Making Music from Found Sounds

classroom project by Matt Ridgway

Music concrète to hip hop, electronic to pop, artists have been sampling the sounds around them for decades. In this project, students get hands-on experience in recording, sound design and composition using the sounds of their everyday lives.

Lesson 1: Creating Field Recordings 

In this lesson, students are introduced to the topic of turning everyday sounds into music. They work collaboratively to discover, record, evaluate and share the sounds of their environment.

    Lesson resources

    Preparation (10-15 mins)

    • Consider what equipment is available and how students will undertake field recordings
    • Have the Recording Checklist available to students
    • Load the Making Music with Found Sounds - Live Set to use in teacher demonstration
    • Have a class playback system available for critical listening

    In the classroom (50-90 mins)

    • Step 1: Introduction – show video content and introduce the topic (10 mins)
    • Step 2: Task explanation – assign groups, explain and provide checklist (5-10 mins)
    • Step 3: Practical task – students make field recordings (15-30 mins)
    • Step 4: Practical task – students save, name and share field recordings (10-15 mins)
    • Step 5: Teacher-led discussion – playback of field recordings and discussion (5-10mins)

    See full lesson plan ›

    Lesson 2: Creating Sample Instruments 

    In Lesson 2, students learn how to use Live’s Simpler device in Classic, One-Shot and Slice modes, to edit, manipulate and shape the tone and timbre of found sound recordings into musical elements. The goal is for students to make a found sound kit – a performable Drum Rack that is filled with sounds that they have selected, edited and manipulated.

    Lesson resources

    Preparation (10-15 mins)

    • Ensure that students have ready access to audio files recorded in Lesson 1
    • Have the Guides available to students
    • Load Making Music with Found Sound - Live Set to use in teacher demonstration
    • Ensure class playback system is suitable for critical listening

    In the classroom (50-90 mins)

    • Step 1: Introduction – demonstrate Simpler’s Slice and One-Shot modes to class (10 mins)
    • Step 2: Practical task – students import and edit their audio recordings within Simpler (10-15 mins)
    • Step 3: Teacher explanation – walk through the Drum Racks guide and questions (5 mins)
    • Step 4: Teacher-led discussion and questioning – how can Drum Rack conventions be implemented? (5-10 mins)
    • Step 5: Practical task – students follow the lesson guide on sound design to tweak samples by manipulating filter frequency and sample pitch (15-25 mins)

    See full lesson plan ›

    Lesson 3: Create and Present Musical Works 

    Found sounds have been used in compositions by countless recording artists and music producers to add unique sonic personality to their work. In Lesson 3, students explore this concept to create original musical works from found sound Drum Racks and then share them with their peers.

    Lesson resources

    Preparation (10-15 mins)

    • Consider what skill level students have with MIDI programming of rhythms, and which support resources are appropriate
    • Have the project guides available to students
    • Ensure class playback system is available for students to share their work

    In the classroom (50-90 mins)

    • Step 1: Introduction – demonstrate mouse-input and live capture techniques (10-15 mins)
    • Step 2: Student task support – share and go through resources with students as appropriate (5-10 mins)
    • Step 3: Practical task – students follow guides to create MIDI rhythms with their found sound Drum Racks (25-45 mins)
    • Step 4: Student sharing and feedback of work – students upload their files, play back their rhythms and give feedback to their peers (10-20 mins)

    See full lesson plan ›

    Assessing Project Learning

    A list of different considerations that may inform how you choose to implement student assessment and feedback.

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    Learning Live

    The project makes use of the following workflows and devices in Live:

    • Session View
    • Simpler
    • Drum Racks
    • MIDI Recording
    • MIDI Editing

    Learn more about these features ›

    Get all lessons and materials 

    All the lesson plans and materials are available for you to download from Google Drive. Feel free to copy and edit them to suit your needs and teaching style.

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    Author's Bio 

    With a long history of working with young people teaching music, sound design and production, Matt Ridgway is a multi-faceted musician and experienced music educator from Melbourne, Australia.

    Working in secondary schools for over twenty years, he is a strong advocate of inclusive education and the power of music to engage and inspire.

    As an Ableton Certified Trainer, Matt runs workshops and works with artists and music educators on how to use Ableton Live as a hub for music production and performance.

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