If you're a fan of New Age piano, no doubt you've listened to some of George Winston's music. What I find fascinating about his songs is how he creates them. Most improvisers/composers start with the melody, usually because it's the easiest way to begin.
What George does is start with the background. He creates an aural canvas over which he improvises the melody. This is an excellent way to create with because once you have the chord changes for the first 8-bars or so, you've pretty much finished a section of music.
Now after Winston gets his (A) section, it's another textural background that will usually make its appearance for the (B) section. The beautiful thing about this method is that it really frees up the right-hand! Once your left hand is playing the background, you are able to create melody easily. It's like a lead guitar player creating a solo while the band lays down the rhythm and chord changes. In fact, George Winston has referred to his left hand as the rhythm section.
Creating the background first is just another way to compose/improvise. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going with the melody first if that is what inspires you. However, it's good to know how others are creating so you can learn from them.
Edward Weiss is a pianist/composer and webmaster of Quiescence Music's online piano lessons. He has been helping students learn how to play piano in the New Age style for over 14 years and works with students in private, in groups, and now over the internet. Stop by now at http://www.quiescencemusic.com/piano_lessons.html for a FREE piano lesson!