Compose A Melody Using Dice and Coins

Music Composing Dice and Coin

Here is a technique you can use to create and write melodies.  All you need is a few everyday items to compose an unlimited number of melody ideas. This will help you when you need to generate new melody ideas.  Here is what you will need to get started:

  1. Dice
  2. Coins
  3. Pencil
  4. Staff paper to record notes
  5. Container to toss dice and coins
  6. Instrument to play the melody
  7. Optional – Notation Software

The Dice

A die has six side.  A pitch value is assigned to the corresponding number on the die.  When the dice are tossed the result will be a number on the top face.   Here is how to assign a pitch to the number


The Pentatonic Scale

Because there are only six sides the pentatonic scale is used.  This will simplify the melody because you don’t have to worry about what to do with the leading tone or the tricky 4th note of a major scale.  Major scales have two adjacent semitones. To make create a standard pentatonic scale simply remove the lower note of each semitone pair. Here are the note you will use on a music staff.


The Coin

Every melody needs to have a rhythm.  The coins are used to create simple rhythm patterns.   Since a coin has two sides, head and tails, there can be only two choices for a rhythm note.  Here is the coins rhythm assignment…


The 4 Measure Phase

A standard length of a musical phase is 4 measures.  For this exercise you will use the 4 measure phase as a starting point.  There are two notes that are already filled in the staff.  The first one is the note G.  This is a sub-dominate note that is often used to close the first series of notes.  The next note that is already filled in is the C note.  This is the tonic of the scale.  It is a good idea to end a phase on the tonic.  The tonic is the most stable and restful pitch on the scale.  Think of it as home.  Here is a sample 4 measure staffStaffWorksheet

How to Compose A Melody Using This Technique

  1. Gather all your supplies which include dice, coins, paper, pencil, container and instrument.
  2. Place all the dice and coins into the container.
  3. Toss the pieces inside the container onto a flat surface like a tabletop.
  4. Line up all the dice
  5. Line up all the coins
  6. Match up one coin to one die.
  7. Going from left to right get the rhythm values from the coins.  Heads is a quarter note and tails is an eighth note.
  8. Now get the pitch values from each of the dice.
  9. Write the notes on the staff paper.
  10. Play the melody on your instrument of choice or enter the notes into your notation software.
  11. Listen for pleasing and interesting combination of notes.
  12. You may need to do this several times before you get a melody you like.

 What Next

Once you have found a melody you like, you can then expand on the melodic idea.  Use standard composing techniques like, repetition, sequencing, inversions and retrograde to develop the original melodic phase.


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3 Responses to Compose A Melody Using Dice and Coins

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  3. Mike Loughran - Arlington,VA says:

    KILLER ARTICLE!!! It would make a WAY COOL “instructional video” ala YouTube, or even sold as a professional product! ; )

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