Category Archives: Music

Teaching the Elements of Music: Texture

Standard

Teaching texture to young students (and even older ones) can be difficult. I try to help IMG_2699students create meaning by making sure they have a visual model to go along with the sound.

This year I decided to get students involved in making a visual model by using …. wait for it … PASTA! It worked out pretty well with minimal pasta remnants left on the floor.  At the bottom of this post is the slide show I created with visual and listening examples of Monophonic, Homophonic, and Polyphonic texture.  After several years of teaching texture, I’ve narrowed it down to the basics that I’d like students to understand at this point in their music education.

I made up bags of 3 kinds of pasta – elbow, bow ties, and penne.  Of course, you can use whatever you have available, but I’d advise against any long pasta like spaghetti because it breaks so easily.  We did our models on the floor but you could glue them onto paper to keep as examples. Here’s what my students came up with:

From left to right are examples of monophonic, homophonic, and polyphonic.

Having students create these in “real time” allowed me to correct any misunderstandings they might have had.

Feel free to use the slides in the link below – or create ones that work better for you! There is even an bonus link to a fun review Kahoot!

Texture Slideshow

 

 

Sell a Piece of Music!

Standard

My students spent the last few weeks learning about the elements of music. We IMG_2851practiced identifying and describing things like tempo, dynamics, pitch, tonality, timbre, and texture. After lots of activities to reinforce their learning, they demonstrated their knowledge by completing a listening analysis of 4 pieces of music (Classic Rock, Jazz, Classical, and a song of their choice) and writing a review of one of the pieces.  To wrap it all up, they used their creativity to create an advertisement to
“sell” one of the pieces of music!

For the analysis, I gave students a choice of 5 songs in each category. To  give students some independence in their listening, I provided QR codes for each song. They were able to preview each piece and pick the one they wanted to analyze.  The review they wrote for one was meant to show their understanding of what they heard and their ability to apply appropriate vocabulary. These activities combined took 4-5 days to complete.

IMG_2859The advertisement  was fun because students got to share about the music and be as outrageous in their ad as they wanted to be.  We warmed up by watching a couple of “as seen on tv” product commercials and clips of infomercials.  We also looked at types of advertising techniques. You can find many websites that have student centered information on this – I used this one. Your ELA teachers might cover this as part of their standards so it may be an opportunity to collaborate! Once you start talking about these kids will come up with all kinds of current examples.

Students created a print ad (on poster or a google slide) or a script for a live commercial. The ad had to describe at least 3 elements of music in the song and use at least  advertising techniques. They had a great time with who could come up with the most outrageous claims!  The ads took about 3 days to complete (including the introduction of the advertising techniques.) You might need one more class period depending on how many students choose to present live commercials. If you have the technology the live commercials could be recorded and played back to the class, too.

IMG_2861

We displayed many of these in the hallway with the QR codes so everyone in the school could check out some new music!

IMG_2873

Remember that this is how I did things THIS TIME in my classroom. I’m

Here are links to all the materials used in these lessons:

Introduction to Project

QR Codes for Listening

Listening Analysis Grid

Music Review

Review Rubric

Advertisement Directions

Advertisement Rubric

 

 

 

 

Using Tech to Hook Students: Makey Makey + Scratch = Human Drum Machine

Standard
Using Tech to Hook Students: Makey Makey + Scratch = Human Drum Machine

Want to get kids excited to be in your middle school music class? Then turn them into a human drum machine and beat box!

As you can see, this is great fun for your students – and even teachers!

The human beat box was actually where we ended – we started with a drum machine.

You can see the students have pieces of foil they are tapping on to create a sound. You can use all kinds of things with the Makey Makey to create sound – foil, clay, bananas, and as you already saw, humans!  Since we did this at the beginning of the school year, my students took a piece of foil and turned it into something that represented them.  We had everything from baseballs to ballet slippers to initials.

So how did we do this?  Believe it or not it wasn’t too hard.  All you need is a Makey Makey and a computer to access the website Scratch.

I started out creating a free account on Scratch.  This is a great website that teaches kids (and teachers) to code.  There are countless things you can create – as you’ll see from the examples on the site – but I stuck with the music.  When you first start creating on Scratch there is a helpful tutorial that will show you the basics.

After I got the hang of telling the computer what I wanted it to do, I was able to create a drum machine. I chose the “Sprite” I wanted  – in this case, a percussion instrument.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-11-35-08-am

 

Once you choose an instrument you’ll be able to choose from several sounds it can make.

Screen Shot 2016-09-18 at 11.45.57 AM.png

 

Then you simply choose the language to tell them computer what you want it to do and when.  In this case I dragged the Event, “When space key pressed” and the Sound “Play sound low tom.”  Each time you add another sound, you assign it to a different key on the keyboard.  To use the Makey Makey at it’s simplest, you’ll want to stick with the space key and left, right, up, down arrow keys.

Screen Shot 2016-09-18 at 11.37.53 AM.png

 

I continued adding “Sprites” (instruments), choosing sounds, and the event that would make them happen until I had everything I wanted.

Now to add the Makey Makey…

img_0082

This looks complicated at first, but it really isn’t – I promise! The Makey Makey directions and website will walk you through the set up, but here’s the basics – each color cord clips into a hole that corresponds with a key on the keyboard. For instance the orange cord is clipped into the down arrow key hole, so whatever I told the Scratch program to play when I hit the down arrow will happen when I touch the orange clip.

img_0080There is one cord (in this case the white one) that is the grounding cord. Nothing happens
unless the grounding cord is being touched. We made the cord the “Drummer’s Cord” – whoever holds that is the drummer. S/He gets to use the other students as drums by tapping their hand as they hold one of the colored cords.

Obviously, there are many instruments to choose from when creating your Scratch code. There are even pitched instruments like the piano where you can create a separate Sprint for different pitches so you can play a melody.

 

To create the beatbox I used the microphone and created a Sprite for each different sound.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-11-35-26-am

img_0084As you can see from the videos I started with, everyone loved this!  Even greater is that this can be used with every level of students. Our special needs kids even had a blast trying out all the sounds!

I plan to use this again in my classes and have students create the Scratch codes so they can learn coding basics and test out their creative music making abilities using technology.

Have you used a Makey Makey or Scratch before? Let us know what you’ve tried so we can learn from each other!