Using stories to inspire children’s s compositions — stage 3

STAGE 3 — Developing a Melody 

There are many ways melodies can be explored. It’s effective to ask the children to work in pairs or small groups and compose two contrasting pieces. Pick for them two contrasting characters from your story: an example of this might be Snegurochka, the young snow-maiden, contrasting with the old woodcutter. 

First, the children could discuss various features of each character which they later will turn into music. This could include the characters’ physical features: 

  • their size 
  • their shape
  • whether they are beautiful or ugly
  • their voice
  • how they move 

Or their personal qualities:

  • are they happy or sad?
  • good or bad?
  • lonely or friendly?
  • anxious or excited?

The other PHSE mood words will work well here.

Then, put children into pairs and give each pair an instrument. Select for them a range of five notes (a pentatonic scale). You could choose one of the following five-note scales, or select a random group of five different notes:


Ask the pairs to make up a melody (a tune) for their first character. Some children will need little encouragement: others will may find these questions helpful:  

  1. what note does it start on?
  2. does the tune start by rising or descending? 
  3. can you use some steps and some leaps? 
  4. can you sing the song back to one another? 
  5. can you draw the shape of your tune in the air or on a piece of paper? 
  6. when you are happy with it what does it sound like if you repeat it four times (building an A section) 
  7. can you slightly vary some of the repeats?

To develop the children’s compositions you might then ask them: 

  1. to add a second contrasting part to the tune (a B section). This should be based on the second character.
  2. to experiment by repeating the first part after the second. An A-B-A form (called a ternary form).

When a tune has been composed ask each pair to play their work in unison. If the children are working in groups add some rhythms or short ostinato patterns using a phrase made from the same notes.


A pentatonic scale is any scale consisting of five notes. Pentatonic scales without semi-tones will work best here.
A unison texture is where two or more voices or instruments sing the same line of music at the same time.
An ostinato is a short musical fragment repeated many times throughout a piece or a section of a piece.


Using stories to inspire children’s compositions

Stage 1 — the story
The elements of music
Stage 2 — developing a rhythmic piece
Stage 3 — developing a melody
Stage 4 — creating a soundscape
Stage 5 — creating a song
Stage 6 — graphic scores
Painting to music
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