

Leila Viss – Transform students inspiration into professional looking publications with tech-savvy tools. Empower students to notate their work with online software, design a cover page to suit the title, and produce video of them playing their original masterpiece. Feature a world premiere of their original work in a memorable recital.

Sign up today before it’s too late!
A super long-lasting replay is available but it’s been shown that you’ll retain more by attending live.

See you there,


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Leila Viss

Creative Pianist, Piano Teacher, Organist, Blogger and Author of The iPad Piano Studio

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