Play, Imitate, Explore, and Compose With Song Maker

By Jenna Kufeldt-Ferrell, ES Music Teacher

Chrome Music Lab is a fun and engaging website where students can explore experiments that connect music, art, and science. The experiment that always engages my students the most is Song Maker. Seeing how much students love creating with Song Maker, I challenged myself to dig a little deeper looking for ways to use the experiment with more intentionality in my teaching. Song Maker invites students to play, imitate, and explore musical concepts, leading them to be thoughtful composers. This article shares a few ideas for incorporating Song Maker into your Orff process.

Song Maker invites students to play, imitate, and explore musical concepts, leading them to be thoughtful composers.

Play – When first sharing Song Maker with students, give them ample time for independent exploration. Students will love drawing their names, creating patterns, designs, and pressing the play button to hear their designs transformed into music. They can play with adjusting tempo, instrumentation, and other settings.

Teacher tips: Saving songs can be tricky as it is a multi-step process, so it is important to set aside time to guide the students through saving their work somewhere on their device. After clicking the check mark labeled “Save”, copy the link and paste it somewhere they can access later. Each time adjustments are made on a song, the song must be saved again with a new link.

Melodic Contour:

  • Have students explore up/down and high/low. After listening to the story of Mr. Wiggle and Mr. Waggle, my kindergarteners enjoyed exploring up and down through creating hills of varying sizes.

  • Students can explore the difference between stepwise motion, skips, and leaps. The way the scale is set up in a grid makes identifying and replicating different melodic contours intuitive. Encourage students to demonstrate these contours in a song of their own. What makes the most pleasing melody: skips, step, or a combination? Why?

Melody and Harmony:

  • Create a template for students by setting the scale to pentatonic and providing a bordun in the lower octave. Share the template with students and have them compose a melody and add a rhythmic ostinato.

    •  Here is an example of student work where I provided them with a broken bordun. 

    • This activity can be tailored to focus on a specific form. For example, students might compose using question and answer form or an elemental form like aaba.

  • For more complexity, students may compose over a shifting harmony or simple chord progression. The teacher might provide a harmonic template or allow students to discover this on their own.

Teacher tip: When sharing a template, if students have tablets or devices with cameras, turn the link into a QR code that students can scan.

Ostinato:

  • Students may create a simple ostinato in the lower octave and then write a melody in the higher octave, or vice versa.

  • Students may also create rhythmic ostinati.

  • Explore layering of ostinati of different lengths. Which ostinato patterns work best in layers? Why? Listen to a student created piece using layered ostinati.

Sequence:

  • Have students create a short melodic pattern and replicate it a step up or step down from its original position. 

  • Continue on to form a sequence. What makes an interesting sequence? Why?

Other concepts to explore in Song Maker:

  • Major/chromatic/pentatonic scale

  • Meter (beats per bar can be adjusted from two to seven)

  • Rhythm and subdivision

  • Syncopation – How does placing the notes on the off beat change the feel of your song?

Compose – After time spent playing, imitating, and exploring musical concepts in Song Maker, give students an opportunity to compose a piece of their own. Provide specific guidelines on length and encourage students to incorporate a few of the concepts previously explored. Have students come up with a song title and, time permitting, have them write an artist’s statement detailing the concepts they incorporated and the inspiration behind the piece.

Share – Giving students the opportunity to share their compositions is critical, whether they are exploring Song Maker for one class period or completing a composing project. Students might share in small groups, or for the whole class by projecting their song onto a display or through a sound system. For older students, Padlet and SeeSaw are great tools for sharing student work. On both of these platforms, students can post their song link and see other student work. Encourage students to comment on other student work, giving specific feedback on what they noticed and enjoyed.

Giving students the opportunity to share their compositions is critical, whether they are exploring Song Maker for one class period or completing a composing project.

Other ideas and extensions:

  • Have students create movement to their compositions

  • Incorporate live instruments, ie. have students layer ostinati on Song Maker while performing the melody or main rhythm of a piece on an instrument in class.

Check out more of our students' composition on Song Maker HERE

This article was first published on April 19, 2022 by the American Orff Schulwerk Association (AOSA), in Reverberations: Teachers Teaching Teachers. Reposted on Concordia's Thunderbolt with permission.