Composing Using a Piano Keyboard

This easy composing activity requires use of a small keyboard. You will write a song using the words of an existing poem. (You can also try it with your own poem.)

The Table and the Chair is one example of a poem that works using this method. (See notes at the end of this page for suggestions of other poems that will work.) Notice the math in the way the poem is organized. Can you figure out how many beats are in the poem?

  • Each stanza (a poetic paragraph) is divided into 8 lines. (Each stanza is numbered.)

If you tap a steady beat with your toe or by patting your lap, you will notice that:

  • Each line has 4 beats.
  • Each beat has either 1 or 2 sounds.

The Table and the Chair by Edward Lear (1812-1888)

I

Said the Table to the Chair,
‘You can hardly be aware,
‘How I suffer from the heat,
‘And from chilblains on my feet!
‘If we took a little walk,
‘We might have a little talk!
‘Pray let us take the air!’
Said the Table to the Chair.
II
Said the Chair unto the Table,
‘Now you know we are not able!
‘How foolishly you talk,
‘When you know we cannot walk!’
Said the Table, with a sigh,
‘It can do no harm to try,
‘I’ve as many legs as you,
‘Why can’t we walk on two?’
III
So they both went slowly down,
And walked about the town
With a cheerful bumpy sound,
As they toddled round and round.
And everybody cried,
As they hastened to their side,
‘See! the Table and the Chair
‘Have come out to take the air!’
IV
But in going down an alley,
To a castle in a valley,
They completely lost their way,
And wandered all the day,
Till, to see them safely back,
They paid a Ducky-quack,
And a Beetle, and a Mouse,
Who took them to their house.
V
Then they whispered to each other,
‘O delightful little brother!
‘What a lovely walk we’ve taken!
‘Let us dine on Beans and Bacon!’
So the Ducky, and the leetle
Browny-Mousy and the Beetle
Dined, and danced upon their heads
Till they toddled to their beds.

Composing Activity

1. Fill the words of this poem into this printable chart.. If 2 sounds happen in the same beat, write both sounds in one box. If there is 1 sound per beat, write that sound in 1 box.
2. If there is one sound in a box, draw a quarter note in the box above that box. If there are 2 sounds in the box, draw two eighth notes above that box.
3. Using the black keys of the piano, choose 1 key per note. Write a “1” above the black key you’ve chosen if it’s a quarter note or if it’s the first of 2 eighth notes. Write a “2” above the second note that you choose when there are 2 eighth notes in the box.
4. Remember that music always includes both same and different patterns of sounds. As you fill the chart with notes, try to create a balance of same and different.
5. Here are printable blank charts that you can use. When you have completed charting the poem, play and sing your new song!
6.  Parents, you can send me an audio of your child’s composition. I will post it here!

Other Poems that Will Work 

This activity requires a poem in quadruple meter (4/4).
The following poems are under copyright, so I don’t have permission to duplicate them here. However, they are easily searchable on the web.
  • What a Day, Shel Silverstein (2 lines in the poem=4 beats in the chart)
  • Hector the Collector, Shel Silverstein (1 line=4 beats)
  • Louder than a Clap of Thunder, Jack Prelutsky (1 line=4 beats)

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