Issue 102: Soundscapes Hand-Out

This is a hand-out I have put together for a training session on Soundscapes which I may be giving at some stage. I’m down to do part of a presentation at a staff training day, but I’m not sure how much time I shall have, or how much detail will be needed.

So, I’ve done my planning (after all, as I said last week, planning is key, even if you don’t actually use it). Here are my notes for what I think I may cover, depending on what happens on the day.


Choosing and combining sounds to achieve an effect

hitting the National Curriculum creativity, listening, analysis, assessment hotspots

 Here are points for consideration when planning to do some composition work with a class:

Sources of the sounds 

“Limited” Sources

  • vocal sounds
  • body percussion
  • The Instrument that you are teaching (if a Wider Opportunities class)

“Wide Open” Sources

  • school percussion cupboard
  • found sounds

Starting Points

  • book
  • story
  • another piece of music
  • poem
  • picture
  • topic
  • what you can see out of the window!
  • a Music Subject (12 bar blues, pentatonic melodies, rhythm cards etc)

Whole class or small group composition?

  • how many in a group?
  • how will you choose who is in each group, or will you let the children choose?
  • will all the groups be the same size?
  • how will you allocate the instruments – same selection in each group, or different?

Elements to include in the composition

  • tempo and changes in tempo
  • timbre
  • texture drones, ostinato, clusters,
  • dynamics
  • rhythm
  • pitch

Notation/Recording the work

  • Graphic notation (pictures, diagrams, anything the children come up with)
  • Normal music notation
  • Simplified music notation; just write blobs (note heads) on the stave and don’t worry about rhythm, or just write the rhythm on the stave and don’t worry about pitch
  • Audio or video recording


  • Is this a “one-off”, single-lesson activity?
  • Is this something to develop and extend over several weeks, or half a term?
  • Are you going to add movement, songs, actions?
  • Is this going to develop into a performance?

How to introduce the composition activity

  • Whole class discussion of the composition
  • Try vocal sounds
  • Add physical/body percussion sounds
  • Explore, choose and discuss instrumental sounds from whatever you have decided to use
  • Choose ONE element (eg dynamics) to incorporate, add others (texture, tempo, contrasts etc one by one)


Record and listen and discuss the work in progress as you go along

It’s important that the children learn how to listen, analyse, assess, reflect, give and receive comments about their own and each other’s work. Make sure that the children are able to give and receive positive feedback, and are gentle in their suggestions for improvements.

Record the Final Performances

It is also important that the children learn to be absolutely quiet for important recordings, and respect each other’s work.

birds on a branch divider




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