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Composing a Melody

Aim: How can we create and perform a melody using our names?
Summary: Students compose and notate short melodies using their names.
Standards: US 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; NYC 1, 2, 3
Grade: 4th
Concept: Rhythm & Meter, Pitch
Artistic Process: performing, creating
Materials: Student Worksheet
Time Required: 20 minutes


  1. Form a circle and have students establish a steady beat by snapping fingers, patting knees, or clapping hands. Once the beat is established, go around the circle and have each student speak his or her name in rhythm.
  2. Pick a few names as examples and determine how many syllables are in each name.
  3. Using the Student Worksheet, have students assign a note value and a pitch for each syllable of their name. Students should compose their name melody within one to two measures in 4/4 meter – or Common Time. To help students get started, provide a few examples on the board (see Teacher Worksheet).
    Download Teacher and Student Worksheet (PDF)
  4. In small groups, have students combine their name melodies into a larger composition, using rests to put space between each name.
  5. Have students perform their compositions for the class.

Going Deeper

  1. Compose melodies for a sentence or poem.
  2. Give students different composition parameters, such as major or minor mode, types of rhythms, range of pitches, or expressive qualities.
  3. Compose melodies in 3/4 or 6/8 meter.


Grade 4 Activity Exemplar: Rhythm and Meter, Pitch

This video is an exemplar of an activity from Carnegie Hall’s Music Educators Toolbox entitled “Composing a Melody.” Students compose and notate short melodies using their names.


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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