Lesson Two

Lesson Two: Class Acoustic Composition

Strand: Composing
Strand Units: Improvising and creating; Talking about and recording compositions
Curriculum Objectives:

  • select from a wide variety of sound sources for a range of musical purposes
  • invent and perform pieces that show an increasing awareness and control of musical elements
  • record compositions on electronic media

Linkage: Listening and Responding - Exploring Sounds; Performing - Singing, Playing Instruments
Concept Development: duration, dynamics, structure, timbre, texture

Warm Up: 5 min

This lesson uses the students’ voices to imitate electronic sounds, so why not start with a fun vocal warm-up from New Music Alive Book 1 like Ruppetiggah! or My Loony Bun

Recap and Experiment: 10 min

Look at the list of all the sounds you heard last week.
Can you imitate any of the sounds you have heard using your voice or any instruments or objects you can find in the classroom?
You may want to listen to some of them again to jog your memory.

Composing: 25 min

As “Com-Posers”, how could you “put your sounds together” to make a piece of music?
Here are some suggestions:

  • You could make a story out of them
  • You could put some sounds in the foreground and keep others going quietly in the background like in Remember the Planets.
  • You could layer many sounds at once like in PanoVal.
  • You could use the Golden Section like in New Music Alice Book 1 here. [PDF]
  • Or any combination of these.
  • Add your own ideas!
    Take an idea or two from this list and organise your own piece of music.
    Record your composition. See our Quick Guide to Recording in the Classroom here.

Lesson Two: Supplementary Notes

Warm Up

Loosening up the muscles and warming up the vocal chords will help to avoid straining them later on. Warm-ups can also make students more energetic and less self-conscious before doing other activities.

You can find more warm-ups from New Music Alive Book One

Recap and Experiment

Inviting the students to imitate electronic sounds using acoustic instruments or voices can challenge them to think about familiar sound sources in new and creative ways. This may involve scratching guitar strings, singing while playing the recorder or placing objects inside or on top of instruments. It also affords them the opportunity to more fully explore the expressive potential of their own voices.

Putting objects inside an instrument is called “preparing” the instrument. With a little care and common sense, it will do no harm to the instrument at all. A “preparation” could be something as simple and effective as sliding a sheet of paper in-between the strings. The composer John Cage famously put bolts and screws inside the piano for some of his music!


This is a great opportunity to let the children’s imagination run wild. It will also develop their artistic and critical faculties. As they rehearse and develop their ideas, let them discuss which ideas work well and which do not, what sounds good, what sounds bad, etc. They can review and refine each performance through discussion and repetition.

Here is an example of a composition written by 5th and 6th Class students based on the recordings they listened to in Lesson One. After listening to the musical examples in Lesson One, the students used their own voices to imitate what they had heard. They wrote out a list describing those sounds in their own words:

‘A monster creeping up to the bed’
‘Falling down the stairs’
‘Bricks falling on a piano’
‘Zombie wedding bells’
‘A plane taking off’
‘A broken clarinet’

They organised these images into a simple story and turned it into a 40-second vocal composition.
You can listen to their composition below.