Kids creating songs

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My mulling over our song-a-day curriculum has me thinking: what if we had students regularly create their own songs? I'm inspired by this by the band They Might Be Giants, which...

...long maintained a "Dial-A-Song" phone line. Every week from 1983 to 2006, they'd put up a recording of a new song — anyone could call the number and listen to it.

Sometimes the songs were great; sometimes they were awful! The bad emphasized quantity — and out of that came quality.

Could we do the same with our students?

Writing a song can be scary: perfectionism rears its ugly head. Being required to write many songs fixes that. Throw some notes together! Hum a ditty, slap some lyrics on it, and you're done!

We can set the bar very, very, very low: parodies would be just fine. Can't come up with your own melody? Just take the French national anthem and re-write the lyrics to be about your breakfast.

Why am I in love with this idea? (And, to be clear, I am.) A few reasons.

First, this could be educationally wonderful for the other things the kids are learning: instead of just asking kids to create a song about anything, we could ask them to create songs about something they've been learning about.

Within months, the class could produce dozens of songs about the digestive tract, the chemistry of fire, plate tectonics, and the despotic rule of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic (or whatever it is that kids will be learning about — which will always be dozens of things).

This positions kids as teachers: they'll need to distill information, and find what's most wonderful in it. Ahhhhhh this would be wonderful.

(This aspect of the idea comes from Kristin, by the way).

Second, this would cultivate creators. This is something I've been kicking around: ours are schools for creators. (Or makers, if that word is more appealing.)

Third, creating songs gives a direct purpose to listening to songs. Especially songs of various genres. We can expect to see little snippets of classical, jazz, and rap show up in student-created songs.

Fourth, creating songs also gives a direct purpose to music theory — learning notation, and tempos, and keys, and things even more complicated.

Finally, creating songs could be really, really enjoyable. About that, 'nuff said.


An issue that this brings up: do we want all our students to learn an instrument? I think the answer is yes, but my battery's about to run out, so I'll post about this idea later.

Brandon Hendrickson

Seattle, WA