Graphic Scores


Making Music Using Pictures

Did you know you don't even need to be able read music notes to be able to read a piece of music?

In music there is often one document which has on it all the parts that every musician is playing; this is known as a Score. Commonly, this is made up of music notes, however it can instead be made up of pictures and symbols; this is called a Graphic Score.


Have a look at this example of The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss and see if you can follow what the different parts are playing.

We can use this idea to help us create our own music by following lines and symbols. For this you will need either your instrument if you play one, or something around the house you can make a noise with, or you could use your voice. Have a look at this image and see if you could make a sound that follows the shape of the line:

Download Part 1

Graphic Score Part 1
Download PDF • 2.49MB

See if you can follow the lines in the document above to create sounds on your instrument. Remember, you don't always have to change the pitch (high or low notes). You could choose for the line to represent the dynamics (loud or quiet) or tempo (fast or slow) instead.

Try drawing your own lines on the second page to see what shapes you can create.

You could also try listening to a piece of music and drawing lines and shapes to match what you hear. 

Want some more inspiration? Check out these amazing works of art expressing music as a Graphic Score


As well as lines, we can also use pictures to express our playing. Think about this image:

How do you think this could be demonstrated through sound? Perhaps you could play between high notes and low notes, or maybe loud and quiet, or short and long. Have a go with your instrument, or using something from around the house, or you could use your voice. 

Now have a look at this picture. How might it sound different? Try using another instrument or playing in a different way.

Download Part 2

Graphic Score Part 2
Download PDF • 10.25MB

In this document there are 6 different images that can each be used to create different sounds. To start with we have chosen the patterns and order for you. For example:

Think about how you could change the sounds for each picture using:

  • Pitch (High and Low)

  • Dynamics (Loud and Quiet)

  • Duration (Short or Long)

Finally we have given you a page of cut outs so that you can create your own Graphic Score by placing the pictures in any order you like!

Why not team up with a friend of family member to create Graphic Scores for each other and perform them together?

Written by Will Peters


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