in Bflat

A quick idea using the great site which is an online project that got people to film themselves performing simple drones in the key of Bflat and then allows the viewer/hearer to turn them on and off at will. Everything sounds nice because its all in the one key. I opened this up on my electronic whiteboard and then gave kids a chance to come up and experiment and create little arrangements. Its a great little site that enables the kids to instantly hear what it is like when you add a bass, or how the sound changes when a single note instrument like a trumpet comes in. It is also a great chance for them to hear music making using non traditional instruments and instruments that they might never have seen before.

Ensemble Teaching

At NFPS we run an ensemble program using Marimba’s, xyzlaphones, and percussion instruments. Each level has an ensemble which rehearses for one hour a week. If your thinking of trying to get an ensemble program going that is inclusive, easy to make astart with and enjoyable then I recommend these instruments – plus it sounds so much better than recorders.

The advantages are they are diatonic (all playing in the same key) which allows you to write your own bass lines simple melodies , chordal accompaniments and rhythem parts. The basics to teaching composition.

The costs for these instruments range depending on quality but you dont need to buy the most expensive, the more the better at this age. We actually had the large Marimbas built for the school by a company called Mountain Marimbas at a relatively cheap cost  If your looking for music John Madin has written great books for all levels that come with a CD etc.

Below is an example of a very simple piece fully composed by the children – You can hear the 4 parts, melody, bass line, rhythm and accompaniment and we also introduced the idea of a B section that shifts the mood of the piece slightly.

long haired piece 2 from North Fitzroy Primary School on Vimeo.

Getting grade 5/6 kids to compose using dissonance and consonance

Over the space of a term (ten weeks) Andrew Williamson and I work on a number of composition ideas with our grade 5 and 6 kid.

The ideas are both conceptual and practical

The first idea we look at is the notions of dissonance and consonance in a musical perspective.

As a listening exercise I play the kids two obvious examples such as Penderecki’s Threnody to the victims of Hiroshima to emphasis dissonance and Erik Saties Gymonpedie Number 1 to to look at consonance. These pieces can both be found on youtube  Penderecki . The Penderecki piece always starts great conversation with the kids on the role of music, why the sounds have to be so harsh, what is dissonance (clashing) when and where it is necessary, when it is to much, how does music effect our emotions, why do some sounds make us feel certain ways and others make us feel differently.

Following this I move the lesson into a class composition piece. It’s important to model this to the kids, how you want them to compose as the idea is for them to break into small groups and replicate the processes in the coming weeks.

On the electronic whiteboard I would bring up a picture of a haunted house that has the obvious connotations and leads well to a combination of dissonant and consonant sounds.

This picture has been taken from the Music Express Series

A discussion would take place about the intention of the picture. It is to scare the viewer or leave a dark feeling. How has this been achieved? Through the use of dark colors, through the various elements in the picture, where they are placed, at the front or at the back. These are all concepts that can be transported to a musical setting. Do the elements clash or flow freely.

Placing a number of instruments in front of the kids they would choose instruments that they think might match the various elements they would see in the picture. They would then be given a  short time to come up with a quick pattern that they could teach to a small group who would all be assigned to that instrument. Once five or six different parts had been composed and groups of 4 had been formed around those parts I would place those into some sort of visual arrangement on the whiteboard.

This is where the piece gets fun because the kids can now try and change the various arrangements to see if they were effectively achieving their original stated aims, to musically replicate the picture, to have some definite dissonant sounds involved. To get a sense of darkness in the music etc. When inventing the melody you will notice in the video the kids had a simple melody and each new part comes in mimicking the same melodic shape but moving it away by a semitone creating a fairly obvious and easy to hear dissonance.You will also notice there is a mixture of melody, rhythm as well as some textural elements to the piece. We also spoke of how tempo changes a piece, originally the bass  was quite fast but we found it was much more effective to slow the whole thing down. This class should take no longer than 2 lessons. Following this the children would have a class to compose their own piece in groups of no more than 5. Because we have worked on these ideas for an number of years with the kids they feel completely comfortable in their role as composers.

Finally we filmed the whoe class performance and here is an example.

Music Education

In my role as a music teacher Im a big believer in teaching children to be composers. All children intrinsically have the ability to compose music just as they do draw a picture. All that needs to happen is they need to be given some very simple starting blocks and off they go. These starting blocks never need to be traditional western notation.
Here is an example of a piece written by a group of five, elevan year olds. They were given 45 minutes to write and perform this piece. They have been composing in my classes for about 4 years now so are very used to that sort of task expectation. You can hear they have written a four part piece of music including an A and a B section. It totally rocks

Play Song

Heres some more venue reviews

The Powerhouse – BRISBANE, QLD

Cool room Uncool people running the show – they take a cut of the door, cut of your merchandise, cut of your rider,anyway to make money of the band they will – and I got a paper cut as well

Joes Waterhole – EUMUNDI, QLD
Strange town strange pub. It’s like your in the set of a 1980s cliched Australian soap opera, complete with a meat raffle, dog, men with beards down to their knees that look like the dog, rugby shorts, blue singlets, photos of old school boxers and fights in the crowd.

Lake Kawana Arts Theartre– CALOUNDRA, QLD
0/10 I loved this joint but don’t recommend it to anyone