"Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature can not do without." ~Confucius

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Head and Shoulders" a la Haydn

Probably the most meaningful way to understand music is to MOVE to it. I was just telling a piano student yesterday, as she was struggling through a Minuet, that it's really silly that we sit and struggle over music when in fact, Minuets were meant to be "felt" as you danced to them, rather than labored through in painstaking repetition. When it comes down to it, making meaningful movements to music enables the mind to feel and understand rhythm and melody better than anything else!

This activity today is a short example of getting kids moving to music - in this case, a very well-known classical melody: the 2nd movement of F.J. Haydn's "Surprise Symphony." It's my simple version  from a more detailed presentation of this activity presented by John Feierabend  (John Feierabend is one of my favorite Music Ed. guru's out there. He and his wife have a passion for music, movement and getting the littlest among us involved in music making. Pick up any of his recordings, books, etc. for a broad and meaningful beefing up of your little one's musical experiences).

So, again, for this activity, we used the 2nd Movement from the "Surprise Symphony"
(For those out there wondering, "what is a movement anyway?" A movement is a part of a symphony. There are usually 4 movements (sometimes more or less), which make up the classical model of a symphony. Kind of like a book with 4 chapters. Each is a little different, they may have new characters or settings, but they are all connected to the main story).

The materials needed are only: a recording of this movement and some little kiddos!

What makes this a "surprise" symphony is that Haydn sticks loud chords in an otherwise quiet piece of music (when he was composing this, he was reacting to the annoying tendency of some audience members to fall asleep during the typically slow 2nd movement... he was a funny guy, that Haydn).
The rhythm and structure of the opening line lends itself to a simple sound-description using "Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes"

First - Teach kids the actions and the words:

Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes, (tapping for each syllable)
Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes,
Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes,
Now a quiet splat.    splat.  (stay down on "toes" then say quietly, "splat")

Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes, (same: tapping each syllable)
Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes, 
Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes, 
Now a great big splat.   SPLAT!!!  (stay down on "toes", then jump with a loud, "SPLAT!")

When I told the boys we were going to play a game with "Head and Shoulders" and a SPLAT!, they were very excited... mostly for the "Splat" mystery. :-)  

Practice the motions, then tell them we're going to do it with the "Surprise" song. Tell them to listen to the piece (the first 35-40 seconds) and tell you when they hear the loud "Splat." Usually their faces will light up in a big smile when it happens. :-) 

Next, try this activity with them... keeping it quiet until the big splat! 

See the video below for how we did it (and you will see baby M wandering around too, with his hands on his head to be like the brothers... it's a family affair here!) 

Give it a try - it's especially fun in these winter months to have a few movement activities up your sleeve when you're spending more time indoors. :-) 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Learning About Instruments - Double Bass

The boys both have a current love of the Double Bass, or in their description, "the BIG double bass!!" Whether they only love it because it's huge, or because of its sonorous, low timbre, I don't know... but I will take it and run with it for now! :-)

For 'art time' today, we made a simple picture with the Double Bass. Here it is if you would find it helpful for an instrument your little one shows a fancy to. I planned to incorporate each boy drawn into the picture and also make a connection to the letter "d" for double bass.

Gather some materials:
Picture of instrument, crayons/markers, glue, and a cut-out picture of your child's face (from an extra photo or printed off your computer). We also had two thin black strips to glue on as the bow.

I do a google image search for coloring pages (i.e. bass violin coloring page) when I do these sorts of activities as they are easy to transfer to a Word doc and then format, and they often have nice, clear lines.

Print out your pictures and have children color them appropriate to instrument's color (if they'll cooperate and aren't feeling unusually creative... "No, I want a purple Double Bass!" etc...).

Bonus points for having a YouTube, etc. video of the instrument being performed in the background for reference. This one was an awesome tango for double bass.

After they colored, we made the educational connection to "D for double bass", since it makes "d" sounds when plucked (like, "Da dum, dum dum, dee, dee, dum, dum, etc...) So, they drew some "D"'s coming from the instrument.

Then, we glued on each boy's face, and they completed the body, with hands on the instrument, then, finally they glued the bow on.

Simple, hopefully meaningful - and the more exposure, the better!


Monday, January 14, 2013

Make-It-A-Song-Monday - Musicals!

So, I semi-recently saw Les Miserables in the theatre. It was a fun night out with some friends, and I really wanted to see it, seeing as me and 5,000,000,000 other people love the show.

Do you really want to know my opinion of the lead roles' singing? Maybe not.... so, I'll just skip that.

But, I have been singing Les Mis songs all day every day since I saw the movie. And, if you're like me, you start to get creative with the lyrics.

Today, I made "At the End of the Day" into a song about vegetables.
It went something like this....

At the end of our lunch, there still are those carrots.
And also some broccoli, staring at me.
I know I have to eat it. I won't get candy if not.
But I really don't want to eat it, healthy or not.
But mommy looks angry.

Then we made it a bit more veggie-descriptive, since the boys didn't care for my rendition as much (I know, what gives???).

Oh, we need to eat all of our broccoli and carrots,
Our green beans and peas, and all our fruit too.
All these foods make us stronger,
so we'll eat our veggies and fruit,
to be strong like super heroes, they eat them too.
And they eat them quickly!

This one came to my head easily at nighttime...

At the end of the day, the children are crazy.
Like they don't even know that it's bedtime at all.
Running down the hallway, laughing and singing and shouting,
Mom and Dad are stunned, ready to fall.
And we can't find clean jammies.

Do you want to know other lyrics that have destroyed enhanced these lovely melodies? I thought you'd want to know!

"I Dreamed a Dream"
I dreamed a dream of toy-free floors,
where I won't trip, and spill my coffee.
I dreamed of children who close doors
quietly, so they won't wake baby....

Anyway - enough glimpses into my life....

Melodies from musicals are great for fond remembrances from your own childhood which you can pass onto your kids. I certainly wouldn't put my 5 year old in front of "Les Mis" yet, but a few I would do are, "Mary Poppins" or  "The Sound of Music" or "Chitty, Chitty, Bang Bang" or "The King and I" or "Annie" or "Lion King" or "Peter Pan."

Here's some fun from "Mary Poppins" to get you singing today... Go Here!.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Galloping Baby Bounces

There are lots of babies on their way this year in our family and friends' circles - which I am oh-so excited about! Since little baby M is going to seem like an ox next to these soon-to-come little ones, I'm afraid he won't feel like the "baby" anymore. Sigh....

Here are some delightful bounces for babies and toddlers that are easy to learn and lots of fun to enjoy with your little one. Remember, these bounces, chants, songs, etc. that you participate in with your child are not only helping them to understand music as it comes naturally, but the bond and the joy that these activities produce is priceless!

Here they are - Learn one or two and give 'em a try:

Ride a Horsey 

Ride a horsey up and down,  (bounce baby up and down, mimicking a horse ride)
Ride a horsey, ride into town.
Ride a horsey, black or brown,
Ride a horsey, then get.... down! (gently drop baby)

Ride and Ride the Pony

Ride and ride the pony, a mile per hour only,
jump over the tree stump, down falls the baby! (lift baby up on "jump" then gently drop baby on "down falls...")


Ride, ride the pony, a mile per hour only,
jump over the hill, and baby takes a spill! (gently "spill" baby over your legs)

 Ride Away 

Ride away on your horses, your horses, your horses;
Ride away on your horses, ride, ride on!
Galloping, galloping, on we go!
Galloping, galloping, to the show.
Ride away on your horses, your horses, your horses;
Ride away on your horses, now woah, woah! WOAH!  (slow down on each "woah" and either gently drop baby on last "woah" or slide her down your legs.)

Here is "baby" M enjoying these so you can hear some of the melodies. You can probably make up your own melodies to each of these since they flow so rhythmically anyway. I'm still learning these ones as you can tell, as we need some new ones to work into our repertoire 'round here... So, we'll be learning them together! :-)

I'd LOVE to hear what bounces and rhymes YOUR baby loves!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Throw it out the Window

Well, life is starting to swing into gear around here with Christmas and New Year's behind us. Sometimes there is a little reluctance to get started (What?! No! Never!), and, as is the case in our house, laughter is usually the best medicine. Our #2 is especially grumpy lately, and nothing changes his mood like us getting him to start laughing.
One way to help cure some grumpies is.... Silly Songs!  And one of my favorites is "Throw it out the Window."

This song was first introduced to me by a dear friend (Hi, Cynthia!), who told me that her family used to sing this song on the road together as a family. I thought it was hilarious and immediately made her sing to me all the rhymes that went with it.

I'll have a recording of it a little later, but the words of the song could be any rhyme that you in your vocal ability can make fit into the time and pulse of the song.
Then, after about 2 lines of the song, you complete it with "she/he threw it out the window...."

Like so -

Let's take.... Jack and Jill.

Jack and Jill went up the hill
to fetch a pail of water,
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
Jill threw him out the window,
the window, the window,
she threw him out the window.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
Jill threw him out the window.

Or, "Mary Had a Little Lamb"

Mary had a little lamb
whose fleece was white as snow,
and everywhere that Mary went,
she threw him out the window,
the window, the window,
she threw him out the window,
Everywhere that Mary went,
she threw him out the window.

Some of you are horrified right now (What? Throw him out the window? It sounds so violent!), but really, it's great fun. Try it!

This song can be done with oh-so-many Mother Goose rhymes that we know and love... Little Boy Blue, Little Miss Muffett, Cobbler, Cobbler, Mend My Shoe, Humpty Dumpty, Little Bo Peep, Old King Cole, Simple Simon Met A Pieman, etc....

It's a great (and silly) way to get some more rhymes in kids' heads, but what is educationally advantageous about it (yes, there has to be SOMETHING educational!), is the way it gets your brain to conform the words to the pattern of the song. Taking something long and drawn out, like "Little Miss Muffet" and speeding it up into a song is brilliant work for the brain's organizational music and rhyming abilities. My 5-year old can sort of keep up and my 3-year old listens and sings when he can. I think they'll be better at this as they get older, but it's been lots of fun already. :-)

This is great for car rides, transition times at school, singing while working/doing chores with your kids, while you get dinner ready and they are starving and hanging around your ankles.... Whenever!

So, without further ado, if you have not had the privilege of hearing this little tune already, here it is, being sung by a favorite crew of my husband's, "Trout Fishing In America"
Go Here!

Get some giggles and creativity going to start off the year! :-)

Did your family have a favorite song to sing in the car on long car rides?