Composing with Names

Here’s a splendid variation on the “Bach Motif” you or your students can use as a composing prompt.

1. Encrypt someone’s name into musical pitches using alphabetical equivalents.  For example, the musical equivalent of the name “Jack” would be C, A, C, D.

Letter  Pitch
a     =     A
b     =     B
c     =     C
d     =     D
e     =     E
f     =      F
g     =     G
h     =     A
i     =      B
j     =      C
k     =     D

For Bach, B = Bb and H = B natural but you can encrypt letters any way you want.

2. Play the letters you encrypted on the keyboard with your right hand.

3. Find chords to fit the melody.  Alternatively, the pitches can be interpreted as the roots of chords. So “Jack” could also be thought of as the chord progression: C, Amin, C, Dmin.

4. Add a left hand accompaniment style.

Confused?  Here’s my student, Julian, to explain and demonstrate.

YouTube Preview Image


Until next time, enjoy your creative musical journey!






Bradley Sowash

Bach motif in Wikipedia

studio2Want to learn to play or teach like this?  Consider using That’s Jazz, America’s top-selling jazz piano method, attending an 88 Creative Keys event or setting up online private lessons.

4 thoughts on “Composing with Names

  1. Bradley,
    Great idea and excited to share it with my students. I’ve used the rhythm of names but not encrypted the letters into a pitch. It will be fun to see how this works. We are doing a Fall Masterclass and everyone will be playing their own compositions. I find that composing is one of the best ways to motivate. Thank you for inspiring us all to be better teachers.

Comments are closed.

Improve your keyboard creativity in live, interactive online group lessons. Click to learn more.
Hello. Add your message here.