Technology-based lesson plan                                                                       Caryn M. Katz

July 18, 2006                                                                                             TGM

High School Music Theory I


Composing with non-chord tones(NCTs) to ornament a melody

NCTs to be used in this first lesson: passing tone, neighboring tone, appoggiatura, escape tone, anticipation. 


Objective: Students will be able to develop melodies based on a simple chord

progression.  (Students already have demonstrated an understanding of chords and how to create chord progressions.  They have also practiced how to choose chord tones to establish the contour of a melody.)



1.     To develop tools that can be used as students begin to compose original music.

2.     To understand the qualities of each NCT and be able to identify them in a composition.

3.     To develop their listening skills and connect their ears with what is on the page as they sing along with the music they compose. 


Materials Needed:

            *chalkboard, white board, or overhead projector and screen

            *Students need a manuscript notebook and pencil.

            *Computers for each student to use that has notation software (Students could

   also pair up and share a computer or even rotate through a few computers if that

   all that is available.)

            *A piano keyboard for demonstration


Anticipatory Set:

            When students enter the room, there should be written musical examples of each

            non-chord tone and their label being presented today on the board/screen.  Post an

accompanying question, such as ŇFind a partner and discuss what you see on the board.  By looking carefully at each example given, together create a definition that describes each non-chord displayed.Ó



1.     After all pairs of students have written definitions, go over their responses and

discuss the characteristics of each non-chord tone, clarifying any of the definitions if necessary.  Be sure the students understand that the NCTs have to be notes that are not part of the chord during which they occur.

2.     Pose some thought-provoking questions: Why might we use NCTs as we

compose?  What does it do to the music?  Help the students understand how ornamentation enhances music, adding shape and interest.

3.     With the studentsŐ input, create a chord progression and then a simple 4-measure melody, including quarter notes, half notes, whole notes and equal rests, and notate it on the board, having them also write it into their notebooks.  Be sure the melody has some leaps and some consecutive motion.

4.     Play the melody for the students.  Then ask them to try singing along.

5.     Ask them what they think about this melody they composed.  (ItŐs rather plain, which sometimes is okay but we want to make it more engaging.)

6.     Begin working with students to embellish the melody, showing them how to recognize places in the melody where the NCTs can be added. 

7.     Play the embellished melody for the students.  Then ask them to sing along. 

8.     Discuss the difference between the two versions of their melody.  What do the NCTs do to the original melody?  Which do they prefer and why?

9.     Explain that this is one way a composer can develop a simple musical idea and arrive at a more complex composition without always having come up with brand new ideas.

10.  Review the construction of each NCT, how it is approached (step or leap)

and how it is left (step or leap), reminding the students that the NCT must be a note that is not part of the chord during which it occurs.

11.  Now for the assignment, students will first construct a simple melody, like we

did earlier based on a chord progression and in a key of their choice (4 measures, including quarter notes, half notes, whole notes, and equal rests---steps and leaps).  They will work individually and notate this melody in their manuscript notebook.

12.  As each student finishes their melody, check it to be sure all components are


13.  Then each student will go to the computer lab, and first notate their melody in

notation software and listen to it, using the playback feature and then try to sing along with it.  This should be saved as a file or printed out.  They should be able to compare the ornamented version of the melody to the original.

14.  Now itŐs time to add the NCTs to embellish the melody.  Students need to

include at least 1 example of each NCT in their composition.

15. Students should use the play back feature often so that they can assess their

own work.  They should sing along with their melody

16.  Once they are satisfied with their ornamented melody, they should save it and then print it out.  They should be sure their names are on it.


Check for student understanding:

Students will trade papers with a peer and label and define the NCTs used in the other personŐs melody.  Review the studentsŐ responses to make sure they all understand what each NCT is and how they are used in composition.



Read each definition of NCTs the students created at the beginning of the lesson and ask for a volunteer to come up to the board and provide a musical example for each. 


            Name the NCT and ask for a student volunteer to come up to the board to write

out a musical example that accurately represents it..  Then ask for a second volunteer to come up to the board and using that musical example, reteach the class the structure of that NCT.



            Find a famous piece of music that the students may recognize.  Provide them with

a score that already has chords labeled.  Play a recording of the piece.  Ask the students to label each NCT they find.