Building Better Budding Bachs: Teaching Composition with Notation Software

Building Better Budding Bachs-Teaching Composition with Notation Software.

Susan E. Basalik
[email protected]
Methacton School District

TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:

Notation Software
Productivity Tools






Laptop computer; Smart Board, projector, speakers. Either Finale or Sibelius software.


20 Minutes

Prior Knowledge and Skills:

Students are able to read and play one octave of notes on their instruments.
Students have had some experience writing music on manuscript paper.

This lesson can also be used in general music classes.

NAfME Standards of 1994 Addressed:

NAfME Standards of 1994: Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.

NAfME 2014: Performing 

NAfME Standards of 1994: Composing and Arranging Music within specified guidelines.
NAfME Standards of 1994: Reading and notating music.

NAfME 2014: Creating 

NAfME Standards of 1994: Listening to, analyzing and describing music.
NAfME Standards of 1994: Evaluating music and music performances.

NAfME 2014: Responding 


See above for audio and visual equipment. Teacher supplies manuscript paper. Students supply pencils.


1. Students will review basic music notation skills i.e. notes and rhythms. Students understand the notes of a pentatonic scale.

2. Students will learn basic note entry skills in notation software.

3. Students will complete a simple two measure composition suitable for playback and performance using notation software.


1. Students are grouped in pairs for this activity. Each pair of students is given a sheet of manuscript paper consisting of two measures. For this first composition project, rhythms should be limited to quarter notes, quarter rests, half notes, and half rests. Notes should be limited to a pentatonic scale. Time needed: Six minutes.

2. Using the Smart Board, teacher demonstrates simple note entry (Finale) or step time entry (Sibelius) for the class. Teacher should ensure that students know how to change note placement and note values. Teacher will be teaching note placement by pointing to notes on the staff. Each pair of students should have an opportunity to come to the Smart Board and place notes on the staff. Students can work with one student changing rhythms and the other student placing notes. Time needed: Six minutes.

3. Once students are comfortable using entering notes, each pair of students may write their completed composition using the S! mart Board. While students are using the Smart Board, other students may be refining their compositions and performing them quietly. Students at the Smart Board may play back their compositions for others to hear. All students may perform each composition viewed on the Smart Board. Time needed: Eight minutes.

4. If more time is available, student two measure compositions may be combined to form longer works. The entire class then can perform the longer composition together.


Do students have a better understanding of:

1. The thought process behind simple composition?

2. The notational skills needed for writing music?

3. Using a simple method of note entry in notation software?

The follow up lessons listed below can be used as a means of evaluation of this first lesson.

Are students interested in repeating this activity?

Follow Up:

1. Creating longer compositions using a wider variety of rhythms and notes.

2. Learning how to use other note entry methods in notation software.

3. Doing collaborative compositions via the Internet, video conferencing, etc

4. Saving compositions in other file formats such as mp3 for use on audio devices, attaching to websites, or attaching to e-mail.

Items to Purchase:

All materials currently available. No purchase is needed.

When budget should be submitted:

Not applicable.

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