Using Notation Software to Practice Part-Writing Skills

Using Notation Software to Practice Part-Writing Skills

Christopher Lee
[email protected]
Newtown High School

TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:



High School


Music Theory


PC or Mac
Notation software capable of MIDI playback (e.g., Finale 2004)


50 Minutes

Prior Knowledge and Skills:

Considerable proficiency with notation program (e.g., ability to enter notes and rhythms, ability to engage and manipulate playback feature so that certain lines are muted)

Basic music theory knowledge supporting the activity of part-writing (with good voice leading, in the Bach style).

MENC Standards Addressed:

MENC 1: Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
MENC 4: Composing and Arranging Music within specified guidelines.
MENC 5: Reading and notating music.
MENC 7: Evaluating music and music performances.


teacher-generated notation file set up as an SATB vocal score and with a given bass line notated


1. Given a bass line, students will compose SAT upper parts with good voice-leading.

2. Students will evaluate their part-writing work through aural analysis of MIDI playback, and by singing individual parts along with the computer.


General activity: Students are given a notation file (e.g., Finale file) set up as an SATB vocal score and with the bass line already notated. Following learned rules for voice-leading, students compose soprano, alto, and tenor parts above the given bass line. (Depending on level of class, the harmonies realized may be exclusively root-position, or they be inverted according to figured bass symbols). While working, students are encouraged to use MIDI playback to hear and evaluate their work. After completing the S, A, and T parts, students mute each part in turn (S, then A, then T) and sing it, checking for the singability of the line.

Specifically, this activity is implemented as follows:
1. Teacher demonstrates activity.
2. Teacher guides class through activity (using new example).
3. Students perform activity independently (using another new example).

When part-writing and sing-checking is completed, students format and print their vocal scores. Scores are submitted for teacher assessment.


Students engage in constant self-assessment as they work.

Teacher assesses informally through constant observation.

Teacher collects written work (i.e., the vocal scores) for evaluation.

Follow Up:

Students orchestrate their vocal scores and extract parts to facilitate instrumental performance.

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