Melissa Natale Abramo

Intro to New Technologies in Music Ed

Project #3:  Technology-Based Lesson Plan


UNIT TITLE:  Copyright, Sampling and Mashing

Geared for a High School Composition and Improvisation Class



Unit Objectives

The students will:

§   Understand copyright law in regard to sharing, sampling and mashing music

§   Listen and Analyze pieces of music that use sampling

§   Create their own piece of music using a sample from

§   Listen and analyze mashups for musical nuances and technical skills (beatmatching)

§   Create a mashup using at least two samples from

§   Learn to Post completed compositions on ccmixter

§   Evaluate and Comment on other students work in class and on

§   Learn how to beatmatch, layer, and record in Ableton Live

§   Learn how to import a FL Studio file into Ableton Live



This unit occurs in the larger Composition & Improvisation curriculum during the 3rd quarter after students have completed several activities using the composing software, and are at a point where they can begin to learn the more advanced features of Ableton Live.  These features allow them to beatmatch various samples of music, as well as manipulate musical layers and timbres in real time, allowing them even more flexibility and possibility when creating music.  They are also at a point in musical understanding where they can begin to combine musical elements and expression in the nuanced mashup which is quite popular among students.  This concept of a mashup has caused much controversy in the music business world, and raises issues of copyright law.  Creative commons copyright has a sister website ( of music licensing which allows sharing and sampling of music.  This site is also a community of musicians who share, mix, mash and comment on each others music.  It provides a venue for my students to share their music with others and receive and give constructive feedback.


Materials Needed

§   Current copyright facts, information and resources.

§   Article about a recent copyright issue in popular music

§   Music technology lab with Cakewalk Pro Audio, Ableton Live and FL Studio

§   Internet access to and

§   Approval from administration to create and link to a account for the class

§   Selected mashups or mixes from

§   An example of sampling (ex. Puff Daddy’s I’ll Be Missing You)



Lesson 1


            Anticipatory Set:  Play current popular example of sampling for discussion.


1.     Ask students to describe what they heard.

2.     Through discussion arrive at conclusions about the use of the sample

3.     Play original sampled piece of music if possible

4.     Discussion questions:

a.     How was the sample used musically?  What function did it serve?

b.     How did the sampler change the sample?  What is new about this version?

c.     Do you like it?  Why or why not?  Do you think the sample works in its new version?

d.     Do you think it is ok for people to sample music?

5.     Through the discussion resulting from question d, introduce basic facts about copyright law.  Pass out a recent article about copyright issues, controversy or a particular law suit.  Ask students to read the article for homework and prepare for a discussion for next class.

6.     Continue discussion if necessary and lead into creative


Lesson 2

Anticipatory Set:  Open up with discussion relating to the homework for class.  Prepare discussion questions surrounding specifics of the article.  For example:  Summarize each person’s viewpoint.  Who would you side with and why?  How do you think the conflict should be resolved?


1.     Using a projector, introduce students to, explaining how they differ from traditional copyright law, and show the various licenses.

2.     Discuss the implications this could have for music.

3.     Using the projector, introduce students to, the music sister-page to creative commons. 

4.     Send students in pairs to explore ccmixter on their own.  Activity:  Find and download 3 samples from ccmixter that you like.  Be prepared to play one for the class and explain why you chose it.

5.     Facilitate students during this activity.


Play each student’s chosen sample through the main sound system in the room, and ask each pair to explain why they chose that sample.


Lesson 3

Anticipatory Set:  Have a piece of music from ccmixter to play for students that includes one sample from ccmixter.  (Each piece on ccmixter lists which and how many samples were used, and also lists a description by the artist as to what they used to create the composition).  First play the sample by itself and ask the students what they might do to add to this sample to create a larger piece of music.


1.     Once students have shared their ideas from the anticipatory set above, play the finished composition which uses that sample.

2.     First ask students what they heard musically.  What did the composer add to the sample?  How did they treat the sample?  What was its function in the broader piece of music?  Did you like it?

3.     Pass out guidelines for the first project which are as follows:

a.     Create a piece of music in Cakewalk Pro Audio that uses one sample from

b.     Your song must be at least 1 min 30 sec in length.

c.     It must include the following:  minimum 3 midi tracks and 1 live recorded track

d.     Convert your finished piece to a wav file, and then convert to an mp3.

e.     Write down your file name and the name of the sample and the artist used from ccmixter

f.      Save the mp3 to Q:/Abramo/Composition/Your Folder

4.     Ask if there are any questions in regard to the assignment.

5.     Send students individually to computers to explore and listen to samples.

6.     Once students seem like they are starting to find samples, use the projector to demonstrate how to download, save and import the sample into Cakewalk.

7.     Facilitate students working on this project for however many class periods it takes.

8.     Once they are finished, upload student files to ccmixter in preparation for the next class.

Lesson 4

Anticipatory Set:   Ask students to complete a reflection sheet asking the following questions: 

Describe your final piece of music.

How did you decide what to do with the sample?

What types of layers did you add?  (melodic, rhythmic, etc…)

If you could improve or expand this piece, what might you do?


1.     Using the projector, display the uploaded compositions on the ccmixter website.  Explain how their composition is listed, and also includes the sample name (which is linked to that artist’s page).

2.     Demonstrate how to add comments to a piece of music.

3.     Ask students to go to computers and choose one of their classmates compositions to listen to and comment on.  Check to see that students can listen to a file off the website, and upload comments.

4.     Asking for volunteers, play through each student’s final product and engage in discussion after each piece of music with compliments and constructive feedback, and questioning and description from the student composer.  It is vital that a comfortable, positive classroom atmosphere is present when sharing student work.

5.     Once all pieces are played and discussed, ask students for feedback on the assignment.  Did they have any questions?  What did they like?  What could make the process better?  What might they want to do next with these resources?


Lesson 5, 6, 7, etc…

            The remainder of the lessons follow a similar pattern, but address mashing, which is the combining of 2 or more samples.  This requires them to use Ableton Live, and incorporates some training of the software when needed to facilitate the composition process.  It also involves discussion of copyright and the issues surrounding The Grey Album which was an album mashing The Beatles with JayZ.  It created controversy and engages students with a current example of copyright law and mashing.  The website ccmixter is continually used as a venue to get samples to mash, as well as a place to give and receive comments.