Autumn Orchestra

I’ve been asked a few times by colleagues and others to provide ideas for Harvest or Autumn assemblies. Here’s one of my favourites that involves the collecting of autumn sounds into a class  orchestra or small group ensemble, and then composing appropriate music for the Autumn Orchestra to play. Here it is written out like a proper lesson plan and everything!

Autumn Orchestra

 Objectivescragside lef door frame

  • To explore the sounds that can be made by autumn/harvest-related stuff, and create an Autumn Orchestra
  • To compose music for the Autumn Orchestra to play



  • Autumn, orchestra, compose, harvest, soundscape, ripe, leaves, timbres (different sounds), texture (how you layer your sounds together), structure, dynamics (volume in music), tempo (speed in music), articulation (how you play your sounds – short and sharp, smooth, with fancy bits at the beginning…)


Curriculum Links:


  • KS1: 2. Composing skills: 2b explore, choose and organise sounds and musical ideas
  • KS2: 2. Composing skills: 2b explore, choose, combine and organise musical ideas within musical structures
  • KS1: 1. Performing skills: 1c rehearse and perform with others
  • KS2: 1. Performing skills: 1c practise, rehearse and present performances with an awareness of the audience



Autumn/harvest sound producers such as:apples cropped

  • Dried leave to scrunch (will need constant replacing)
  • Seeds/nuts of a variety of sizes to use in home-made shakers or to drop onto resonant items
  • Containers to make shakers out of – metal tins, plastic containers, balloons, glass containers (health and safety assessment needed – pyrex is a generally child-proof type of glass)
  • Resonant things to drop conkers and other nuts/seeds onto – glockenspiels and metallophones (conkers roll on these too, which can be a great sound especially if several are used at once), gongs, saucepans and metal plates/bowls
  • Noisy food such as scrunching apples, sticks of celery to snap, pea pods to pop etc (again these need constant replacing!)
  • Water sounds.
  • Dried grasses to swish, or to use as a gentle drum beater (like a snare drummer’s brushes)
  • If you want more of a harvest theme, you can use food tins as scrapers (many have a corrugated pattern on the side – health and safety assessment needed if the tins have been opened as there can be sharp edges round the open rim) as well as clatterers together.



  • Gather together lots of Autumn or Harvest sound producers.
  • How many different sounds can you make with your sound producers?
  • Organise your sounds into musical ideas – A musical idea is something short that has rhythm and/or pitch, contains dynamics, and possibly articulation and timbre changes.
  • Structure your musical ideas into a piece of music or Autumn Soundscape.
  • Essentially, structure in music is about organising the musical ideas into an order, and deciding where the most exciting part of the music will be.
  • Focus on the beginning, middle and end.
  • The beginning should make everyone sit up and take notice.
  • The middle should be where you are clever, developing your ideas (through dynamics, varied texture, fascinating timbres, introducing a new idea, tempo variations.
  • The ending is the last impression you make. The listeners should be delighted by it so that they remember your piece. Perhaps don’t do the first thing that comes into your head!
  • Try out the music and make suggestions for improvements.
  • This all needs to take as long as it takes to allow everyone’s ideas to be heard and for everyone to be happy with the finished result.
  • Once you’re happy with your Autumn Orchestra Soundscape, perform in the Harvest Assembly, and remember to smile when they all clap!


alium seedsAssessment

  • creativity (ideas contributed),
  • confidence levels,
  • understanding of the process,
  • teamwork skills,
  • manual dexterity.
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