Instrumental activities and repertoire

The starting point for Module 7 is the idea that through the process of learning musical and instrumental skills (both expressive and technical), especially in a group situation, we can develop capacities that are also useful in coping in individual and social contexts. Creative problem solving, social interaction, expressive capacities can all be enhanced through a music formation.

The module aims to extend your abilities to develop motivation for compositional work which could include both voice and instruments, challenging your capacity to 'build musical bridges' connecting different cultural styles and repertoire, and your capacity to arrange requested pieces of music for groups you are working with.

One relevant example of this is Bridgesinging!, an arrangement by Henry Brown (leader of this module), of 5 popular folksongs taken from the countries represented in the MARS partnership. The score, dedicated to the pilot student group, was workshopped as part of the project's Staff Training Days, held at the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy centre, London, in April 2016.

The arrangement is made not only for enjoyment (which is clearly one of the aims!), but also as a starting point for musical learning in many parameters; it therefore provides a blueprint for the teaching of musical competence, skills and techniques.

Introduction to module

Watch introduction video by Deborah Parker


Bridgesinging! score

Ice-breaker activity (July Pilot Seminar 2016)

The video shows the pilot student group working at an assignment based on a folk melody documented by Béla Bartók. The score (reproduced below) is structured in an semi-open way, allowing personalised realisations of precise rhythmic, melodic, timbral and dynamic details, and overall form and structure.

Bartók Folk Melody score

You are asked to arrange pieces of music (suggested, or of your own choice) in order to create strategies for musical skill learning on instruments (and vocally) and addressing the concept of cultural knowledge, negotiation and exchange through musical form.

The chosen piece(s) should then be analysed and prepared in a version which provides possibilities to include different instruments and playing capacities (as inclusive as possible). It should ideally include some musical parameters in which the players themselves can intervene creatively. Some kind of notation should be employed so as to create a model which can be remembered or transmitted to other groups.

When you write, you can focus on 2 different target groups:

  • write for musicians you know and with whom you can play (in which case you attending to your personal growth, and are developing a method which can be adapted to other situations);
  • write for a particular teaching/facilitating situation in which you are involved (in which case you researching a teaching method/plan for situations in which you are active, and are developing a model which can be experimented in your work).

Assignment 1

Choose 2 melodies from the examples provided (incl. audio tracks), or melodies from your own choice, which present musical similarities (melody, harmony, rhythm, style etc.). By analysing the musical parameters in both examples, develop a composition which links the two pieces.

Objective: to develop our own analytic listening skills and creative compositional capacities

Examples of arrangements of 3 of these melody couples are given in the Resources tab.

Assignment 2

Choose a melody and arrange it either for free instrumentation (as in the Bartók score) or for a specific group, both as a version of the original material and as a learning tool for developing musical reading skills and instrumental techniques.

Objective: to develop a working model which can be applied in situations where music skills are being taught.

A further example of this kind of project is given in the Resources section. It comes directly from the M&R Community Music Summer Camp in Lebanon, July 2017. The local staff had selected the Palestinian song Tel Azz'atar to be included in the repertoire, and had sent an music text and an mp3 file. These foundation materials are available in the Resources tab, together with the arranged score for the Palestinian youth ensembles, and a video of the performance in during the Camp's final concert. The final score, arranged by Henry Brown to accomodate the 30 young Palestinian musicians enrolled on the Summer Camp, is also available.

Also in the Resources tab are 2 example scores of assignment 2 by MARS pilot students Charlotte Cripps and Joan Manuel Chouciño.


Try to do a self-assessment of the skills and competences involved with this module, by answering the following points on a scale of 1-10 (not particularly good to fairly excellent):

  • I am able to listen attentively and analytically;
  • I am able to play / lead different kinds of musical activities (small and large groups; individual; instrumental, vocal);
  • I know how to do music-work with different instrumental resources;
  • I show a capacity to integrate a range of musical sounds and understandings into a shared relational musical experience;
  • I am sensitive and tolerant; tend towards comprehension; do not judge;
  • I am able to work with powerful feelings through music-based work, using the strategy of containment;
  • I have developed empathic response and good non-verbal communication skills.

Assignment 1 melodies


Audio resources


Score resources


Assignment examples from Pilot Course


Reading material

  • John Paynter – Sound and Structure (largely to do with music in schools)
  • Jeff Todd Tilton (ed.) – Worlds of Music (helpful with analysis and transcriptions of non-european music)
  • Trevor Wishart – On Sonic Art (heavy but thought provoking)
  • John Cage – Silence (is golden material for refreshing ideas)