Using Chrome Music Lab’s Kandinsky Experiment In the Elementary Music Room

This is a guest post by one of our blog writers, Sarah Joncas.

My students love Chrome Music Lab! They always look forward to days when their iPads and computers become their instruments. 

One of the most user-friendly Chrome Music Lab experiments is Kandinsky. Just draw a shape on screen to hear corresponding sounds. Students love experimenting with this tool. I’ve created a guided exploration lesson for my students so that they can find how to access all of the different elements of music within a Kandinsky drawing. 

This lesson could work (with some slight adaptations) for virtual, hybrid, or in-person learning. I’ve used it with second graders, but it could easily be adapted for other grade levels.

Free Exploration

Whenever I give my students a new music technology tool, I like to give them some time to play with it. This lets them experiment and discover features on their own, plus it seems to help them stay on task once we get to work. After giving them a few minutes to explore, I’ll ask students what they noticed. 

When they explore Kandinsky, my students often mention how the different colors sounded different, and how sometimes faces popped up on their screen. Usually, students will also share that they drew certain shapes or wrote something and liked the sound of it. 

I always get at least a few students who draw their pets when exploring Kandinsky!

Guided Exploration

After my students have explored Kandinsky on their own, I like to give them some guided practice and exploration tasks to help them discover what they can do in Kandinsky. Some prompts I might give them are:

  • Draw a line, and draw a circle right next to it. Do they sound the same or different? 
  • Change the colors using the circles at the bottom. What happened to the sound? 
  • Where can you draw to make a high sound? How about a low sound? 
  • What happens if you draw a triangle? 
  • Can you make a sol mi pattern? 

Creating / Composing

Once they’ve had some practice and we’ve discussed how they can change the timbre and pitch, I give my students a series of creative prompts and have them create their own Kandinsky compositions. Since creating is so quick with Kandinsky, often my students are able to breeze through all of these in one lesson:

  • Compose using only lines
  • Compose by writing the letters of your name
  • Compose by drawing a living thing

I usually let students share their compositions, both with me and with their classmates. Students love hearing each other’s work, and since the Kandinsky music is so short we can get to everyone’s within our class time.

Extensions

If students have access to instruments or found sounds, having them create Kandinsky art and music to go with it could be a great longer-term project! This could also make a great interdisciplinary project connecting art and music – students could make art inspired by Kandinsky in their art classes and then compose music to go with it in music class. This could be a great art show exhibit too – have students record their music on Flipgrid and use a QR code to link to the video next to their artwork!  

Connections to other subject areas 

Art is of course a natural integration, since Kandinsky himself was an artist. Usually as we discuss the different elements of music (pitch, timbre, etc.), I will guide students towards connections with the elements of art (shape, color, etc.). In the Kandinsky Chrome Music Lab experiment, the color of shapes determines their timbre, so there’s an easy connection that makes the abstract idea of tone color a little more concrete.

I’ve also connected this lesson to the book Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow thanks to my students! A class mentioned they had just read this book for a reading lesson, and it’s a great connection to inspire students to create their own compositions in Chrome Music Lab using their names. 

Additional Resources

Here is a link to a first grade completed final project on Kandinsky from Midnight Music Community Coordinator, Amy Burns. 

This is another link to a Kandinsky Google experiment that is a little more in-depth for you to use with older students. 

Video on Synethesia, the condition that Kandinsky is believed to have which links sounds to visuals.

MUSIC TECH LESSON PLAN

Kandinsky Composing

Grade level

USA grades 1-3

Objective

Students will… create music using Kandinsky in Chrome Music Lab

Materials/Equipment

  • Teacher laptop or desktop computer, data projector and speakers (or videoconference connection to students)
  • Student devices: iPad or computer
  • Chrome Music Lab Kandinsky experiment

Duration

1 lesson

Skills required

Students know… 

  • Sounds can have a high or low pitch
  • Different sounds have different timbres or tone colors
  • How to click and drag (if using a computer) or navigate a website (if using an iPad)

Procedure

Part 1:  Free exploration

  • Give students the link to the Kandinsky site.
  • Have students explore the site for 2-5 minutes
  • Discuss what students noticed while exploring the site.

Part 2: Guided Exploration

  • Use the following prompts to help students discover features of the site: 
    • Draw a line, and draw a circle right next to it. Do they sound the same or different? 
    • Change the colors using the circles at the bottom. What happened to the sound? 
    • Where can you draw to make a high sound? How about a low sound? 
    • What happens if you draw a triangle? 
    • Can you make a sol mi pattern? 
  • Summarize students’ discoveries (shape and color determines timbre, location determines pitch)

Part 3: Creating / Composing

  • Encourage students to create a composition in Kandinsky, this time giving them more creative freedom and choice. For example, ask them to: 
    • Compose using only lines
    • Compose by writing the letters of their name
    • Compose by drawing a living thing
    • Compose anything they like
  • Have students share their compositions with teacher and classmates

Extensions

  • Create Kandinsky art on paper, then use instruments or found sounds to create music to  go with it. Bonus: use Flipgrid to record a video of them performing their music, and post a QR code linking to the video along with their artwork! 
  • Have students explain their creative process for their Kandinsky composition in a video or in writing

Evaluation

Students can create music inspired by Kandinsky

Further info

Possible integration: Reading/English Language Arts – Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

USA Music Education Standards

  • Generate musical ideas for various purposes and contexts. 
  • Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make music.

Australian Music Curriculum Standards

4.3 Create, perform and record compositions by selecting and organising sounds, silence, tempo and volume

Download your copy

Would you like to take a copy of this lesson plan with you? Click the button below and a copy of this will be sent directly into your inbox.

Click here to download

About the writer

Sarah Joncas

Sarah Joncas is a music teacher from Massachusetts, USA. She teaches kindergarten through fifth grade general music, fifth grade chorus, fifth grade band, and percussion ensemble. Before becoming a teacher, she worked with technology and educational software.

In 2014, she was named a TI:ME Technology in Music Education Leadership Fellow, which allowed her to attend a music education conference in Texas and explore cutting edge music teaching technology. She has earned degrees in Music Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Boston University. You can connect with Sarah on Twitter or her blog Teaching Music Musings

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.

MMC Mockup new

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