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.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Norwegian Dance No. 2 by Edvard Grieg Lesson 1

Here is another great piece by Grieg.  I chose this piece because it has a wonderful sense of "home" or the tonal center.  Lesson one begins by helping the children to define what "home" means in music.  This is a simple lesson because children already know more about music than they can define.  We all know that if we hear someone humming a song and they stop before it ends, it will drive us crazy until we just finish that music.  That is the sense of home.  We want the music to "go home" or find it's tonal center.

I like to tell children that home in music is very much like home is to a family.  During the day everyone in the family can go their separate ways but the best part of the day is when everyone comes home.

In music, all the notes can also go their separate ways, but in the end they need to go home.

You can easily demonstrate this by humming a few songs that the children already know.  But stop before you hum the last note.  Let them hum that note.  They will not have any problem at all.  But you are thinking - sure - they already know those songs.  So now hum a song that you know but the kids don't.  Do the same activity and you will see they can sense that final note on any song.  I used to just make up little melodies and let the kids find that last note.  They know this because it is such a part of our western music.

Now that you have defined it, you are going to play a game with Grieg's Norwegian Dance.  The first time you listen to it, you just want to get acquainted.  It is in a basic AABAA form.  The first part (A) is slow and the music goes home.  This then repeats.  The second part (B) is fast and it does not go home.  The third section is a repeat of the beginning, another A followed by A.   There is a distinct ending or what we call a Coda.  You have to listen and make sure you talk about the differences between the A and B sections before you can play the game.


The game is simple.  Each person chooses a spot that is their "home".  I had little dots that I put on the floor at school and everyone chose their dot.  You can use anything:  a piece of paper, stand by a certain chair, put your shoe on the floor for your home spot, etc.  Here is where that old idea of time and space comes to play again.  During the A section you have to walk - anywhere!  But you have to listen to the music and be ready to come home at the appropriate time.  You can't run that last few feet because you weren't listening.  And you can go home and stand and march in place until the music resolves.  You have to fill time and space as you walk around and come home at the right time.   During the B section you can run.  There is no home on the B section so when the music stops, you just FREEZE.  Then the A repeats and everyone ends up on home as the Norwegian Dance ends.  I have the kids all shake or wiggle their hands during the Coda.

All of this is just to be so well acquainted with this music that you can do the laser light show in lesson 2!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Norwegian Dance No. 2 Lesson 2

Here is where the fun begins.  By the time you have finished lesson one, you should be pretty familiar with this piece.  You know the musical form AABAA Coda.  You know that the A section always goes home and that the B section does not.  So you are ready to do a laser light show with this music.

You will need a good flashlight for each person and a room large enough that everyone can lie down on their back and see the ceiling.

Step 1 is to define on the ceiling a place that will be home.  If there is a light or a vent on the ceiling that will work great.  You may have to tape something up there if there is no defining feature.  But there has to be a definite place that everyone can identify.

Next you are going to lie down and turn off the flashlights.  They go on the minute the music begins.  Now what you did before with walking and running around the room is done on the ceiling with the flashlights.  You walk during the A sections, always going home.  You run during the B section and freeze when the music stops.  And at the end when everyone is back on home, the flashlights "wiggle" for the Coda.

This is best done in a really dark room.  The darker the room, the more fun is the light show.  It is the most fun when you have several people doing it with you.  So if you are homeschooling just a couple of kids, you'll want to learn it well and then be prepared to invite the whole family or some friends over to do it with you.  Just remember to ask them to bring a flashlight and be ready for some real fun!


Thursday, March 3, 2011

In the Hall of the Mountain King - Edvard Grieg - Lesson 1

This is a wonderful piece of music that kids love.  The very first step in teaching this piece is to tell the story that lies behind it.  The piece is from a suite called The Peer Gynt Suite.  The adult version of the story is much more complicated than this simple version but for young children here is their version.


There once was a little boy named Peer Gynt. He was a bad boy. He stole things, played tricks, and never helped his mother. Everybody hated Peer Gynt. One day, he went to a wedding. There he met the most beautiful girl in the world. He knew the instant he saw her that he was in love. The girl's name was Solveig.

Peer wanted to marry this wonderful girl. But that would not happen because Solveig's parents had heard about Peer and they didn't like him. They told Peer to leave their daughter alone because she would not marry him.

Poor Peer's heart was broken. He knew that he could not stay in the village because seeing Solveig would be too painful to his heart. So he ran from the village and into the mountains where he could be alone forever. But little did Peer know that along his way he would have many adventures.

Here is the first adventure and the story of our piece of music.

I do NOT tell the children how this story ends.  The music will tell them the ending.  I just want to tell enough to set the stage for listening.

Peer Gynt arrived at the hall of the Mountain King. He was then surrounded by many ugly trolls, captured and taken before the king. At first the king is not happy to have an intruder in their kingdom but Peer assured him that he is looking for a new home and perhaps he would be allowed to live there.  The king finds that he likes this young man and suggests that Peer could marry his daughter. She was beautiful but not as pretty as Solveig. The king described what Peer would have to do to marry his daughter. The things he would have to do were: grow a tail, not see the light of day for the rest of his life, and, last but not least, slit his eyes to see the world as a troll does.

That night when he was alone in his bedroom Peer begins to think about the king's plan.  He decides he does not want to become a troll.  But now he has a problem.  How can he say "No" to the king without making him really mad.  He decided he had better sneak out of the mountain right then while it is still dark.

As the music begins you will hear Peer sneaking on his tip toes as quietly as he can.  Listen carefully to this piece of music and see if you can tell me how the story ends.

The children will have all kinds of ideas of what happens as they listen to this very exciting piece of music. When they have exhausted their ideas, you can share how the author ended the story.

Peer tip toes through the halls of the mountains so very quietly but unfortunately there were troll guards along the way who hear him.  A chase begins as Peer frantically tried to escape.  At last the trolls started to surround Peer. He is sure he is going to be captured and turns to face them.  Peer started to step backwards and he heard church bells ringing. When the sounds hit the eardrums of the ugly, hairy trolls, they melted away to never be seen or heard from again.

You might listen again to see if there is a bell there at the end.  They will want to know.  No, there is no bell. When Grieg wrote the music he just let it end with that wonderful big crash!

Here is a good version of the music on youtube.  Don't let the kids "watch" the video.  Just play it so they can use their imaginations.  Afterwards, you might want to watch the video.  Good pictures of Grieg and of his beloved home in Norway.


Another lesson for this same music will follow.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In the Hall of the Mountain King - Lesson 2

In lesson one, we got acquainted with this wonderful piece of music.  Now we will have some fun as we examine the elements that helped create the piece: rhythm, tempo and dynamics.  The picture you see is a graphic illustration of this music - a music map.  You'll need to print out the three pages. The task now is to first focus on how this music repeats over and over a very simple rhythmic pattern. Ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti ta, ti-ti ta, ti-ti ta, Ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti ta.  The task for this lesson is to be able to "follow the dots" on the chart until Peer Gynt finds himself safely out of the mountain. By the time you have done this enough to be able to touch each dot without getting so excited by the music that you get silly about it, you will know that rhythmic pattern well.  Remember, you MUST touch each dot along the way, hopping from dot to dot, not just sliding your finger along the path!

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Pages 1 and 2 repeat THREE times before you do the final page.  I prefer this version without the vocals as you do this exercise.  The beginning is really soft so you have to listen carefully.


Now, that you have accomplished this first part, it is time to discuss this question:  How could this composer keep repeating the same pattern over and over and yet we were never bored?  If I was talking to you and I keep saying the same thing, over and over and over, you would die of boredom.  But this piece is exciting.  Why?

This will lead to a discussion of tempo (the speed of the music) and dynamics (how softly or loudly the music is played)  The children will figure those two things out without your help.  It is so obvious.  It is your job to introduce them to the correct musical terms.  You may enjoy printing out the rhythm,  tempo and dynamics posters for future reference.

Monday, February 28, 2011

In the Hall of the Mountain King - Lesson 3

This activity is an early elementary activity for grades K-2, possibly 3. The whole purpose of this lesson is to develop the ability to hear music as a series of musical phrases.  This activity also develops an awareness of time and space.  You need two things in order to do this activity: troll dolls and a castle.  At school I had a collection of troll dolls that we used for this.  But when I was volunteering in a second grade class in Santa Rosa, California in 2007, we used the patterns below and in some ways it was more fun because the kids got to make and keep their own troll dolls.  In California I used a simple castle picture and duplicated it 4 times, pasted on the four sides of a cardboard box and made a castle.  At school I actually used a box and cut it out to look like a castle, painted and decorated.  It lasted for many years.

The object of the activity is to have each troll doll move into the castle - one troll per phrase of the music.  The troll begins with the first note of the phrase and ends by jumping into the castle on the last note of the phrase.  He cannot get there early and just wait by the castle.  Neither can he jump in if he is not all the way there.  So you have to really learn to time yourself and think about the phrase.  Halfway through the phrase you have to be halfway there, etc.

There are a total of 21 phrases in this piece.  You can count them on the charts from lesson 2.  I had that many kids in my classes at school so each child did this once.  You'll have to come up with your own plan for doing it.  Will you make 21 trolls?  Will you just use a few trolls and have them repeat?  There is no right or wrong but you for sure will want to do the whole piece of music because the fun begins as the music gets going.

Here are some patterns that you might consider: 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Genie in a Bottle (Swan Lake Ballet by Tchaikovsky) Lesson 1

 Once again we have a marvelous story whose conclusion will be found in a piece of music.  I did this lesson with first and second graders.  I told the story while we listened to the music, pausing after each section.  

Here is the music http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ea90L91eZk

Here is our story:

Once upon a time there was a genie who was living in a bottle.  He had been in that bottle a very long time - over a hundred years!  How do you think he felt about this?  Maybe he likes it there but maybe he doesn't.  Let's listen to the beginning of the music and see how he was feeling:  Listen to the first 30 seconds of the music then hit pause.(You can watch the timer on the youtube video)

What did you find out about the genie?  Yes, he was sad wasn't he. Can you even imagine what that was like?  Kinda like if you had to stay in your bedroom for a long time.

Now listen to the next part of the music and see if he stays sad.  Listen to the next 30 seconds, hit pause again).  Is he still sad?  What do you think is happening?  Yes, this music is hopeful and there is only one thing that makes a genie in a bottle hopeful.  What is that?  Someone is rubbing his bottle!  Let's listen once again and raise your hand when you hear the genie come out.

(This will happen in just a couple more seconds but this time talk as the music continues)  It is so exciting to hear him free at last. As you listen to the music you can just imagine how good he feels.  He is stretching his arms and legs and neck and back.  (1:04-1:35)  Then you can just see him dancing.  He is free.  He is free.  He is so happy. (1:35-1:55)  Then stop the music.

Something bad is about to happen. It is almost as if our genie has forgotten how to be free.  He is going wild and crazy and when that happens to a genie, the bottle will start to pull him back.  Let's see if we can hear the bottle start to pull.  (This starts at about 2:05.  Stop it by 2:15 so you can ask this question:  Who wins?  Let's listen.  Thumbs up the genie wins.  Thumbs down the bottle wins.  Stop when the genie goes back into the bottle.

I see a lot of thumbs up.  Our poor genie is in the bottle again.  But don't worry, he is going to try once last time to get away from that bottle.  Let's listen to the ending and see what happens.

Play through the ending.  Then the children can tell the ending.  Our poor genie has lost his chance at freedom and now he is sadly back in his bottle.

I like this version of the music.  Nothing going on at all.  Just music playing.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Genie in a Bottle (Swan Lake Ballet by Tchaikovsky) Lesson 2

This lesson is an introduction to dance via creative movement.  We have learned the story of the Genie in a Bottle and we know the music.  Now we are going to BE the genie and with creative movement tell the whole story.

I practiced this by myself until I knew it well and could make the changes in the correct places in the music.  Then when I did it with the children I just let them follow me.


1. Begin by curling up in a ball on the floor.  You are in your bottle.
2. You are up on hands and knees and start to wiggle as the genie feels somebody rubbing the bottle
3.  You burst forth from the bottle
4.  You stretch  your arms, legs, neck, etc. as you get used to being out of the bottle.
5.  Now dance around freely, floating with arms outstretched, just enjoying the freedom.
6.  The dancing becomes a bit wild and uncontrolled.
7.  Stop in one place now and put your arms out in front like something is pulling you, Then pull back and forth as you fight against the pull of the bottle.
8.  You slump down right back into the bottle.
9.  On your hands and knees you struggle one last time.
10.  End curled up just as you were at the beginning.

If you do this often enough, the children won't need to follow you any more.  They will know exactly what to do.