Planning and Preparing:
Introduction to the Series of Lessons
This project consisted of teaching a class of beginning band students a nuit of introductory lessons in arranging and composing. Because many students are so active in sports and after school clubs, I decided to do the project with an entire class during school. This group of students started playing their instruments at the end of September. The project took place at the end of November. Since the beginning of the semester, the students have learned a variety of musicianship skills: playing instruments alone and in groups, singing alone and in groups, active listening, critiquing music, music theory, and some basic composing. This project served to add to their foundational knowledge and experience by preparing them to also become creative composers.
Students’ Previous Learning:
Before the lessons in this project, students had several lessons in music theory and notation. In their music theory lessons, students were given games, in-class assignments, and homework to help them read notes, write music clefs, understand time signatures, write notes and stems in a legible way, and write key signatures. Along with this foundation in music theory, students were given four miniature composition assignments. In these assignments, students experienced a variety of tasks, such as notating short rhythmic compositions and composing within a small set of constraints. For example, in one short composition assignment, the students composed a four-measure piece. In this assignment, they only used three different pitches and they limited the rhythmic variety to whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes.
The goal for this project was to help young students bridge the gap between arrangement and composition by giving them elements of both types of creation. This basic composition experience could, in turn, foster future enjoyment of either arranging or composing.
Plan to engage creation, performance, and assessment:
Students used familiar form parameters (ternary, or ABA form) in order to ensure the most success. Students gained guidance on how to write melodies based on a set of parameters, students then assessed several musical examples for the appearance of these parameters. Students created their own melodies to serve as the B section of their composition. As part of the creation and performance process, students were encouraged to play their instruments to help them in their composition endeavors.
In the next lesson, students created pre-composition maps to organize their thoughts. Students were expected to choose one familiar song from a list in their method book to serve as a recurring A section. This section functioned as bookends to their melodies. Students then arranged this “book song” with the short melodies they composed themselves. In this way, students engaged in a creative process by arranging two appearances of a familiar melody with their own connecting material. At the end of this lesson, students performed parts of their pieces as they created pre-composition maps.
In the final lesson, students assessed and performed a few of my own examples of what their projects could look like. A few students performed their compositions in class for one another. From this experience, students could think as a composer and a performer, learning about the need for clarity and limited variety in composition. After the performance, the students in the class assessed the examples and the student compositions using a pre-designed rubric.
- Lesson 1
- Lesson 2
- Lesson 3
Next section: 2) Implementing Instruction