Gifts for the Gifted – Compose Yourself

Thinkfun periodically sends products to me for review. When Compose Yourself arrived on my doorstep, I knew that I should find someone with a musical background to give it a test drive.  Our school music teacher, who is also the President-Elect for the Texas Music Educator’s conference, volunteered to try out the game with her class.  Here is Angela Leonhardt’s review.

image from Thinkfun
image from Thinkfun

“I was recently asked by our GT teacher to test out this music-based game from Thinkfun.  What fun my students and I had being the testers!  Although we were using this in our music classroom, anyone who loves music would enjoy this activity.  With 60 different music cards the possibilities for musical enjoyment are almost endless.

How it works:  Once you have signed into the Thinkfun Compose Yourself website and entered the “make music” code provided with the cards you are set to start composing your own music. Each card has a 4 digit number code that you enter.  You can enter up-to 16 cards in your composition. Once you are done you can hear your composition played by a professional marimba player, orchestra or both. 

Here are some highlights from Compose Yourself we found:

  • Very easy to use.  Students in 1st – 5th grade easily used the website and cards with minimal instruction from me.
  • All of the students enjoyed the music making experience and were disappointed when our time was done. A good sign in my book.
  • The students were very excited to hear their finished products.  One group of students wanted to continue the experiment and see what it would sound like if they all played at the same time.  
Compose Yourself 5th Graders
5th Graders using Compose Yourself
  • Price: Reasonable for both teachers and families.
  • We loved the ‘Clear Composition’ feature at the bottom of the screen to quickly set up a new composition.
  • Of course the Free Set-Up of your account is also a big plus. I set up one teacher account for all of my students to use.
  • Bonus:  You can download the mp3 of your composition and the printed melody line.

For those music educators out there who are wondering how this relates to your classroom instruction and standards, never fear.  My initial purpose was to have students ‘play’ with the ideas.  As an Orff Schulwerk teacher the act of play is where the learning begins for me.  I gave my students a quick overview of how to enter the card codes and told them to play, see what happens. What happens if you flip a card or move it to a different place in the score?  They LOVED hearing their compositions in an orchestral setting.  It was very satisfying to them.  With our second experience I provided more structure to their play by turning this into a lesson on musical form and elemental structures. What started as play turned into learning through play. I can also see future lessons on melodic contour using Compose Yourself.  I don’t see my class using this as a ‘notation reading’ lesson at this point.  I could separate out the cards within their reading ability but I think there are other ways to practice this skill.  I’m not a fan of the ‘lollipop’ notes as we call them in my classroom but I’m sure there was a technical reason why the programmers printed the notation this way.  This is a small minus for an overall great program and experience for my students.

My students have been satisfied with the instrument choices because they’ve never heard their ideas in a full orchestral setting.  The website talks about adding more instrumental choices in the future, which would be a bonus but not necessarily an essential in my book.”

 

1st Grader using Compose Yourself
1st Grader using Compose Yourself

For more recommendation in the Gifts for the Gifted series from this year and past years, check out this page.

gifts

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