Sketching Music: exploring melodic similarity and contrast using a Digital Tabletop

Franceschini, Andrea; Laney, Robin and Dobbyn, Chris (2020). Sketching Music: exploring melodic similarity and contrast using a Digital Tabletop. Journal of Music, Technology and Education, 13(1) pp. 5–31.


In this article, we investigate the effectiveness of a purposely built Digital Tabletop Musical Instruments (DTMI) in helping novices and casual users to explore music composition. Our participants explored how melodic similarity and contrast can convey narrative through musical structure in sessions involving one participant and one tutor to guide the session. We structured the sessions as a combination of open-ended discussion and increasingly open-ended music making exercises, culminating in the main task: invent a short story and compose a melody to describe it. We found that the combination of a structured tutor-led activity and an approachable technology allowed our participants to explore the relation between their ideas of similarity and contrast, the ways these concepts manifest in melody, and the ways they can help describe a narrative. The hands-on activities provided adequate scaffolding for discussing the concepts and contextualizing them within music. Lastly, by not requiring any formal musical or instrumental training, the DTMI allowed the participants to make music while discussing similarity and contrast in a comfortable and continuous way.

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