Code Composing at Home (Young Instrumentalists) >

In this activity you will compose using a code to create a musical cryptogram melody. Inspired by music by Johann Sebastian Bach and Pierre Boulez.

Activity Panel


Composers sometimes create melodies using code. This is called a musical cryptogram. In this activity you will create a melody using a code. Below is a musical code:


On the top line are the note names A, B, C, D, E, F, G. All the letters in the same column take the note from the first row e.g. W = the note B and S = the note E.  

Many composers have used musical cryptograms - Pierre Boulez in Dérive 1 and Bach in the Art of Fugue:

Your Turn!

Turn your name or a friend or family member's name using the code to make a music cryptogram

Below is an example using the name Jamie: J becomes C, A is A, M becomes F, I becomes B and E is E:

Boulez 2

Play your name on a musical instrument. You can the use melody to create a more interesting piece of music using these ideas:

  • Use crotchets, quavers and minims to add rhythm to your melody. Notate your idea if you'd like to.
  • Find a way to play the melody the describes the person whose name you used to make the code.
  • Write you name in Morse Code which you can find here. Play each note with the rhythm of the Morse Code. Dot = short note, line = long note. 
  • Divide your Musical Cryptogram into 2 or 3 bits/sections. Play around finding different ways of playing the little bits. Organise the original idea and little bits into a longer piece. You can use each bit/section as many time as you like. 
  • Add some dynamics (loud and soft, crescendos, diminuendos).
  • Add some interesting articulation - staccato, accent, slur or playing techniques - pluck, bow, trill, growl. 



For printable manuscript/music paper see below.