In my last Sound Advice for Soundtrap blog I considered how we might turn a rhythm into a melody. This process allows students to take a rhythm and using the MIDI editor, turn it into a melody. This approach is a good starting point for creating a first melody. However we want to work towards more creative melody writing. Creating a QWERTY Melody is where we use the computer keyboard to play a melody directly in to Soundtrap.
Why not MIDI?
Of course, if you have MIDI keyboards, then use them. It is great to use a more authentic instrument alongside Soundtrap. There are so many MIDI Keyboards available and you can get some really compact versions. However, when a MIDI keyboard isn’t available, a QWERTY keyboard probably will be. Sometimes using a computer keyboard can be more accessible for students, and it is a useful place to start. So for the purpose of this blog, we are thinking about allowing students to start “playing” in their ideas using the computer keyboard. Soundtrap also has a fantastic key signature feature when you use the on-screen keyboard.
Writing a melody obviously relies on some understanding of notes, scales & keys.
Or does it?
Can we not experiment with ideas and try things out?
This kind of pedagogical discussion is certainly one that you need to consider. But for the purpose of this blog I am going to be looking at one approach and that is Creating a QWERTY melody through improvisation.
The first thing we will need is an instrument in Soundtrap, and the choice of instrument will be important – but that can be covered later. For this example you can see that I have added a Clarinet and I have created a 4-Bar region that is ready to be filled with notes.
Now that we have a clarinet we can start to create our QWERTY melody using the onscreen keyboard. This keyboard has the letters on that correspond to the computer keyboard and you will see the QWERTY letters on the image below. When you have the clarinet selected and press the computer keyboard keys, notes will sound. It is as simple as that.
Students can now start to experiment with melodic ideas and patterns and they can change the instrument if they wish.
Supporting Melody Writing
One issue with writing a melody is that we do need to be aware of scales & keys. This is something you can cover with your students alongside this blog. But Soundtrap can also help us with this by showing students which notes on the keyboard to play. At the very bottom of the Soundtrap window, just next to the bpm, you will be able to select what key you are in. When a key is selected, Soundtrap then highlights the notes that are available in that key. See the image below and you will notice purple lines under the notes. These are the notes of C Minor, well C Natural Minor to be precise:
Students will often say that they don’t play piano or don’t know what notes to use. This function is therefore really useful and will help them create more authentic melodies in a given key.
Another way to support melody writing is to allow students to create a melody alongside a drum pattern. This gives them something to play along with and may help them to stay in time. In the example below I have put in a basic 4/4 rock beat and the clarinet can now play along:
Ready to Record
After some improvising and creating, a student will be ready to record their melody in to Soundtrap. This is a simple process and they simply click the record button at the bottom and wait for the count-in to appear on screen.
In a future blog I will look at how we can edit this melody once recorded in. But for now, they will have a melody that they have created using a QWERTY keyboard and they can listen back and start to consider any changes. This melody will be a MIDI melody and they can easily make changes.
Creating a QWERTY Melody
Creating a QWERTY Melody is a quick and easy way to get students putting ideas in to Soundtrap. It is a step up from simply converting a melody and it builds on their knowledge and understanding of rhythm & pitch. Using the Key Signature function is really helpful and students will quickly see how to navigate the on-screen keyboard. Adding a drum pattern underneath is a quick way to make it sound a little more like music, and they will enjoy improvising over a beat. And once this melody is created there are lots of ways of developing it.