Arabian music

This music consists of a tune and a drone. An ostinato percussion part can also be added.


Pupils will need:



Distribute the grid sheet to each pupil in the class.

Ask pupils to choose how many beats there will be in a bar in their music. They should then complete the Counting row of their grid. For example, if they wish to have three beats in a bar, they would write 1, 2, 3, or three pulse dots in each bar in the Counting row, evenly spaced out across the bar.

Now distribute the recipe sheet to the class. Go through the list of ingredients with the pupils, demonstrating each item, so that pupils are aware of the elements which are going to be included. Then guide them through the method in the second half of the sheet, mentioning the following points:

In the Triads/drone row of their grid, pupils should write eight triads, one for each bar, starting and ending on CEG, based on the Arabian scale. The triads in this recipe are used as a basis for composing the tune.

In the Tune row of their grid, pupils should then write a start note in each bar, chosen from the triads they have written. They should use the flat notes where required. Emphasise the use of D and A in the scale.

Links should be added in the same row as the start notes. Check that pupils are aware of the use of quavers, semiquavers and triplets before beginning the links. If you wish, refer to quavers as half-beats, semiquavers as quarter-beats and triplets as three equal notes in one beat. Pupils may like to experiment with three notes in the time of half a beat (semiquaver triplets). These are very effective for using steps up, steps down or a step up and back down. Pupils should link the start notes using steps, jumps and same notes. Encourage pupils to use lots of notes in each bar so that the rhythms are exciting. Remind them to use the flat notes in steps and jumps whenever the notes D or A are used. Also remind pupils to use the upper auxiliary note where they can. This is similar to a mordent (the note itself, the note above and the first note again, played as a triplet), and is common in Arabian music.

Make sure that the correct number of beats are used in each bar.

Once the tune has been composed, the triads can be left out. Instead, pupils should add a drone which plays in the bass on the notes C and G. The drone should be indicated by listing the letters vertically (to indicate they are played together) and can replace the triads in the Triads/drone row.

An ostinato percussion rhythm should be composed in the Percussion row of the grid. Pupils should ensure that this rhythm has the same number of beats per bar as the tune and drone. The rhythm should be one or two bars long, and should be repeated throughout, as part of the accompaniment. The final bar should be left as a single note, to bring the music to a conclusion. Pupils could write a dot in the row when they want the percussion instrument to play:

  • For half-beats, underline two dots
  • For quarter-beats, double-underline the dots
  • For triplets, underline three dots and write a ‘3’ above them.

Pupils should write the title of their composition in the Title space on their grid. They should choose a tempo and dynamics for their piece (some examples are provided).


Compose two or three tunes and use them in a pattern. The other tunes can begin on different triads, but probably it is best to end on GBD. Contrast the rhythms or pitch range to give variety. The drone can be played in a simple rhythm.


If pupils are unable to play their composition themselves, allow the use of computers or other performers where possible. It is important that the pupils learn the composition techniques and are not be hindered by lack of practical skills. A desire to play their own music may well lead to a desire to learn to play an instrument to a good standard.


An example of this music is provided as an MP3 file, a MIDI file and a score:

Further listening

  • Gunning, C: Music from Death on the Nile (Agatha Christie book and film starring David Suchet) (DVD, released 2004, GVD100)
  • Williams, J: Music from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Warner Brothers 7599-25883-2)
  • Khachaturian, A: Dance of an Egyptian Girl from Spartacus (Naxos 8.554054)
  • Zimmer, H: Music from Gladiator: ‘To Zucchabar’ and ‘The Might of Rome’ (Decca 467 094-2)