50+ Lesson Ideas for The Chrome Music Lab

50+ Lesson Ideas for The Chrome Music Lab

50+ Lesson Ideas for The Chrome Music Lab

What is the Chrome Music Lab?

About the Chrome Music Lab

The Chrome Music Lab (CML) – created by Google in 2016 – is a fantastic online resource for music teachers and students.  It’s simple to use and its main aim is to allow visitors to explore sound and create with sound.

Menu

 

The Chrome Music Lab is:

  • free
  • interactive
  • bright and colorful
  • works on any device
  • simple to use

 

The CML has 13 different areas to explore – known as “experiments” and each one has a different focus.  The experiments are:

  • Song Maker
  • Rhythm
  • Spectrogram
  • Chords
  • Sound Waves
  • Arpeggios
  • Kandinsky
  • Melody Maker
  • Voice Spinner
  • Harmonics
  • Piano Roll
  • Oscillators
  • Strings

 

How can I use CML with my students?

Each experiment in the CML is super-useful for introducing or reinforcing a music/sound concept.  I love the idea of using it as a starting point for a topic – a springboard activity which is followed by the rest of your lesson or unit of work.

The CML has limitations (for instance, you can’t export or download work), but I don’t think this should be seen as a negative.  It’s just something to be aware of and you can plan your lesson accordingly. Some of the experiments allow students to save a link to their work so they can come back and continue at a later stage, but many of them are designed to be used “on the spot”.

 

The CML Lab will work no matter how many devices you have access to:

  • Just one device: plug your laptop, Chromebook or iPad into a data projector with speakers attached so you can use the CML with your class as a group
  • Shared devices: students can work in groups and collaborate while using the CML
  • One-to-one devices (1:1): students can work individually on the CML experiments



How are other teachers using the Chrome Music Lab?

There are a collection of tweets showing how other teachers are using the CML here.


Songmaker

Songmaker

How to use:

Create a song by clicking notes into the grid.  The top section of the grid can be used for high notes, and the lower section of the grid for low notes.  There are two rows of dots at the bottom for creating a rhythmic pattern.

Good to know:

  • Change the playback sound and tempo with the options at the bottom of the screen
  • Click on Settings to change the scale, length of the song, range of notes, time signature and more
  • You can use the mic to record notes into Songmaker
  • You can save or share a link to your song
  • Set up templates or partially completed songs ahead of your lesson to save time during class

A few lesson ideas:

  1. Recreate a song you have learnt in class (you can provide the starting note for the students)
  2. Compose a melody using the pentatonic scale (you can change the scale in the Settings area)
  3. As a class, compose a bassline ostinato using the lower section of notes and then play it on classroom instruments (or sing it).
  4. Demonstrate visually melodies that move by step or leaps
  5. Compose simple rhythmic patterns in two parts
  6. Ask students to create a pattern that demonstrates high vs low pitches
  7. Explore different meters and beat subdivisions (you can adjust these in Settings)

Rhythm

How to use:

Click in the grid to see two animated characters play rhythms meters of 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Good to know:

  • Add sounds by clicking on the grid
  • Remove a sound by clicking on it again
  • Switch to each new meter by clicking the right or left arrow
  • Each meter uses different instruments

A few lesson ideas:

  1. Select a meter and remove the existing rhythmic pattern.  Students can then create their own pattern on the grid. This could be done as a group or individually
  2. Press play and ask students to keep the beat – they could clap or walk to the beat – while CML plays the rhythm
  3. Select a meter and set up a simple rhythm. Ask the students to all clap the top line/part only.  Then ask them to clap the second line/part. Divide the students into two groups and ask half to play the top line and the other half to play the second line/part.  Add in a third part and divide the students into three groups to play the three rhythms
  4. Ask students to work out which instruments play each horizontal part in the grid beneath the characters (ie. in the 3 meter, the bottom  line is played by the low timpani drum)
  5. Older students can create a rhythm and then – on a piece of paper or in a separate app – notate the rhythm on a percussion staff using traditional notation

 

FREE LESSON PLAN:

Download a free lesson plan – Explore Rhythm and Meter with the Chrome Music Lab.


Spectrogram

How to use:

Spectrogram shows a visual picture of the frequencies that make up sound.  Choose an instrument or sound source from the buttons at the bottom of the screen to compare spectrograms of different sounds.  

Good to know:

  • You can record your own sound using the microphone
  • You can draw freely on the screen to create abstract sounds

A few lesson ideas:

  1. Choose two sound sources and write down 3 differences between each of the spectrograms for those sounds
  2. Ask students what loud sounds look like on the spectrogram? How about quiet sounds?
  3. Click on the microphone and say (or sing) “aah”, then say/sing “eee”.  How does the spectrogram change? Try an “ooh” sound and compare that to the “ah” and “eee” sounds.  Other interesting sounds to try: “k”, “ba”, “ssss”, “shhhh”
  4. If you have already used the Harmonics and Oscillators experiments with your students you could ask them whether they can see the fundamental and overtones in the spectrogram image.  Which sound sources produce the most overtones?
  5. Display the Spectrogram on your data projector during vocal warm-ups in choir rehearsal.  Click on the microphone and let the choir members see a visual representation of the exercises they are singing.  A great way to keep everyone engaged!

Chords

Chords

How to use:

Choose a note on the keyboard to see a three-note triad based on that note

Good to know:

  • Switch between major and minor using the toggle button below the keyboard

A few lesson ideas:

  1. Use Chords as a visual guide when introducing the concept of triads to students
  2. Display Chords on the data projector during class and choose one of the notes on the keyboard.  Ask one of the students to identify the two other notes that will make up the triad. Then ask them to click/tap the root note to check their answer
  3. Use the major/minor toggle switch to show students the difference between a major or minor chord based on the same root note

Sound Waves

Sound Waves

How to use:

Play a note on the keyboard to see a visual representation of the way in which a sound wave travels through air molecules.

Good to know:

  • Zoom in using the magnifying glass to see a red line tracing the shape of the wave created by one note

A few lesson ideas:

  1. Play a low note and ask students to describe the way the air molecules move. Are they moving slow or fast? What happens when you play a high note? Are they moving faster or slower than the low note?
  2. Zoom in using the magnifying glass and play a low note.  Describe the waveform of a low note. Play a high note and describe the waveform now – is it different to the low note?
  3. Open Oscillators on a separate tab or on another device and play a low frequency.  How does the waveform in the oscillator character’s mouth compare to the sound wave produced by a low note in the Sound Waves experiment?

Arpeggios

Arpeggios

How to use:

Click on a chord on the coloured wheel to play a single major or minor arpeggio.  Press the play button to hear the selected chord play in the pattern shown at the top of the screen.  

Good to know:

  • You can use the arrows to change the playback pattern to one of five variations
  • There are options to change the playback sound from harp to piano
  • You can alter the tempo using the metronome button

A few lesson ideas:

  1. Ask students to define what a chord is in music.  Click on the letter names in the circle to hear chords.  Then discuss what an arpeggio is – a chord that is broken up into individual notes that are played one after the other. Press the play button to hear CML play different types of arpeggio patterns
  2. Select one chord and then play the arpeggio that appears on the screen on a keyboard, guitar or other instrument.  Switch to a different arpeggio style and play that one, Continue through all the arpeggio style options
  3. Use the chord wheel to demonstrate visually when chord changes occur in a song. For example, play the common pop song chord progression of I, V, vi, IV (as shown in this Axis Of Awesome YouTube clip). Select a key – such as C major – and ask students to work out which chord is chord I, which one is chord V, which one is vi and which one is IV for that key.  They can then press the Play button, choose one of the playback styles and click on each chord in time to create a backing using that sequence
  4. Use the chord wheel to experiment with different different combinations of chord sequences for the purposes of songwriting

Kandinsky

Kandinsky

How to use:

The artist Wassily Kandinsky compared painting to making music. In this experiment you can draw shapes, lines and scribbles on the screen and hear them turn into sound.  

Good to know:

  • Different shapes make different types of sounds. Try circle and triangle!
  • Click on a drawing to hear it play back
  • Press the play button to hear your entire painting
  • Vertical placement changes the pitch of a note or timbre of the sound.  Try drawing 3 triangles in a column to hear three different percussive sounds
  • Use the coloured circle to the left of the play button to change the sounds

A few lesson ideas:

  1. Young students can draw a picture on a piece of paper using 3 or 4 shapes/lines. They can then recreate (copy) their picture in the Kandinsky experiment and press play to hear the drawing.   Ask the students: does your picture sound the way you expected? What do you like about the sound of your picture? Anything you would change?
  2. Draw a picture on the screen and play it back with the different sound/colour options – which one do you like the best? Why?
  3. Draw some horizontal lines on the screen at different heights – what’s the difference between the lines drawn at the bottom of the screen and those drawn in the middle or the top of the screen?
  4. Ask students to draw a triangle in the middle of the screen.  What sound does it make? Can you recognise the instrument? What happens when you draw another triangle above the first one?  Does it sound the same or different? Do you recognise the instrument? Try a third triangle low down on the screen
  5. Draw a circle on the screen – what happens? Can you draw two more circles that make higher or lower sounds than your first circle?
  6. Cross-curricular opportunity: learn about Kandinsky the artist in this biography written especially for kids and/or create some art projects like these ones.

Melody Maker

Melody Maker

How to use:

The Melody Maker allows students to create a single-line melody using graphic-style notation which represents time (from left to right) and pitch (up and down).  

Good to know:

  • Melody Maker is a simplified version of the Songmaker mentioned earlier.  Melody Maker does not allow you to alter the scale, range or beat subdivision
  • Playback the melody you have created by pressing the play button at the bottom of the screen
  • Change the tempo or add duplicate notes using the other options

A few lesson ideas:

  1. Recreate a song you have learnt in class (you can provide the starting note for the students)
  2. Compose an ostinato and play it back on tuned percussion or Boomwhackers (the note colours on the screen roughly match those of the Boomwhackers!)
  3. Demonstrate visually a melody that that moves by step or leaps
  4. Demonstrate high vs low pitches

Voice Spinner

Voice Spinner

How to use:

Drag the slider left or right to hear the Voice Spinner recording played slow, fast, forward or backward.  

Good to know:

  • Click on the microphone to record your own sounds: melodies, spoken sentences or other sounds around you

A few lesson ideas:

  1. Ask students to note that as the slider is moved left or right the pitch changes.  Where on the line is the pitch of the sound at its lowest?
  2. When you move the slider all the way to the right or all the way to the left, the spinner moves more quickly. What happens to the pitch of the sound when it moves more quickly?  What about when it spins slowly?

Harmonics

Harmonics

How to use:

Harmonics shows you a set of frequencies consisting of a fundamental and the overtones related to it by an exact fraction – twice as fast, three times as fast, four times as fast and so on.

Good to know:

  • Click and hold (or tap and hold) to hear the sustained pitch

A few lesson ideas:

  1. Use the CML Harmonics to explain to students that the timbre of different instruments is affected by the overtones – or harmonic series – that the instrument produces.  CML Harmonics visually demonstrates the mathematical relationship between the fundamental and the overtones. If you have older students, this video by Paul Davids offers a great explanation
  2. Play the fundamental and ask students to work out which note it is (F3). Then ask them to work out the remaining pitches as played by the harmonics on the screen  
  3. Ask students to determine the frequency value of the fundamental and each of the overtones
  4. Open the CML Spectrogram experiment in another tab (or on another device) and ask students if they can see the harmonic series in the spectrogram for the flute, the harp, the trombone and the wine glass.  What differences do they notice between each one?

Piano Roll

Piano Roll

How to use:

Inspired by the roll of paper you feed into a pianola, the Piano Roll  experiment allows you to view a graphic notation version of a number of well-known pieces.

Good to know:

  • Change the music selection by using the left and right arrows next to the play button
  • Change the playback sound by clicking on the piano or wave buttons
  • Record your own playback sound with the microphone. Short sounds work really well – try a cough, a single sung note, a clap or a dog bark!

A few lesson ideas:

  1. Group activity with older students: before pressing play, ask them if they can guess the piece of music showing on the screen.  Switch the selection by clicking on the arrow
  2. Use the right arrow to move through to the third piece in the Piano Roll experiment (Beethoven’s 5th Symphony).  Ask young students to find examples of the following: a repeated note, a group of notes that move by step, a long note, a rest, a short note, a group of notes that move in an upward direction, a group of notes that move in a downward direction
  3. Just for fun! Click on the microphone and record a dog bark and then play back the piece on the screen

Oscillators

Oscillators

How to use:

Click/tap and hold on the oscillator character on the screen to hear it “sing” a frequency.  Drag your mouse/finger up or down to change the frequency value (and the shape of the character!).

Good to know:

  • Use the arrow keys to change the oscillator type
  • To hear a very slow oscillator, click/tap and hold the bottom of the screen

A few lesson ideas:

  1. Ask students: does a small frequency value (number) produce a low sound or a high sound? Does a large frequency value (number) produce a low sound or a high sound?
  2. Ask students what they notice about the wave form that shows in the mouth of each oscillator: what does it look like when you play a high note? What does it look like when you play a low note?
  3. Older students: click and hold on the bottom part of the screen, listen to the note and write down of the frequency number.  They can then multiply that number by two and try to make their oscillator play the resulting frequency value (it’s difficult to make it play precisely the right one!).  What do they notice about pitches of the two frequency values? What is the interval between the two? (hint: they should be an octave apart)
  4. Each of the oscillator types has a unique sound or timbre.  Write down 2-3 words to describe each one

Strings

Strings

How to use:

Click on a string to explore the mathematical relationship between the length of a string and its pitch.  

Good to know:

  • Click just one of the sections on the second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth strings to hear what happens to the pitch when the original string length is divided into smaller lengths

A few lesson ideas:

  1. STEAM lesson: have students create their own stringed instruments to demonstrate the correlation between string length and pitch.  This Youtube video shows how you can create a simple stringed instrument using a cardboard box, a rubber band and two pens (see below):STEAM lesson
  2. Get out a real stringed instrument (such as a ukulele, guitar, violin, viola or cello) and have the students work out how to produce a low sound and a high sound

 

 

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Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music.

I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.

I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects.  I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences and other music education events.

If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community. Learn more and take a sneak peek inside

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About the Author:

I love to simplify technology for music teachers. I help teachers from all around the world through the Midnight Music Community - an online professional development community where teachers can take online courses, ask questions and receive personalised help for the music tech goals.

3 Comments

  1. Nottelmann Music Company October 10, 2018 at 12:57 am - Reply

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    […] 50+ Lesson Ideas For The Chrome Music Lab […]

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