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Composing Music on the iPad Using Musical Dice

Using the EduCreations App on our iPads, students began composing with musical Dice.

This past week, several grades tried their hand at composing music on the iPad with a musical staff die. We talked about how Mozart did something similar in his day. We’ve been learning about the staff, and I thought it would be a fun adventure to jump right in and get the boys and girls writing down music. We can drill the names of line and space notes later… I wanted to make it real… instantly!

A Melody must have these two ingredients  rhythm and pitch.

I had them think of their favorite song and be prepared to sing it. Then I tossed the ball to them, and they had to quickly sing one phrase.  We decided that  in order to have a memorable melody, we must have pitch and rhythm.

This is our first try… I’ll get to the question and answer phrases and all the other blah, blah, blah soon enough.

We used the EduCreations iPad App.

At first, I had the children draw the staff… but after two classes of that time-consuming idea, I had the rest scan a QR code to download a staff image. The children duplicated the image and then took a picture of the two staves to keep in their photo roll.

We explored possible rhythmic patterns using the Magic Pen on the SMARTboard.

Before we started rolling for the notes, we spent a few minutes deciding on a simple rhythm pattern to use in each measure. On the SMARTBoard, I drew 5 note heads on the staff and let the children use the magic pen to quickly create possible patterns using quarter and eighth notes. That was pretty cool because the next person was ready to create their rhythm just as the previous child’s  ink was disappearing. I’ve got to remember that trick for a future activity!!

Download the pattern to make the Dice at the end of this post.

I copied the pattern onto card-stock and used double-sided and clear packaging tape to put them together. The bad news is that it takes about six minutes per die to cut and tape together; the good news is that once the dice are made, they last forever.

Take a look at the video…

It turned out to be a super fun way to learn about the staff and use the iPads.

Composing music on the iPad was so cool because the children were able to learn about the staff, learn how to write down notes rolled on the staff die, and figure out for themselves how to turn 5 noteheads into four beats. The iPad was not just a drawing tool; the best and most exciting feature of using the iPad was how the students could record their composition to create a complete project.  It was a great start to notation and created many questions in the process… When my students are asking questions, I know they are really learning.

I hope you can use the idea!


Rhythm Die Pattern
Rhythm Die Pattern
rhythm dice pattern.pdf
35.3 KiB
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Cherie Herring

Music/Technology Integration at Hammond School
I teach elementary music, am passionate about integrating technology into my teaching, am obsessed with my SMARTBoard and iPad, and enjoy creating lessons and sharing ideas. I love technology almost as much as I love cheesecake, and with more energy and ideas than I know what to do with, I can't wait for the sun to come up each morning! I'm wife to Prince Charming and mom to three incredible girls who keep me balanced. . . sort of!

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Jennifer November 7, 2012, 9:32 AM

    I am new to the iPad world and have a question for you! I would love to do this lesson with my 3rd and 4th graders next week but since I don’t have a class set of iPads, I just have mine, they would be writing it out on paper. However, what recording program did you use towards the end of the video when you played their compositions?

    Thank you! I love your blog – it’s been a great help to me!

    • Cherie Herring November 7, 2012, 10:09 AM

      Hi, Jen! This lesson works perfectly on good-old pencil and paper! I recorded everything with just my camera on my ipad and then used iMovie to mix it all together. It’s a very easy program to use and has so many cool features and uses. iMovie is one of those must-have apps for the iPad! After I mixed the pictures and film clips in iMovie, I published it to YouTube.
      I hope that answers your question!


  • Patrick Lollis September 22, 2013, 3:34 PM

    Great idea! What’s the “magic pen”? I’m also on a 1:1 campus with iPads. 🙂

    • Cherie Herring October 10, 2013, 9:23 PM

      Hi, Patrick, I just saw your comment! Sorry! Somehow, I missed it. The ‘Magic Pen” is part of the SMARTBoard Notebook software. Do you have a SMARTBoard? If so, let me know and I’ll post where to find it and some really cool things you can do with the Magic Pen. It could be life changing!! 🙂 I’ll look for your reply. I would LOVE to hear what you are doing with the ipads in your music room!- Cherie

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