Traditionally, teaching learners who do not play an instrument and cannot read music has been quite difficult (not to mention stressful!), especially when they are younger. Jamstudio software enables learners to compose without having to write a musical score, they compose by ear, or aurally, making decisions based on the musical effect created by the software based on their choices.
A good place to start this lesson is to play examples of compositions with a strong subject matter or theme. We particularly like Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee and Leroy Anderson’s The Typewriter. The inspiration for each piece is evident immediately. Do not tell learners the names of the compositions. Allow them to guess.
Whatever their guesses, ask them why they think as they do. What is it in the compositions that make them think of bumble bees or typewriters?
Tell learners that they are going to compose a piece of music to reflect a chosen subject, this could be anything: elephants, war, their mother!
On the interactive whiteboard, introduce them to the software. There is an automatic tutorial when you first visit the site which you can talk them through. Also, you could give them this step-by-step guide:
- Click a chord in the CHORDS window to enter it into the SCORE window.
- In the MIXER window, click the speaker button besides the instruments you want to play.
- Click PLAY to hear your song
- To change an instrument’s sound, click on its TRACK and choose a new sound from the SOUNDS window
- To speed up or slow down, slide the TEMPO bar up or down.
- Click the arrows above the SCORE to create verse, bridge and chorus pages
- Type page numbers separated by commas (no spaces) into the play page order field.
Either compose your own piece in order to show them “One I made earlier”, or you can use the same one as us: www.jamstudio.com/Studio/FWSongShare.asp?SongNum=1290598&SongId=1290843
If you’re using our example, draw their attention to the musical elements, principally tempo, melody and instrumentation. Explain that each of these were deliberate choices that were made to portray a moth flying to the moon. The melody has a strong sense of beginning, middle and end – it doesn’t begin or end too abruptly.
Learners are now be ready to make music!
What do I need?
Prepared thematic compositions e.g. Flight of the Bumble Bee/The Typewriter.
PCs or tablets
Teaching learners to compose using a graphic score and un-tuned instruments is relatively easy however creating melodies using chords is much more challenging. This activity is a great way to introduce learners to many of the concepts of composing with the added bonus of creating a polished piece of music by the end of the lesson.
It is possible to email finished compositions to parents! Click the SHARE tab and follow the prompts.
It may be useful to discuss some of the assumed settings on the software with learners e.g. there are 4 beats to every bar, and one chord in every bar. The chords are in ‘G’. The beats and the key can be changed, but unless you and the learners are very confident in composing music and are familiar with the software, we suggested you tell learners to leave these settings unchanged.
Hints and tips
You don’t need to register in order to use the software. However, if you do choose to register, you don’t need to pay any fees in order to access what you’ll need for this activity.
You may choose to ask learners to compose a group piece, this enables up to 3 learners to share a computer if you do not have enough for everyone individually.
There are no safety issues.
Other opportunities to use the same software:
- Experiment with creating advertising jingles or radio jingles.
- Use compositions as backing tracks for presentations on PowerPoint or video.
- Write lyrics for their compositions.