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Creating and Performing Melodic Contour

Aim: How can we create and perform melodies that move between high and low sounds?
Summary: Students create and perform melodic contours.
Standards: US 1, 2, 4, 8; NYC 1, 2, 3
Grade: 1st
Concept: Pitch, Singing
Artistic Process: performing, responding, creating
Materials: yarn, pitched instrument
Time Required: 10 minutes


  1. Draw a contoured line on the board, trace it with your finger, and have students hum along, singing higher and lower as they follow the shape of the line. Help students to understand the distinction between high pitch and high volume.
  2. Play familiar melodies on a pitched instrument and have students trace the shape of the melody in the air as they listen.
  3. Give each student a piece of yarn (about one foot in length). Have students create their own melodic shapes using the yarn. Guide them in including highs and lows in their composition.
  4. Have students perform their yarn compositions for each other by singing on a neutral syllable. Encourage them to trace the melodic contour of each shape with their finger as they sing.

Going Deeper

  1. Have students begin to explore melodic contour on a music staff.
  2. Draw a staff on the board and have students volunteer to draw or place dots on various lines and spaces on the staff. Have the student connect the dots with a musical shape or contour.
  3. Have students sing the new melodic contour(s). Discuss the highs and lows of the melody that are represented in the contour.


Grade 1 Activity and Summative Assessment Exemplar: Pitch

This video is an exemplar of an activity from Carnegie Hall’s Music Educators Toolbox entitled "Creating and Performing Melodic Contour." Students create and perform melodic contours and use yarn or string to create and perform a simple melodic contour using their voices.


Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

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