One of the challenges in creating Theory for Producers (or any online learning experience) is to build community. When you’re in a classroom with people, community emerges naturally, but on the web it’s harder. We’re using email to remind students to stay engaged over time, but we don’t want to end up in their spam folders. To make our emails welcome rather than intrusive, we decided to do Weekly Challenges, one-line prompts for music creation. Participants post their challenges in our SoundCloud group.
I’ve been doing something similar with guitar students for a long time, in person rather than via email, for example with the one-note groove. In coming up with more prompts, I’ve been drawing on my recent foray into prose scores, inspired by the example of Pauline Oliveros.
Really, you could think of my collection of prompts as very short and simple prose scores. Please feel free to use these, for yourself, for students, or for any other purpose. All I ask is that you drop me a line to tell me how you used them.
One Note Groove: Create a melody using only one pitch.
Two Note Groove: Create a melody using only two distinct pitches.
Three Note Groove: Create a melody using only three distinct pitches.
Four Note Groove: Create a melody using only four distinct pitches.
Arpeggio Groove: Create a melody using only a single column of the aQWERTYon.
Call And Response: Create a melody that includes a call phrase and response phrase.
Repeat Four Times: Create a melody consisting of a phrase that repeats identically four times.
Repeat Eight Times: Create a melody consisting of a phrase that repeats identically eight times.
Repeat Sixteen Times: Create a melody consisting of a phrase that repeats identically sixteen times.
Narrow Range: Create a melody that only uses the notes between C and E-flat.
Angular: Create a melody where no interval between one note and the next is smaller than a fifth.
Avoid The Root: Create a melody using any of the notes in a scale except the root.
Avoid The Triad: Create a melody using any of the notes in a scale except the root, third and fifth.
Dissonance: Create the “ugliest” melody you can.
Avoid The Tonic: Create a chord progression using any chords from a scale except for the tonic.
Fourths: Create a melody and/or chords using only the interval of a perfect fourth.
Universal Solvent: Create a blues scale melody over non-blues accompaniment.
Emotional Extremes I: Create the happiest melody you can.
Emotional Extremes II: Create the saddest melody you can.
Palindrome: Create a melody consisting of a sequence of notes, then that same sequence backwards.
Pattern Sequence: Create a melody by moving a “shape” to different locations on the aQWERTYon.
Minimalism: Create a melody that is mostly silence.
Maximalism: Create a melody containing no gaps or pauses.
Melodic Adaptation: Take an existing melody and adapt it into a new one by keeping the rhythms but changing the pitches.
Rhythmic Adaptation: Take an existing melody and adapt it into a new one by keeping the pitches but changing the rhythms.
Birdsong: Recreate a bird call as closely as you can.
Speech Melody: Recreate the pitches of a spoken phrase.