I developed several units of work to go with my composition Passion for Symphonic Winds, and this electronic version has nothing to do with that work except that that’s where the interest in hiding messages in music began. Since I found it interesting, I thought my students would, and they’ve had a lot of success playing around with these ideas.

I’ve provided everything on this webpage that a student would need to study the course, or that a teacher would need to teach it. You’re welcome to download and repurpose all of the resources, and you can email me if you need any of the original files that I haven’t included here. Feel free to attribute the original work to me.

  1. A model piece
  2. Lessons about musical cryptography
    1. What is a code?
    2. Morse code in music.
    3. Recent music with hidden messages.
    4. A bit of history.
  3. Tutorial videos and resources
    1. How I made my piece…
    2. Turning your code into a bass line.
    3. Making a quick drum beat.
    4. Making that drum beat a bit funkier.

A model piece

This is the piece I wrote using the ideas that you’ll explore here. The idea is you’ll make something much better than this! If you’d like to download this GarageBand file, simply click here.

Lessons about musical cryptography

The following four lessons are recordings of me speaking over a slideshow I used and showing a little technology. If you’re a teacher and you’d prefer to deliver the material yourself, you can download the slideshow as a Keynote file, as a PDF, or as a Powerpoint file. Please note that the Powerpoint file is a straight export from Keynote, and will need to be fixed up (make sure the transitions work, the fonts are legible, etc.). If you edit it and would like me to update it here, please just send it back to me!

What is a code?

James introduces the idea of hiding secret messages with codes.

Morse code in music.

Some examples of morse code in music from the sixties to the nineties.

Recent music with hidden messages.

Yes, even Taylor Swift has hidden messages in her, well, CD liner notes…

A bit of history.

Since all the best composers’ names start with B, here are examples from Bach and Brahms…

Tutorial videos and resources

The following is a series of tutorial videos showing both compositional processes and how to use GarageBand. Students can also use the grids that I created for them to create their codes by downloading this pdf. If you’re a teacher and you’d like to repurpose this worksheet, you can download the original Pages file.

How I made my piece…

This video shows how I made the “model” piece, and what messages are hidden inside it…

Turning your code into a bass line.

Making a quick drum beat.

Making that drum beat a bit funkier.

I’d love to hear of any successes you have in your teaching with these resources!

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