Making Melodies

Play that tune!

This is a great group activity if you have a few people taking part in a music session and a set of chime bars and/or bells.

In this activity, each person plays one note in a complete melody, much like in bell-ringing.  You will need a set of chime bars or bells, or individuals can use a music app on an iPad/tablet – but being careful just to play one note when it is their turn!

Running the activity

Position everyone in a semi-circle and give out the chime bars/bells in the order indicated for the tune you have chosen below.  Each person gets one bell or chime bar.

  • If you have chime bars, make sure each player has a beater
  • If the instruments you have are provided by OrchLab you can mix chime bars and bells as they are tuned to the same key and colour-coded (for instance all the Cs are red)
  • If you have more participants than notes in the melody, you can double up chime bars and bells so that two people each play the same note

Say each note in order, and point to the person with that note to make them play it. This is so you can hear each note once, and check everyone knows what to do.

You are now ready to play a tune!  Choose one from the list below.  Read out the notes of the tune, pointing to the player who has that note so they play it. You don’t need to hurry through the tune: make sure each note is played before you move on to the next. 

As participants get familiar with the tune, they’ll get to know when to play and get a bit quicker.  You could also listen to the original music so that everyone gets to know the melody.

Note the chime bar and bell sets often have two Cs – a high one and a low one:

  • Chime bars – the low C is longer than the high C
  • Bells – low C is called C1, high C is called C8
  • All the following tunes use just the low C

Tunes to try

Dvořák melody (Hovis advert!)

This piece, made famous in the Hovis bread advert from the 1970s and 1980s, is actually from the second movement of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9.  You can listen to the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing the original here:

Notes needed (in order left to right): C (low), D, E, G


You can watch an example here, where the participants of an OrchLab session at Flying Angel Look Ahead Centre played this tune on bells accompanied by Elisabeth Wiklander, a cellist from the LPO:

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

This will probably need no introduction!  Try it out and see if anyone can guess the tune just from playing it!

Notes needed: C (low), D, E, F, G, A


Here Comes the Sun

This is the chorus of the famous Beatles song.  Listen to it here:

Notes needed: G, A, B


Take Me Home, Country Roads

This song is by John Denver and was made famous in the 1970s.  The original is in a different key (meaning its pitched higher and using notes not usually available on bells/chime bars).  Listen to the song:

We’ve changed the key for this version so you can play it on bells and chime bars. Notes needed: C, D, E, G, A


Jingle Bells

Notes needed: C, D, E, F, G


Create your own tune

Instead of reading and playing the tunes above, the group could also make their own tunes for lyrics they create. 

  1. With the group, decide on a topic. In our example we’ve chosen Summer.
  2. Brainstorm some words about your topic and write them down.
  3. Then use your brainstorm words to create some simple lyrics. Shorter lines are best.

Now, choose notes for your melody.  For each line, participants choose two notes they like.  They decide which note starts the line and which ends it.  For instance:

D                                              E

Summer holidays on the beach


Hot sunshine sunny days

The group could create more lyrics for the song, reuse the same melodies, or create new ones. 

Decide on an order for the lines to complete the song.  You could also add sound effects with other percussion, music apps or your voices if you like.

Explore more

Have a look online to find out the notes of your favourite tunes and have a go at playing them as a group! Or have a go at other OrchLab activities that help you make your own music: