CME Assignment 2- Reflection

Writing digital content that scaffolds composition

In this assignment, I’ve chosen to scaffold (“baby steps”) 12 tone compositional activities for students in stages 5 and 6 based on Josef Matthias Hauer’s Nomos Op.19.

How did I develop my ‘baby steps’ content?

After researching some information about 12 tone serialism, I’ve found the following words ‘tone row’, ‘prime row’, ‘retrograde’, ‘inversion’, ‘retrograde inversion’ and ’12 tone matrix’ repeatedly mentioned. It was then I asked myself “how am I going to scaffold and make resources that are easy and simple for students in stages 5 and 6?”

  1. Listening
  2. Performing/ Improvising
  3. Recording/ writing music

These 3 steps helped me develop and structure the content of my baby steps in a logical order.

Listening Activity:

I’ve introduced 12 tone serialism with a very short listening activity to Nomos Op.19. Instead of a wordy explanation on what a 12 tone serialism is, I’ve used various questions that stimulated students to think about why this composition is an example of a 12 tone piece (giving them hints that serialism means the order of something).

Starting with a listening activity before we start improvising with 12 tone

Step 1: Composing a tone row

Before showing students how to compose a tone row, I’ve added in piano key screenshots to show students the notes of the chromatic scale. (Students learn differently. e.g. western notation vs. visual diagrams). As you can see below, I’ve given students a very brief overview of this assumed knowledge before they go onto the next activity.

1 page explanation on chromatic notes.

a) Improvise a melody that uses all the notes of the chromatic scale ONCE – Here, I’ve decided to get students to use their instruments to improvise and play around with various combination of notes that they could use in their compositions. I have also provided chromatic note resources, worksheets and instructional videos to help students experiment and explore with the material better. Once the students have improvised and got an idea with the order of notes they want to use, I got them to record this by writing the letter names down in the worksheet that I’ve created.

Step 2: Adding rhythms to your tone row

Assuming that students want to record using various notation softwares, I’ve provided a step by step guide (instructional videos as well as printable pdfs) to show students how to record/ add rhythms on Soundtrap (alternate music notation) and Sibelius (standard Western music notation). Again, getting the students to first experiment with various rhythmical ideas before they record/ notate the rhythms was the main focus in this step.

Step 3: Playing with dynamics

Dynamics- Listening (audio links), questions and steps

Although I based my compositional activities on Hauer’s piece, I wanted to give students examples of various 12 tone serialism pieces that explore a wide range of dynamics. After listening to other serialism pieces, I’ve got the students to learn what dynamics are by:

  • Exploring the range of dynamics their instrument can play (students explore this concept by varying the dynamic levels of their tone row on their instruments), and
  • Think about how musicians create various musical effects/ moods/ interests through changes in dynamic levels.

Once they have an idea, I then asked students to record/ add dynamic markings into their compositions. (Again, directing students to my instructional video ((includes sample music)) to learn how to add dynamics using Soundtrap/ Sibelius).

Indeed, the advice we have been given from our lecturer Dr James Humberstone, “your first compositional step must involve playing (improvising) with music, not writing music down” proved to be of great help in developing and structuring my ‘baby steps’.

How did I test my scaffolding?

Well to put it simply, I tested it out myself! đŸ™‚ (I pretended that I was a stage 5/6 student reading the instructions for the first time.)

I found that testing my scaffolding by trying the activities myself was an effective method to check if there were any gaps/ “jumps” in learning where students needed more scaffolding. By testing my own scaffolding, I found out that

“If I can’t follow the instructions, the students can’t either.”


Humberstone, J. (2019). MUED3603Unit of Study Outline (2019) [UoS Outline]. Retrieved from


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