Teaching melody with your music classes can be a challenge, but it’s an important component of any good music education program. By teaching melody to students, and how to identify and create melodic patterns, you’re setting them up for success in composing their own music. Here are five creative lesson ideas for teaching melody writing skills in your music classroom, but before we discuss the lesson ideas, it is important to know a little more about the Element of Music – Melody. For more information on all of the 8 Elements of Music, click here.
Melody Music Definition
Melody is often considered the most important element of music. A melody is a series of pitches that create a recognizable tune. Melodies can be created using a variety of pitched instruments, including the human voice. While some consider harmony (the combination of notes played together) to be more important than melody, it is generally agreed upon that a melody is the most essential and memorable element in music.
There are several reasons why teaching melody is so important in music. First, melody is what listeners remember most after hearing a song. A catchy melody will stay in your head long after the song is over. Second, melody is what sets a piece of music apart from noise. Third, melody can convey emotion and mood better than any other musical element. Fourth, well-written melodies are relatively easy to sing or whistle, which makes them more accessible to listeners.
However, composing a good melody is not always easy. In order to write a memorable and catchy melody, composers must have a strong understanding of how each of the elements of music connects and relates to each other. They must also be able to create interesting melodic patterns while still maintaining a sense of unity and coherence throughout the song.
As you can see, melody plays an important role in music. Composers must have a strong understanding of the elements of music in order to write a good melody. If you are interested in some lesson ideas for melody to try with your students, then read on!
If you would like more information about the Element of Music – Melody, click here to read the blog post.
5 Creative Lesson Ideas for Teaching Melody
Teaching Melody Writing for Beginners
One way to get students comfortable with creating melodic patterns is to have them experiment with pitch. This can be done by singing or playing notes on instruments. You can also use a keyboard or piano for this activity. Start by having students play or sing a note, then have them move up or down the scale to create a new melody. As they do this, encourage them to keep a steady beat going. This type of activity is a great lesson warm-up and can be also done with the voice. Try singing a pitch, and have students match it. Next, make it a little more difficult by asking them to sing a note either higher or lower than the one you sing!
Another way to make this activity fun for students is to have a game of “Singing Simon Says”. For this game, the leader, or “Singing Simon” might ask the students by saying “Singing Simon Says to sing the same pitch as…” then all students would sing together. Continue to play the game, and if the leader says “Sing the note…”, without saying “Singing Simon Says”, then anyone who does sing is out! Play the game until you get a winner.
Are looking for other ways that you can keep your music students engaged in the music classroom, then grab yourself a FREE copy of the 25 page eBook called – 5 Simple Ways to Makeover your Music Curriculum here
Simple Melody Writing Techniques
Another way for teaching melody is through call and response. This involves one person playing or singing a phrase, then having the rest of the class repeat it back. This is a great way to help students learn how to identify melodic patterns. It’s also a good way to get them comfortable singing or playing in unison.
One way to do this is to teach students what is a melodic ostinato, and show them how to sing or play them. A favorite composition activity for teaching melodic ostinatos, as well as call and response, is by using the African Folk Song – Banuwa OR Obi Senya Na. Both songs have simple melodies and ostinatos that students can easily sing and play.
If you would like to get your students being creative, and to start composing as a small group, then try using either of these songs as a basis for them to create an arrangement using the instruments you have available in your classroom.
If you would like to use this idea, try the African Composition Assessment available for you to use in my store, click here to check it out.
Writing a Simple Melody
Rather than just asking students to come up with their own melodies, give them a starting point to work from. This could be a simple scale, a chord progression, or even a short phrase that they have to repeat several times. By giving them something to work from, you’ll help them focus on creating interesting melodies rather than getting bogged down in the details of composition.
If you teach the recorder, you will have an order of notes that you like to teach your students. This can be really helpful when asking students to create a melody. Instead of asking students to “compose a melody”, start them off small and only give them a limited number of notes first.
Try starting with just 3 notes – B, A and G. Tell students to start and end on the G, but to order them however they like! To make it even less daunting for your students, try grouping them into pairs and that way they will feel encouraged by each other to create their own melody.
As the confidence of your students progress, introduce more notes for them to use. The Recorder Composition Activities worksheets are perfect for this. And the best part – you can do these without a recorder! Try using tuned percussion instruments or even the keyboard for composing simple melodies. The best way to do this is to make sure that whatever the student composes, they must be able to play! This way they are not only developing their creative composing skills, but their performance skills as well.
Link to the Recorder Composition Activities here.
Teaching Melody Writing over a Chord Progression
As the skills of your students increase, they will be able to get creative with other teaching melody lesson activities. Once your students have some experience creating melodies, try letting them improvise for a while. This can be done with any type of instrument, and it’s a great way for students to practice their creativity and Musical ear training. If you’re working with young children, you may want to provide them with some guidance by calling out specific notes or pitches for them to hit. But with older kids, see what they can come up with on their own!
A fun and easy chord progression to use for improvising is by using the 12 Bar Blues pattern. This common chord progression is easy to play, and very easy to create melodies over. Teaching your students how to play the 12 Bar Blues chord progression in a variety of keys is easier when you are teaching them how to play the guitar or ukulele.
Once you have taught the 12 Bar Blues in a key of your choice, then let your students have a go at creating some lyrics and a melody to fit the 12 Bar Blues chord progression. One suggestion to make it easier for both the guitar and ukulele is to play this chord progression in either the key of G or D. Both these keys are great to play by little hands on the guitar, ukulele, keyboard and even tuned percussion instruments!
Learning to play the 12 Bar Blues is easy with the right resources, and below you can find some classroom play along resources for both the guitar and ukulele. Use these to help you teach playing chords, and for improvising a melody over the top of the chord pattern.
12 Bar Blues Bundle for Guitar
12 Bar Blues Bundle for Ukulele
Composing Music Software
As your students gain confidence in playing instruments and creating their own melodies to sing and play, then you can try moving them onto using technology. There is a lot of music composition software available to use, and depending on the technology and resources you have in your music classroom will determine what you choose to use with your music classes.
Try teaching melody using the FREE software that is linked below.
Bandlab is free if you use the “edu” site. This is very similar to other paid programs out there, and my students have really enjoyed the melody creation process using Bandlab. On their site are stacks of video tutorials to help you get started. Use the link below to create your own account.
Another fun free program is “Mario Paint Composer” or DanielX.net. This free program requires students to create an account, but it is free. It has a “Vintage” 80’s video game vibe and sound effects – which in itself is a lot of fun. One of the benefits of this program is that to compose on it, your use the Grand Staff, so it helps if students know how to read music OR that you use it teach how to read music while composing.
One way to use this program is to give students a simple melody that they then create a variation of – try using Hot Cross, Buns, Twinkle Little Star or even Ode to Joy. By giving students something to start from, they can then let their creative composition skills loose by adding in a variety of sounds, harmonies and even rhythms. This program has a lot of benefits!
Connect Melody to Emotion
This last teaching melody lesson idea is best completed while teaching about Film Music. As you know, one thing that makes melodies so powerful is the emotion that they can convey. Try connecting melodies to specific emotions by having students create pieces that make them feel happy, sad, scared, excited, or any other emotion that you can think of for them to use. By giving your music students these emotions to base their compositions around, it will help them understand how music can be used as an emotional tool, which is an important part of any composition.
If you would like to try this with your classes, try using the Movie Composition Assessment. This assessment would be a great way to use Bandlab, or any other music composition software that you choose to use.
Link to the Movie Composition Assessment here.
Teaching melody in music class doesn’t have to be difficult! By using these five creative lesson ideas, you’ll be giving your students the tools they need to create their own beautiful melodies and compositions. Who knows? They might even come up with the next big hit song!
Don’t forget to grab your FREE eBook – 5 Simple Ways to Makeover your Music Curriculum here
Until next time
Julia from Jooya