Creating a School Song

Creating a School Song

Denis Lambert
[email protected]
Bethel Elementary / Whitcomb High School

TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:



High School


Music Theory


computer with notation software, printer


900+ Minutes

Prior Knowledge and Skills:

Students need to be comfortable building inverted and root position chords and should have experience with 4-part chorale writing.

MENC Standards Addressed:

MENC 4: Composing and Arranging Music within specified guidelines.
MENC 5: Reading and notating music.
MENC 6: Listening to, analyzing and describing music.
MENC 7: Evaluating music and music performances.
MENC 9: Understanding Music in Relation to History and Culture


Staff Paper, Pencils, Computer, Audio Example of a School Song


Students will use rules of traditional harmony to compose an original school song, and will use notation software to edit and perform their creation.


1. Discuss with students the concept of school songs. What is a school song? (a formal song created in honor of a school; 4-part harmony with lyrics) When might a school song be used? (concerts, assemblies, graduation, other official ceremonies involving the school)

2. Present to students an overview of the typical structure of a school song: 4-part chorale, 16 measures, 4 phrases of 4 measures each, often AABA, lyrics pay tribute to the school and/or its people (community). Play a recording of a school song for students to hear as an example.

3. Have students compose the first draft of an original melody (soprano voice of 4-part texture) and lyrics that could be used as the song for their school. Some students may begin with the lyrics then set them to music, while others may wish to create the melody first and modify it as needed to accommodate lyrics later. Each method is valid and can be used to spawn discussion about the songwriting process.

4. Offer individual assistance to students as needed/requested. As students finish, have them share their work with the rest of the class. This is a time for praise (i.e., “the melody sounds strong and regal”) as well as positively-worded constructive criticism (e.g., “the word ‘honor’ sounds out of place in that phrase… perhaps a different word would help maintain the flow”) from teacher and students.

5. Have students create a second draft of the single-line melody and lyrics, making changes based on class feedback and their own ideas for improvement.

6. Instruct students to write a bass line. For now, maintain the same rhythm throughout.

7. Students complete the 4-part chorale by adding alto and tenor voices, following all rules of voice leading and traditional harmony. Keep the piece homorhythmic. Write chord symbols above each beat and Roman numeral analysis below.

8. Using a computer, students input the chorale and listen to the playback.

9. Students modify the chorale as desired. Students may wish to add in some nonharmonic tones (passing tones, neighbor tones, appoggiaturas, etc.). This is the time to modify rhythms (break some quarter notes into eighth notes, etc.) if desired. Be sure each voice can sing the lyrics.

10. Students proofread, checking for parallel fifths/octaves and difficult singing passages.

11. Students print a final draft of their neatly formatted chorale.

12. Have students search the Internet for other school songs, saving sound files and printing lyrics to share with the class at a later time.


The class as a whole will critique the work of individuals. At the conclusion of the entire process, however, the teacher may wish to assess student work based on a set of specific considerations that were clearly communicated to students at the start of the project.

Follow Up:

Students could subsequently arrange the chorale for different combinations of instruments. (Note: arranging for a trio would be an interesting assignment, as it would raise discussion of how to reduce from 4 to 3 voices and maintain the same chord structure even if there are seventh chords.)

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