Friday, March 11, 2011

Waltz like Cinderella

In the Primer Level book of Piano Adventures, one of the first concepts is the feeling of 4 beats per measure and 3 beats per measure. This feeling is demonstrated even before the concept of a measure, bar lines or even a staff has been taught. Many times, I have had students that have difficulty in grasping the 3/4 feel.

The first song that this is demonstrated in the book is Mr. Half Note Dot. The lyrics are:

Hey Mr. Half Note Dot, hey Mr. Half Note Dot
You sound like you've just been dancing
When we go 1-2-3, dance up to middle C
We sound like we've just been dancing

These lyrics inspired me to introduce songs written in 3/4 as a Cinderella Waltz song. First, I ask the student if they have seen the Disney movie Cinderella. Then I ask if they remember the scene when the Prince and Cinderella are dancing around the ballroom.  If the student is a little girl, they usually get up from the piano bench and begin demonstrating. :) 
Then we go on to talk about how the piece of music in the book that we are talking about, should feel just like a Cinderella Waltz song.

The students always like it when I make watching the movie Cinderella, part of their homework!

Singing off key...on purpose

Last week I had to purposefully sing off key. I learned a couple of things:

1. I HATE singing off key. 
2. It's hard to stay off key. I kept wanting to go to a harmony note.
3. I found myself wondering if that same frustration is felt by singers who struggle to stay ON pitch rather than me trying to stay OFF pitch...

It's that third point that really got me to thinking... People who are born with a certain talent (i.e. singing, drawing, spatial reasoning, or other certain "affinities"), often take these natural born talents for granted.  We say to ourselves, "why is it so hard for them to do that? All you have to do is ______". 

My goal is to try to put myself in the shoes of the person who was not born with a specific talent, but wants to work at that and learn how.  It's that "working hard and learning how" that is my job to teach!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Beginning, Middle, End

When children are in the early grades and preschool, they are taught concepts of beginning, middle and ending. These concepts are key to understanding word development and story development and eventually large numbers in math.  Teachers reiterate these concepts in as many ways as possible.

In music, these concepts are used also.  Parents can reinforce these concepts by asking their children questions like these:

How does the song Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star begin?

What comes next after "Up above the world so high...."?

How does the song Happy Birthday end?

**Some more questions would be:
What are the words that rhyme in the song Jesus Loves Me?
Can you think of any other words that rhyme with those?

Substitute any songs that are familiar to your family, and you've got a great way to increase your child's familiarity with foundational concepts of beginning, middle and end!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

O Happy Day! --Vocal warm-up

Anyone who has studied voice or had singing lessons knows that sometimes vocal warm-ups can get old, tired or boring.  A good voice teacher will try to come up with interesting vocalise exercises that still demand vocal concentration, intonation and endurance.

When "Mama-made-me-mash-my-M-and-M's" becomes mundane, try the warm up from this clip from Sister Act II (one of my favorite movies...ever):

That warm-up contains:
A pentatonic scale
Syncopated rhythm
Call and response

And on top of all's a pretty AWESOME arrangement of an AWESOME song!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I love the Backyardigans!

With 4 kids, I have watched ALOT of kid shows.  ALOT. And I definitely have my most favorites and my least favorites. (The Doodlebops were at the bottom of my list.)  At the top of the list are Backyardigans and Little Einsteins (see previous blog on that one!).

We're actually watching Backyardigans right now as I type---the episode is Elephant On The Run--- and once again, it's a good one!

Here's a short list of why I love the Backyardigans:
1. There's no baby talk. Baby talk bothers me.
2. They sing well. Not flat, not sharp.
3. They each sing in their own range. Ex: Tyrone sings an octave lower than Tasha sometimes
4. Their dance steps are usually in perfect time with the beat of the song.
5. Their dance steps help the kids to understand the mood of the music.

I'm sure I could go on and on, but for now I'll stop at 6 reasons. :)
I'm being summoned by my youngest to come to the couch and watch the rest of the episode with him!
Until next time!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Rope them in!

Today's tip is Jump Rope. "What on earth does jumping rope have to do with musical foundations" you may ask... Remember when we were kids and would jump rope and sing songs? We were keeping a steady beat, learning about sub-divided beats, multi-tasking by singing, jumping and sometimes twirling the rope when we were jumping solo, not to mention getting some wonderful exercise! So get your kids out and jump rope with them-teach them the rhymes (you can find a wonderful list here).

Don't worry about explaining what they are learning to them...all that's important is that they have fun and learn through play!