I recently shared a collection of TikTok music challenges you could adapt for your music classroom and today I’m going to share some more ideas around composing, arranging and collaboration.
I really think TikTok is one of the most creative platforms right now and it’s largely due to The Duet. It may not be quite the type of duet you’re familiar with, although the basic concept is the same.
A TikTok duet involves taking someone else’s video and recording a new video of your own – side by side, next to the original video. The original user must have the duet option turned on in their privacy settings. If they don’t, the option to “duet” with their video will be greyed out.
An original video can also be “duetted” more than once so that there ends up being 3, 4 or 5 videos all playing alongside each other (in a “chain”) and there are some really creative versions of this on the platform.
Duet chains: found sounds and sea shanties
One of the first duet chains I saw involved found sounds. My son showed it to me and I instantly thought it could be a concept that could be adapted for the classroom.
The original video he showed me was a recording of a paper towel dispenser in a bathroom. A TikTok user (who has since left the platform) decided it had a cool rhythmic sound and published the video.
A second user took that first video and added another one – a spray bottle – that synched with one part of the rhythm:
Two other users added their own parts. First, a basketball:
And then a ping pong ball to make a 4-video chain:
##duet with @risskiss21♬ original sound – Tik Toker
You’ve likely already seen this with popular trends like The Wellerman and many other sea shanties.
The original recording of the Wellerman by Nathan Evans was shared in late 2020 and has been duetted by other TikTok users hundreds of times. My favourite part of this is that each TikTok user adds a new part – forming an entire arrangement.
Here is a compilation of some of the Wellerman duet chains which features harmony parts, multiple bass lines (apparently you can never have too much bass), fiddle parts and more:
The little frog
Sometimes a duet chain grows from an unexpected source. Take this little frog:
A guitarist named Chris (@faddnorrizz) took that original video and added his own accompaniment:
He then added a piano part, followed by drums and bass guitar (noting that he’s “not very good at bass so this took time…”).
TikTok user @sushisingnz added an Astrud Gilberto style vocal over the top:
##duet with @sushisingz sweatshirt reveal⁉️♬ original sound – David🇺🇦
Then came the second and third harmony parts and the flugel horn:
Duet with a famous artist
And where else can you perform a duet with a famous musician like Ed Sheeran or John Mayer?
Ed Sheeran shared the chorus of his Afterglow song on TikTok and invited other musicians to sing along.
Granted, some people decided to be funny and recorded something that sounded terrible, but there were also lots of great versions like this one:
This would be a great concept to “steal” for your music students. You could download the video from TikTok and then have your students record a side-by-side version with Ed Sheeran.
John Mayer recently shared a video inviting musicians to trade off guitar licks with him. Here’s his original video:
And one of the duet versions:
Then the well-known Youtuber Samuraiguitarist turned things around and made his own version in which John Mayer “copied” his licks and played them better than he did:
Collaborative songwriting with Charlie Puth
Charlie Puth uses TikTok in a truly collaborative way. He often shares snippets of music and short phrases and openly invites other TikTok users to contribute by composing lyrics, naming a song or adding to his original musical idea.
Take this one:
Tic toc help me name this.♬ original sound – Charlie Puth
TikTok user Ben Houselog took that video and duetted it, adding written lyrics on the screen. Charlie Puth saw his video, and duetted that one by performing the lyrics that Ben had written:
Congrats @benhouselog! I sung your lyrics! ##writethelyrics♬ original sound – Charlie Puth
He also shares songwriting tips on his account and demonstrated his songwriting process in this 60-second video.
I made a country song from a tweet and someone’s name.♬ original sound – Charlie Puth
Collaborative songwriting on a LARGE scale: Ratatouille The Musical
Sometimes a tiny idea on TikTok can even spark something big. Like a full-blown musical.
If you haven’t yet heard about the story of Ratatouille The (TikTok) Musical, you need to go Google it right now.
A short musical snippet created and sung by TikTok user Emily Jacobsen grew very quickly into a worldwide collaboration between unrelated TikTok users who all contributed songs, costume sketches, plans for staging, makeup, notated orchestral parts. The Wikipedia article outlines how the musical came to be, but it’s worth checking out the many videos on TikTok itself to see the range of contributions.
If you’d like a quick overview, here’s a Youtube compilation of just some of the creations:
The musical ended up being staged officially – in a COVID-safe way – and ticket sales raised money for The Actor’s Guild. You can read about the TikTok creators that contributed to the final version here and even watch the entire production on Youtube:
Using the Duet idea in the classroom
As mentioned in part 1, I am definitely not suggesting that you have your students open up the TikTok app and start recording video duets! Instead, you can take the idea or concept and adapt it to the tech tools you already have access to in your classroom.
You can even go tech-free and have your students collaborate and perform their duets “live” with the original performer or creator.
If you do have access to video editing software, each part of a duet or chain could be video-recorded and then combined into a single video to create a multitrack video effect like you see on TikTok. Video editing software that you can use to synchronise videos together include iMovie, DaVinci Resolve, Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro. If your students have iOS devices, you could also consider using the Acapella app.
The collaborative nature of TikTok duets can be a hugely creative inspirational springboard for your students’ composition and arranging skills.
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Looking for More Resources for Music Teachers?
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.