The Music of Wild Birds

The Music of Wild Birds – Melody Structure, Improvisation, and Recording

Matthew Etherington
[email protected]
Milton Academy

TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:

Electronic Musical Instruments
Notation Software
Music Production




General Music


Apple computer(s), EITHER: MIDI keyboards with Garageband OR Soprano Recorders with Audacity (Could use PC)


45 Minutes

Prior Knowledge and Skills:

EITHER: basic Garageband skills (recording MIDI track) OR Basic Soprano Recorder finderings and ability to record an audio track in Audacity.

NAfME standard of 1994 Addressed:

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

NAfME 2014: Performing 

NAfME standard of 1994: Improvising melodies, harmonies, and accompaniments.
NAfME standard of 1994: Composing and Arranging Music within specified guidelines.
NAfME standard of 1994: Reading and notating music.

NAfME 2014: Creating 

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

NAfME 2014: Responding 

NAfME standard of 1994: Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts.
NAfME standard of 1994: Understanding Music in Relation to History and Culture

NAfME 2014: Connections


Website: Book: Field Book of Wild Birds and their Music by F. Schuyler Mathews (Publisher: Applewood Books ISBN: 1557095183).


Students will improvise melodies in response to wild bird calls. Students will analyze melody structures including pitch, rhythm, tempo, and ornamentation. Students will record an improvised melody with EITHER Garageband OR Audacity. Students will reflect on and assess own and each others improvised melodies. Students will relate listening and performing experiences to written musical symbols.


Play a selection of bird songs from the npr website to class. Using notation on the board, ask students to guess which pattern fits which audio example. (10-15 minutes) Students explore the npr website on computers with headphones and experiment with melody ideas on the keyboard/recorder. (5-10 minutes) Ask students to choose one of the bird songs and improvise a melody based on the pitch, rhythm, tempo, and ornamentation of the example. (5 minutes) Students should record their melody into Garageband OR Audacity. (10 minutes) Students should play their recorded melodies to each other and appraise their own and each others work. (10 minutes)


The student evaluates their own improvisation upon playback of the recording. The class evaluates the recording of the student”s melody The teacher assesses the recorded melody outside of class time.

Follow Up:

Students should notate their melody with a graphic score, or traditional notation. Students can perform songs about birds: Yellow Bird, 3 Little Birds etc.

Items to Purchase:

Garageband and MIDI keyboards (optional), Audacity (free) and Soprano Recorders, Headphones (optional)

When budget should be submitted:


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