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CSR Music Outreach Program 2014: Composing for the young beginner (Part 2)

In Part 1, we have explored notes from a major scale to begin composing your melody. Next is to consider what happens after the first bar. Your melody has to flow continuously and sound good. While some of you can be inspired and continue after composing your first bar of melody, some others may not know how to continue.

Let's go back to my earlier blog posting where I was getting students to begin by creating a one bar rhythmic motif and developing the motif in the second bar. Here is the link:

Once the first bar motif is determined, I had the students clap the rhythm to feel what the continuation should be in the second bar. They had to keep clapping and 'feeling' the groove of the motif quite a few times before it impressed upon some students. Soon enough, some were able to clap a continuing rhythm right after the original motif. This was the development that I was waiting for.

At the next lesson, we worked on developing a motif up till four bars. I started the first bar in Simple Triple time as shown below and got the students to suggest the rhythm for the continuing bars.

After which, we began another in Simple Quadruple time and below were the four bars that the we came up with.   

Then came an interesting observation by the students as they clapped the rhythm. They commented that the first four bars were not that interesting as it was repetitious and monotonous. This is when they were made to understand that though the rhythmic phrase is repetitious and sounds uninteresting, it is because no musical pitches/tones were attached to them yet. It began to make musical sense when we began converting the notes into sounds from a scale to turn it into a melody. A few examples were demonstrated for the students to understand the process.

Once musical pitches/tones are attached to these notes, it will definitely not be monotonous or uninteresting anymore. It will be music, as music should be. Of course, the right choices of musical pitch/tone will decide if the melody sounds pleasant or not. As a further illustration, consider the two songs (from the Piano Lessons Made Easy publications) that we are familiar with since our kindergarten days. 

I can safely say that most of us are familiar with the tune of the above pieces. If we remove the musical pitch of the notes in the opening four bars of both songs, you will notice that the types of notes are exactly the same, as shown below. Clap the rhythm of the notes in these four bars and you will feel that it is exactly the same until you hear the music.

The approach to composing for these young students is to begin with a rhythmic motif, developing it to four bars and assigning a music pitch/tone to each note of the rhythm. Of course, there are other ways to begin composing but when these students learn music strictly from a theoretical approach without instrumental studies, it is a lot more tricky. Obviously, composing with instrumental support is most ideal. We hope the process will encourage all the students to take up learning a musical instrument of their choice.

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