Key Stage 3

Composing at Home 8

Stage 2 – Your first Ostinato

One key feature of Minimalist music is the presence of an Ostinato, or several of them. As we have learnt, this is a repeating pattern. An Ostinato could be Rhythmic or Melodic. Here are some Rhythmic Ostinati:

Composing at Home - Rhythmic Ostinato 1
Composing at Home - Rhythmic Ostinato 2
Composing at Home - Rhythmic Ostinato 3

You are going to create your first Rhythmic Ostinato using your hands, yes that’s right Clapping. So, warm up your hands and come up with a Rhythm, a simple, short Rhythm. We will come back to Melodic Ostinati later.

How did you get on? Not too tricky to clap something. 

But now a challenge, can you write it down? It doesn’t need to be formal notation like above, it could just be come dots, lines or graphics on a piece of paper. You might like to put these dots on a single line as above. This will help move towards notating it with traditional musical notation. Another approach is to use a grid of squares where each square represents beats & sub-beats of the bar, see the examples below which match the Rhythms used above:

Composing at Home - Rhythmic Ostinato Grid 1
Composing at Home - Rhythmic Ostinato Grid 2
Composing at Home - Rhythmic Ostinato Grid 3

I wonder if you now want to change your Rhythm by maybe adding a rest or a new rhythmic feature. All of these examples have been just one bar long. You might like your Rhythm to be two bars long. It is up to you as you are now the composer. 

Extension Task

Steve Reich composed a piece of music called “Clapping Music”. Why not have a listen and you can even download an app to try your own performance of the piece. 

If you enjoyed watching Clapping Music then you can download an app which helps you learn to perform the piece. It is a bit of a game really, but it is great fun and teaches you more about the piece.

And if you are enjoying Rhythm then you should check out:

Beat Goes on YouTube Channel


Now move on to Page 3 for the next stage in this Minimalism Composing at Home project

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  1. That was really informative, for both me as a teacher, & my students. Thank you for opening up Bandlab to us!

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