"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. :-) 


  1. I LOVE this! We might have to try this soon. :) Oh, and "baby M"'s face as he wanders through is priceless. I watched the video again just to see it. :D


  2. Heehee... Yes, I was going to redo it, but it did make me crack up seeing him wander through there. :-)