Composing music with found sounds
Home learning focus
Learn about composing music using found sounds and music technology.
This lesson includes:
- three videos
- three composition activities
Music can be composed using recorded sounds without needing traditional instruments.
Random sounds can be recorded and then pieced together to create interesting compositions using apps and software.
Watch this film to see musicians Kid Carpet and Jules Stevenson make music from random objects with a class of children.
Making found sounds
Found sounds can be collected anywhere - in your home, out on the street, or even underwater.
You need a device to capture them on - like a phone, or digital recorder.
Jules Rawlinson is a composer who doesn't use pianos or violins. He can make sounds from scraping a chair, banging cups or stretching masking tape.
Look around the room that you are in. What could you make sounds with?
In the film, the students record the sound of a ball, a lock, a man coughing. They even record the sound of underwater using a hydrophone.
You will need some music software to edit your sounds. There is free software available and your teacher might be able to help you choose some software.
The sounds need to be taken from your recording device and put on your software.
In the film, they organise the sounds into a rhythm. Low short sounds are good for a steady bass drum sound.
Doctor Who theme
Did you know that the first theme tune made for the TV show Doctor Who was made using found sounds by Delia Derbyshire?
In 1960 Derbyshire joined the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, a special team who provided unusual sound effects and music for radio and TV programmes. The workshop created the sound of the TARDIS and the voice of the Daleks.
Creating the original theme wasn’t easy in a time before music could be made on computers and synthesizers.
Derbyshire had to record hundreds of electrical beeps onto tape, adjust the pitch of each individual note and then splice them all together to create a bass line or a melody.
The end result was music with an otherworldly and mysterious quality – it’s a musical style we still associate with science fiction today.
Segun Akinola, who became the composer for Doctor Who in 2018, is a big fan of Derbyshire’s work and used aspects of her original arrangement in his new version of the show’s theme.
Encourage children to explore sounds around the home that could be recorded.
Anything that moves or can safely be struck, scraped or twanged can be investigated.
Sounds can be recorded using a hand-held recorder, mobile phone or digital camera.
Open your music software and import your sound files.
Choose one of the sounds that will make a good steady beat.
Select other sounds and add them to the mix in different rhythms.
Recreate the Doctor Who theme
Try and recreate the Doctor Who theme using found sounds.
Listen back to the sounds you have collected. Decide what sounds could be used for the melody, the rhythm and the bass line.
For example a tapped glass might provide a useful note for the melody.
Put these sounds into some music software. Edit the pitch of a sound to recreate the tune.
For more ideas on taking this further work through the Ten Pieces Lesson Plan.