How To Make Your Own Resources: 5 Simple Tips

There are lots and lots of ready-made music education worksheets, Powerpoint files and interactive whiteboard resources available for purchase or free download if you look hard enough online.

But what about those times when you want to create something from scratch yourself?

Maybe you can’t find an existing file that meets your needs. Or perhaps you did find one, but it’s too advanced for your music class, it’s hard to read, or you simply you don’t like the way it looks.

It’s easy to make your own digital music resources once you’ve learnt a few simple tricks. In my interactive whiteboard courses I teach 5 must-know techniques and if you learn these 5 techniques you can create your own resources like a professional!

Which software should I use?

I recommend you use presentation-style software that allows you to position images, text boxes and other items freely on the page. Best options include:

  • Powerpoint (PC or Mac)
  • Keynote (Mac)
  • Interactive whiteboard software such as Notebook (SMARTboard), ActivInspire (Promethen) or Easiteach

The examples shared below and the techniques used to create them work on all these options. One of the great things is that the instructions are quite similar across all of those software programs, so once you know the techniques in one, you will probably be able to find your way in another without too much pain!

The 5 Basic Techniques

12 Bar Blues

Here are my top 5 basic techniques for creating resources. Once you have learnt these techniques, you can make a wide variety of worksheets, presentation files and interactive displays that you can show on the data projector in your classroom.

1. Create text

2. Add a shape or line

3. Add an image

4. Hyperlink text or an image to a webpage

5. Embed an audio file (particularly important for music teachers!)

About These Instructions

All types of interactive whiteboard (IWB) software, Powerpoint and Keynote work in similar ways. They all start with a blank slide to which you add a variety of elements: text, shapes, lines, images and so on. The terminology and menus in each are also similar.

The instructions that follow are general in nature so that they can be applied to whichever software program you are using. Having said that, I have listed specifics for a few programs. If you’re using different software and can’t work out how to do something, please consult The Oracle (Google), your software Help menu or an expert friend for more information.

Technique #1: Create Text

1. Click on the Text Box button or the button with a capital A. You may also be able to go to the Insert menu and choose Text Box from there.

2. Click on the slide and type your title in the text box

3. Use the text settings to the size, colour and font of the text

Technique #2: Add A Shape or Line

1. Click on the Shape button and select your desired shape from the options

2. Click and drag your mouse across the blank slide to “draw” the shape

3. Once the shape is on the page you’ll probably need to make a few adjustments: resize the shape if necessary by dragging a corner (ninja tip: hold down the Shift key while you drag to maintain the aspect ratio of the shape).

4. Most shapes will be “filled in” (solid). If you would prefer just an outline, select the shape, find the Fill setting and change it to “No Fill”. You can usually find this setting in places like the Formatting Palette (Powerpoint), the Inspector (Keynote) or in the object Properties menu (Notebook). You can also adjust the colour of the circle and the line thickness.

Technique #3: Add images

An image can be a photo, a clip art picture, a chord diagram or even some notation (like in the examples pictured below). There are a couple of ways you can add an image to a slide

1. Go to the Insert menu and select Image (or “Picture” or “Media”), and locate the image on your computer. Click OK/Insert.

2. Alternatively, you can locate the image first in Windows Explorer or the Finder and then drag it straight on to the slide

3. Once the image is on the page you can adjust the size by dragging a corner. Reposition the image by selecting it and dragging into place, or moving it gradually with your arrow keys on your computer keyboard

Technique #4: Hyperlink text or an image

You can link text or an image on your slide to a webpage or Youtube video so you don’t need to remember the link or find it amongst your bookmarks. It’s REALLY easy to do and can make life so much easier when you’re in front of a class and you need a link quickly!

1. Visit the webpage or Youtube video you want to link to and copy the URL (web address)

2. Go over to your presentation software and select a text object or an image on your slide

3. Find the Insert Hyperlink or Insert Link option. It’s often located in the Insert menu, or sometimes you can right-click on the object and choose it there. Many programs also use the shortcut Ctrl+K (Cmd+K on Mac). You might also be able to see an Insert Hyperlink button on the toolbar which looks like a globe with a chain on it

Technique #5: Embed an audio file

As a music teacher, you often need to play a musical example, exercise song or backing track. By embedding an audio file into your presentation software you always have it on hand and don’t need to search through your iTunes library or CD collection while your class waits.

In Powerpoint and Keynote, you can embed an audio file (or multiple audio files) on the slide. When you are in presentation mode (i.e. when you are “playing” your presentation) the audio file will begin to play when you click your mouse.

Interactive whiteboard software is a bit more flexible: you can attach the audio file to a specific text object or image on the slide and when you or a student taps the object with your finger, the audio will start to play. This allows you to have complete control over which audio files play at which time.

1. Go to the Insert menu and look for insert “sound”, “audio”, “music” or “media” (Powerpoint is Insert > Movies and Sound or Sound and Music, Notebook is Insert > Sound and Keynote is Insert > Choose). You can also look for a Media, Sound, or Audio button on the toolbar.

2. Locate the audio file you’d like to embed. MP3 files work best because they’re not too large

3. There might be some options available in the insert audio dialogue box, such as when the sound should play (when clicked or as soon as th slide appears), or whether an audio icon should show on the slide. Make your choices and then click Insert (or Attach Sound)

The audio file will now be embedded on to the slide and will play when you’re in presentation mode. If you’re using Powerpoint or Keynote, don’t worry too much if you can see an audio icon on the slide. That won’t show once you’re in presentation mode.

Putting It All Together

Let’s look at a few examples and run through the steps to create them.

Example 1: Beat Circles and Rhythmic Notation

Below is a common type of exercise – a rhythm contained within beat circles that you would like students to identify.

Name this song numbered

How to create this example:

1. Start a new blank slide

2. Add a text object to create the title

3. Add shapes (the circles), make them “no fill” circles and adjust the colour and line thickness

4. Add notation images to the slide, resize them if necessary and position them inside the circles

5. Optional: add a border by creating a rectangle shape on the slide. Make it a “no fill” shape and adjust the line thickness and colour

Bonus: free downloadable collection of notation images available here (it’s a BIG collection!)

Example 2: Chord chart

4 Chord pop song slide numbered

How to create this example:

1. Start a new blank slide

2. Add a text object to create the title

3. Add more text objects to create the I, V, vi, IV, the “in C”, “in D”, “in G” and the “listen to an example” and “Watch Axis of Awesome” text

4. Add chord diagram images to the slide, resize them if necessary and position them

5. Select the “Watch Axis of Awesome” text object and create a hyperlink. Link the text to their Red Nose Day performance of the 4-chord song medley on Youtube (it’s the clean version with no swearing)

6. Embed an audio file: find an example of a 4-chord song and attach the audio to the slide

7. Optional: add a border by creating a rectangle shape on the slide. Make it a “no fill” shape and adjust the line thickness and colour

Bonus: free downloadable collection of guitar chord diagrams available here.

Example 3: Listening – Peter and the Wolf

Peter and the wolf numbered

How to create this example:

1. Start a new blank slide

2. Add text objects to create the title, subtitle and “played by the flute” text

3. Add the Peter and the Wolf clip art image (see below)

4. Add the notation image

5. Create a hyperlink – link the Peter and the Wolf image to the DSO Kids information page about Prokofiev

6. Embed the audio file of the Peter and the Wolf bird theme on the slide

Bonus: Peter and the Wolf free clip art image by Philip Martin


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