Making Music

dash-robot-xylophone-accessory-1-large.jpgFor his seventh birthday, Little Fox received a programmable robot. He changed its name from Dash to something rather unique, and had fun learning to program it using his dad’s iPad. Then my partner showed us attachments and upgrades, including a xylophone the robot plays.

Little Fox played around on the robot a while, teaching it to say silly things, to launch ping pong balls, and to dash about. He also played around with the music programmer, which while restricted to a single octave, still allows a good introduction to music making.

After writing his first song from scratch, and not merely editing existing songs, I showed him how to write the music in proper notation on a staff with a treble clef and quarter notes, transcribing it from the dots and colored lines on the screen of the iPad. We simply called this “[Name]’s 1st Song,” and left it at that.


He hadn’t been interested in writing more music on his robot the last couple of months, but then he started playing Super Mario World on the Switch with his dad, and he told me before bed one night that he wanted to write an ode to the level known as Butter Bridge 1.

The next day, I jotted down all of his lyric ideas, and as we went along, he started to solidify a pattern to the lyrics. The day after, I helped him restructure what he’d written into a poem format and made a few minor suggestions about repetition, but left the majority of the lyric writing to him. I typed up what he wrote.

On the third day, we sat at the piano together, recording what we played and said on the phone, and over about fifteen minutes, started to hammer out a basic tune. I let him guide what he thought did and didn’t work, and once he liked the sound of everything together, I quickly plotted the notes sans beats, bars, or other measures.


Today, I downloaded MuseScore, an open source sheet music writing software with high ratings. It looked easy enough to use for our current purposes, so we started playing around to see how it would sound. MuseScore has a playback feature, so we can hear how it would sound if played on a midi keyboard, which really helped him figure out whether he wanted quarter notes, half notes, eighth rests, et al. Then came adding the lyrics into the program.

It took almost two hours to figure out the software and the music, but he’s quite pleased with the result. I also plotted out his “1st Song” using the software, as well, so he’d have a clean sheet music version and not my messy scribbles.

Because there are certain portions I can’t figure out how to change within the MuseScore files yet (especially the copyright), I blacked out his name. Little Fox said I could black out all but “Cal,” but we have both a public version, shared here, and a saved version with the complete text. If you want to play them yourself, I’m including them here:

Butter Bridge” and “Little Fox’s 1st Song