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composing music techniques

There is nothing quite like the thrill of writing your own piece of music or helping your student to compose but sometimes it can be extremely hard to get started. What can you do to get the ball rolling as it were?

1 Numbers: A great idea I picked up the other week is to pick an easy key, roll three or four dice and convert the numbers (1-6) into degrees of the scale to generate the start of a melody. For example, say we picked G major and the numbers were 3, 4 and 1, that would equate to B (3rd note of the scale of G major), C (4th) followed by G (1st). After toying with these three notes, you should be inspired to know what comes next. If not, roll again! You could try something similar with a phone number. After writing out the number, cross out any zeroes or nines (not degrees of the scale) and see what happens!

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This is one of the really successful music camp activities  we’ve done this summer. During our   Let’s Get Creative Camp, the students all made music creativity journals.  For basic journals,  you can use school composition notebooks found at the local drug store or school/office supplies store. They have a solid cardboard cover that is easy to cover with varied pieces of scrap booking papers and decorations. I chose to use card stock for the covers, with various lined, blank and music manuscript papers for the insides. I have a binding machine, which makes it easy to put together booklets with whatever filler paper you desire. They can also be taken to a copy store and bound for a small fee. After the journals were completed, the students used them to write and illustrate on of each:

  • Poem
  • Silly Song (lyrics set to melody)
  • Simple Instrumental Composition (for piano, drum or other instruments using standard notation)
  • Lead Sheet (notated melody with chord symbols, like you find in a “fake” book, for a nursery song   or other simple song)
  • Lyric Song Chart (lyrics with chord symbol above to indicate chord changes)
  • and…last but not least…

“My Big Event”  Improvisation Game –

(Learning how to organize music while having fun improvising!)

Here’s  how it went:

1 ~ We started out by writing a title at the top of one of the blank unlined pages in their journal. This title was determined by answering this simple  question, “What favorite thing did you do this  summer?”  Some of my students’ titles were: “Sea World”, “At the Fair” and “The Big Swim Meet”.

2 ~ Next, the students were asked to draw three big circles on their page, and illustrate each, depicting three different scenes from their “Big Adventure”.   [···]

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