Theme and Variations

Theme and Variations

Nancy Beitler
[email protected]
Southern Lehigh Middle School

TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:



Middle School




eMac with MIDI to a Roland XP10
Print Music
Digital Performer 4
I also use a smartboard to demonstrate all techniques but this is not necessary. Any overhead projection will be helpful.


180* Minutes

Prior Knowledge and Skills:

Comfort with notation software (Print Music) from previous composition assignments.

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 2014: Creating 

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

NAfME 2014: Responding 


Simple folk tunes
Recordings for theme and variation examples: such as, Mozart’s “Ah vous …. ‘Twinkle, Twinkle'”
Ives “Variations on America”


As part of a composition unit in Instrumental (Band & Orchestra) Music in eighth grade, the students compose variations on a simple folk melody using notation software. They must be able to perfom their notated theme and at least one of their variations. Through use of a sequencing program, students will enter a SMF of the theme then use controllers (volume, reveb, chorus and modulation) along with patch changes to produce an additional variation.

*Teacher instruction time is approx. 60 minutes. The students work individually during their small group lesson time during the course of four to six weeks (four/six lessons). The performance period generally takes 30 minutes.


1. Students will listen and analyze musical examples of theme and variations. From these recordings, the students will make a list of compositional devices used by the composers and add their own ideas.
2. Students choose a folk song and put it in notation software, transposing and adjusting ranges as needed and always keeping in mind they must perform this for their class.
3. Using this theme, the students apply at least 2 of the compositional devices from their list.
4. The teacher demonstrates how to open a SMF in sequencing program and how to apply simple controller and patch changes.
5. Students then opens their saved theme in the sequencing program and place it in track 1.
6. Through use of the programs capablities, the students develop an electronic variation.
7. During the performance of the student composition, the listening students identify the compositional devices used in each variation.


1. A rubic of expected elements was handed to the students before starting the project.
2. The listening student response sheets with the identified compositional devices are returned to the performing student composer.

Follow Up:

During rehearsals and/or lessons, students identify the use of various compositional devices used by composers within their concert pieces.

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