As children come to learn more and more about how music is put together, they will begin to have new ears to hear any music. They add critical thinking skills to their musical experiences and will enjoy many kinds of music. They also come to understand and love music as they have hands on experiences creating their own music. They can have that experience through private lessons or by just doing some of the fun lessons that I will share.

The lessons will center on the Elements of Music: Beat, Rhythm, Style, Melody, Expression, Form, Timbre, Harmony, and Texture. You can watch as children become confidant at discussing these elements and hearing them in the music they listen to each day. They will enjoy using these elements to create their own music.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Musical Form

I love to teach young children about form in music.  To me discovering the form of a piece of music is like putting a puzzle together.

If we label our musical materials, ideas or sections with the letters of the alphabet we can show how musical forms are created.

Any single musical idea is called A. This musical section can be repeated to create an AA form.

If we instead chose to add a new section, B, we would have the musical form AB. This would be two contrasting musical ideas.

If we chose to add another A  at the end of an AB form we now would have ABA.  You could vary the repeat of the A section and then with the variation it would be ABA'. (The ' is used to indicate variation).

With the processes of repetition, contrast and variation there can be many musical forms.

Children have to be able to hear the difference in musical selections before they can hear form.  So the earliest musical experiences focus on movement to different musical ideas.

I have already posted some activities that teach this.  When you play "I See It" with music from Peter and the Wolf the ear is being trained.  When you do flashlights with Norwegian Dance the children are developing that musical ear.    I'll add a couple more posts that will help you as you try to instill that ability to listen and differentiate between differing musical ideas.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Learning to Differentiate between Differing Musical Ideas.

Idea # 1 - March of the Toys (Babes in Toyland) - Victor Herbert. Boston Pops Orchestra / Arthur Fiedler  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFj4u-NJVYw

This piece is great fun because it is composed of lively marching music interspersed with fanfares.  Here is what I did with my kindergarten and first grade age kids.  I made several posters of villages - all story book type villages that belong in a make-believe world.  All the kids had to do was march around the villages but whenever a fanfare played they had to hurry and get to a village.  You could make it a game of sorts and if you're not at a village, you're out but I never did that.  The kids thought it was fun to just listen for the fanfare and run over to a village.  It's a simple exercise but helps to tune their musical ear.

Idea #2 - Yankee Doodle  - This is a song with a simple verse/refrain pattern.  (AB)  I chose it because it is so familiar.  There are a number of ways you might demonstrate form with this song.  A simple idea would be to march on the verse and then play a drum on the refrain - a drum being anything you can find that you can play in a drumming fashion if you don't own drums.  Or you can make up different actions for each section.  You might choose to march in a line (follow the leaders style) for the A section and then each person marches anywhere they want on the refrain.  Kids like to choose their own actions and be creative.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H85-udAkFa0     Instrumental Fife and Drum skips refrain in the middle so you have to really listen to hear A and B.

Idea #3 - Jingle Bells - Another song with a simple verse/refrain pattern.  (AB)   I used to set up chairs around the room with jingle bells on them.  During the verse the kids were allowed to skip around the room but when the refrain began they had to sit on a chair and play their bells.  Again there is no right or wrong when it comes to the actions.  But there can only be two different movements - 1 for the A (verse) and the other for the B (refrain).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-2MoS_YSAk    Lyrics on refrain sometimes -   sometimes only instrumental even on refrain.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2MFducncsg   Only uses the 2 most common verses – short intro that repeats between verses

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeNJmOsBS94     Karaoke style – short into that repeats between verses as in version above

Idea # 4 - Folk Dancing is all about form.  Simple folk dances for children have a pattern of repeated musical ideas.  There is a different movement for each musical idea.  Here are two familiar and popular dances for kids.  Each is in the simple AB form.  The ear is being trained to listen for the changes in the music.

Chicken Dance

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UV3kRV46Zs  Instructions for the chicken dance in case you don’t know how to do this dance - boring but instructive if you don't know the dance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeXOBCBxl10  instrumental – the visual is just an excuse to play the music but that's okay because we just want the music. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWjeITmDmmo  Good version of the music but the silly chicken in the video doesn’t even match the music and he doesn’t do anything different on the B section.  But here is another good resource for the music.

La Raspa

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kq5c09ExG3o  Video that shows how to do the dance if you don't know this one or somehow missed out on it during your elementary school days.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWPDw0gd1_o  Mariachi versions repeats 5 times with variations of the B

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Musical Form - The Nutcracker

This is a lesson that I did with my 2nd graders.  Children that age love the Nutcracker Ballet by Tchaikovsky.  I used three pieces from the Nutcracker to introduce the children to the following musical terms: Introduction, A section, B section, Bridge, and Coda

Introduction:  an opening section of a piece.  I use simple language with small children.  We have sung so many songs by now that they know what an introduction is.  It is the music at the beginning of a piece of music that prepares you for the actually song or for the first musical idea.

A section:  the first musical idea that appears in a piece of music.

B section: the second musical idea that appears in a piece of music.

Bridge:   I teach the children that just as a bridge in the real world connects two pieces of land, a bridge in music connects two musical ideas.  A bridge in music always makes you feel like the music is taking you somewhere.

Coda:  a section of music that brings the piece to an end.

So here is the way I taught this lesson.  I would make cards with full size pieces of paper laminated to last with the words of these sections on them.  Then for each piece we listened to, I passed out the cards representing the parts of the music that the children would hear.  Their assignment was to listen and to come forward and stand under my hand if they thought they had the correct sign.

So imagine with me for a second here a very simple song, Twinkle Twinkle.  It is an ABA piece.  So for this song I would pass out 2 A cards and 1 B card.  Then as the music played I would hold up my hand high enough for a child to stand underneath of it when the A section began.  Hopefully a child with an A card would come stand under the hand.  I would then move to the sign and hold up my hand again just as the B section began.  Another child would come and stand under my hand.  And then repeated for the last section.

Now I ask everyone "Is this correct?"  If they all agreed we would listen again to be sure.  If they disagreed I would let me tell me what needs to change.  We would make those changes and then listen to see if they now had it right.  I never would tell them if they had it correct.  This lesson was always "explore and discover" until it was very obvious that the music matched the signs.

So here is the order and some links for the three pieces I used from the Nutcracker.  There is some variation in the pieces but I was teaching basics so didn't make an issue over any variation.

The Dance of the Reed Flutes:  Intro A~AB~A   (~ means bridge)

Chinese Dance:   Intro AABBAA Coda

Russian Dance (Trepak):  AAAABB~AA Coda

Favorite Pieces to teach Musical Form

 Here are some of my favorite pieces to teach form.  Of course, there is much else to talk about with each piece you listen to but these are a great introduction to musical form and help the children be analytical listeners in a fun way.

Piece of Music



March of the Wooden Soldiers Tchaikovsky

Minuet in G

Minuet and Trio from Eine Kleine Mozart

Minuet in G                                             Bach

Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks Mussorgsky

Trumpeter’s Lullaby                         Anderson
Intro ABA Coda

The Aquarium                                        Saint Saens
AAB Coda

The Swan                                              Saint Saens
Intro ABA Coda

Forgotten Dreams                             Anderson

Galop                                          Kabalevsky
Intro A~A~B~A~A

Waltzing Cat                                     Anderson
Intro AABB~A Coda

Norwegian Dance                                   Grieg
Intro AABAA Coda

Sandpaper Ballet                               Anderson
Intro AABAABA Coda

Fossils                                                   Saint Saens

Waltz of the Doll                                 Delibes
Intro AAB~AC Coda

Syncopated Clock                            Anderson
Intro AABA~CC~AA Coda

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Peter and the Wolf - Lesson 1

There are lots of fun activities to do with the wonderful story and music of Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev.   But before you can have fun with these activities you have to introduce the children to the story and to the music.  My favorite introduction is with the movie produced in 1996 with Lloyd Bridges and Kirstie Alley.  You can purchase this at amazon.

The reason I like it is 1.  It has a real story line    2.  There is a wonderful underlying theme about the magic of childhood and the child's imagination   3.  You learn the music without being bored to death!   4.  The kids like the play between the real characters and the animation.   5.  There is an unanswered question about whether the grandfather in the story really was Peter.  The little kids love this!


So my suggestion for lesson 1 is to get this DVD and watch it together.  You can check libraries if you want.  I don't know what they may have.  There may be another version that you might like better.  The newer one by director Suzie Templeton is said to be "darker" in its theme.  I love the Lloyd Bridges version.  It is definitely light and fun for young children.

I have to admit that I also showed my kids the Disney version.  It is fun and silly and they laugh and laugh.  I just always saved it until we were done with our whole unit and then we celebrated by watching that version.  It is on youtube in two parts:



Monday, March 5, 2012

Peter and the Wolf - Preparing for Lesson 2

Now that the children know the story of Peter and the Wolf and have been introduced to the music, we want them to be able to identify the music for each character and to know the instrument that plays that music.  Pictures of the instruments are important so they can identify each by sight and by sound.   You will also need pictures representing each of the characters in the story.

The characters:

You will need the following:  Feel free to pull pictures off the internet or to use the following:
Bird = flute
Peter = strings
Cat = Clarinet
Duck = Oboe
Grandfather = bassoon
Wolf = French Horn
Hunters = Timpani Drums

Click on any picture to see the large size.  Then right click and "save as".