Thursday, 8 November 2018

Musicianship classes

This half term, in our musicianship classes, one of the activities we are doing is composing (making up) our own rhythms! Last half term we put lots of ground work in place to build our understanding and skills, so now we are able to get creative!

The starting point is understanding what a rhythm is, and how it is different from the pulse of the music. The children have spent last half term learning about the difference between pulse and rhythm – the pulse is the underlying heartbeat of the music that never changes and never stops. On top of this heartbeat we can play a pattern, or ‘rhythm’. These rhythms might come from the pattern of the words in a song, or we might make them up. They can be different and can keep changing through the song or rhyme.

We give names to some of the simpler rhythms we have been learning, and the children have become experts at these! We call a one beat note ‘ta’ and two half beat notes ‘tee-tee’. This enables us to understand the rhythm without relying on the words of the song. This then means we can begin to notate the rhythm of a song so that someone else could play it.

The first stage we use in moving towards notating music is to use our heartbeat cards to represent the pulse. Each heartbeat card represents one underlying beat in the music. We can then notate the pattern that falls on top of each heartbeat. For ‘ta’ we put one cross in the heartbeat, as this one note takes up the whole beat. We use two crosses for ‘tee-tee’ as this is two half beat notes in the space of one underlying heartbeat.

We began the notation process by working together to notate our favourite songs and rhymes as a group. I draw hearts on the whiteboard and then the children help me work out how many crosses should go in each heart to notate our songs and rhymes. Once confident with this, we move onto the children working independently to notate different rhythms themselves on a piece of paper.

The best part, of course, is that the children are now equipped to create and notate their own rhythms. When I ask at the start of the session if they are ready to be composers they all say ‘what? No! We can’t do that Miss!’. But what they don’t realise is they have been gradually building up all the skills they need to compose their own rhythms. The children just need to decide how many crosses to put in each heart and suddenly they realise they’ve created their own piece!

The most rewarding part for me as a music teacher is seeing them clap their rhythm through to themselves, and make changes until they’re completely happy with it. This shows me how invested they are – and I always think its easier to care about what you’re working on if it’s your own creation!

The final piece of the composing puzzle is sharing our creations with the rest of the group. The KS1 children at Neville’s Cross have already reached this stage this week and have been taking it in turns to stand up in front of the group and ‘conduct’ their piece – by pointing to each heartbeat in time to the beat while the rest of the group plays their creation on our rhythm sticks. This is a wonderful moment in seeing how confident the children have become musically. The pride on their faces as they share their creation is why we do it! 
If you’d like any more information about our musicianship class at Do Re Mi in Meadowfield please get in touch with Lizzie via our facebook page or email
If you are a parent at Neville's Cross and would like to find out more about what we do in the sessions then get in touch with Lizzie as above, but please contact the school office if you'd like to book a place.

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