What I did on my holidays
Students write a few sentences describing what they did on their holidays. Then they are invited to create a piece of music on the basis of the text they wrote, and finally the piece is performed and recorded.
Goal and output
Learning how to write a text to set to music and then to devise a rhythm, melody, chords, second voice and bass line for the setting and write them down.
Each student can complete as many components of the assignment as they can, according to their skill level.
A musical composition describing the student's holiday
• Instruct the students to write a description of what they did on their autumn/winter half-term holiday.
• Have the students devise a rhythm derived from the pacing of the words in their text (never mind any time signature for now). The students may edit their text as required. You may give students cue sheets with sample words for specific rhythms to help them fit rhythms to their texts.
• Next, have the students determine where the barlines should go and work out the time signatures. Following word rhythms may result in changing time signatures, e.g. 5/4, 5/8, 5/16, 3/8.
• Then instruct the students to create a melody following the rhythmic pattern, using a keyboard or their own instrument.
• The students may also devise a second part, for instance a vocal part. They may harmonise the melody and use the chords as the basis for devising a second part, accompaniment and bass line. A vocal second part may have a rhythm different from the principal melody and can be fitted with different words.
• You may add instruments played by other group members or classroom instruments to the arrangement.
• Each student should write out their piece, either by hand or using notation software, so that students will be able to perform each other's pieces.
• The pieces may be played through in class together and later performed at a concert. Record the performances and give a copy to the students. You may also add the recording to the students' portfolios.
Topics in the assignment
Detailed description of tools
If there is only one classroom available, have the students use keyboards with headphones for working on their melody, harmony, bass line and second part. If there are several rooms available, students may also use their own instruments.
Due to the nature of the assignment, the students will almost inevitably end up writing in changing time signatures. This allows for a discussion of irregular meters from the perspective of the student's needs.
For many students, this will be the first time they have ever played music in changing time signatures.
Assignment suitable for further study