I have a special needs student in one of my music classes. He has Asperger’s syndrome. He is 12 years old and has had very little formal music training.
Recently he completed his first ever Composition Task by following a strategy that I believe worked quite well. This task ran over TWO lessons.
Compose/create a four bar melody with four beats in each bar and notate it on the treble stave.
- The student was asked to clap rhythms that were four beats long. (I demonstrated some to get the ball rolling)
- After coming up with a few different four bar rhythms, the student chose two that he liked and together we notated the rhythms on a blank piece of paper. (no stave involved at this point)
- He chose the following:
- This two bar rhythm was repeated to make the four bars of rhythm needed for his melody:
- We spent some time clapping through the rhythm so it would be remembered when the student moved on to composing the melody for his rhythm
- To compose the melody we used a virtual keyboard found on the following site. (I believe an important point at this stage of the process was that the student was more comfortable at a computer keyboard with a virtual keyboard than a piano or musical keyboard.)
- After exploring the different instrument sounds and drum beats available, the student chose the piano to work with.
- His task was to ‘tap’ out his rhythm on any of the WHITE keys between G and D1 (that way the F# and any mention of key signature was avoided)
- As the student came up with a sequence of notes that he liked (working on ONE bar at a time AND tapping the notes out to the rhythm he’s chosen), I noted the letter names on his sheet of paper.
- He could do this by either clicking on the ‘keys’ on the computer screen or by using the computers keyboard: G = G, H = A, J = B, K = C and L = D
- This is what he came up with: G A B B G D C B G A B C D B A G
Notating the composition
To begin today’s lesson we clapped through the four bar rhythm and played through the melody using the notes the student had chosen on the keyboard.
Then it was time to notate the melody in the treble stave
I gave the student the following information/worksheet (which I had typed up since that last lesson):
G A B B G D C B G A B C D B A G
COMBINE the RHYTHM and MELODY
The rhythm was on the page and the student had to write the letter names under the corresponding notes. E.g.
The student was then asked to notate his composition/melody onto the stave, combining the rhythm with the melody notes he’d chosen.
AND he DID it!!
This process worked very well. Not only did the student complete the task, but perhaps more importantly it had given him a great sense of achievement. He had composed and notation his own melody which he could also play!