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CSR Music Outreach Program Part 6

Continuing with the four bar rhythmic pattern that students were required to create during their first term school exams, the next step would be to attach musical pitches/sounds to the musical notes of the four bar rhythmic pattern.

The process is actually quite simple.

1. To begin, ask the students to decide on a time signature and create a two bar rhythmic pattern.

2. Ask students to volunteer coming to the whiteboard to write out the two bar rhythmic pattern they have created. In this case, the student chose Simple Triple, which means three crotchet beats in a bar.

3. Next, I ask for any student to volunteer developing the two bar rhythm pattern with another two more bars. But I caution them that this other two bars must have musical connectivity to the earlier two bars. The student (in the photo below) came up with the additional two bars.

4. When all four bars are written on the whiteboard, the next activity is for all the students to clap the four bar rhythm. Ask the students to try their best to 'feel' if the flow feels correct. After clapping the four bar rhythmic pattern a few times, some students noticed that they felt awkward with the rhythm in Bar 3.

5. Rightly so, it does feel a little awkward. Instead of having the students create other rhythmic pattern for Bar 3, I decided on another approach.

6. Getting the students to hear and appreciate musical tones can help them decide better. Musical sounds were then introduced to the students using an electronic keyboard, but only limited to three notes; Middle C, D and E. Include a pitch singing activity using these three notes. I use the syllable 'la' for the singing activity. 

7. I would play short melodic phrases using these three notes and have the entire class 'sing' the phrases exactly as played. It is simply to imitate the pitch they hear.

8. After the singing activity, I would ask students to suggest attaching a pitch to every note of the rhythmic pattern and below is what the students decided. The notes can be randomly chosen because one cannot go wrong with these three notes (C, D and E).

9. Once a pitch is assigned to every note in the rhythm pattern, I proceeded to play the entire melody on the keyboard while the students were asked to listen attentively especially to Bar 3. Quite immediately, the students reacted by saying it did not feel correct, some said it felt 'rushed'.

10. Exploring the somewhat 'adventurous' suggestions given by the students that they are never short of, I simply said the easiest would be for both notes to exchange positions as shown in the photo below.

11. Below is a similar activity done in Simple Quadruple time.

 These approaches are simply ways to encourage students to begin composing music.

CSR Music Outreach Program Part 5

For their recent first term school exams, revision classes were also in order for their music assignment test that is in line with their school exams.

The students are to create a four to eight bar rhythmic phrase using the basic few types of notes they have learned. The purpose is to lead them into composing music. I would not consider any of the young primary school students in my class as being too young to begin composing. In fact, the students actually welcome the opportunity to compose music, though some may find it quite challenging. But the enthusiasm to try their hand at composing is most encouraging.

Here is a simple 'recipe' to begin composing music.

1. Firstly, begin by creating a two bar rhythmic motive. This is the opening musical sentence.

2. Instruct the students to create some contrast between both bars. In this case, the first bar is INACTIVE while the second bar is ACTIVE. It simple means having less notes in the first bar and more notes in the second bar (as shown in the photo). Of course, the notes must all add up to the required beats in each bar according to the time signature.

3. Of course, it can be reversed too. The first bar can be active while the second bar can be less active.

4. The best way to know if the two bar rhythmic motive works, is to clap the rhythm. Lead the entire class to clap the two bar rhythm together. Ask their opinions on how they feel about the rhythmic motive. It is important to communicate with the students to know their thoughts.

5. When the first two bars are completed, proceed with another two bars. Use and follow the same concept of an INACTIVE bar followed by an ACTIVE bar of rhythmic pattern.

6. The student here decided to use quavers in the next two bars (as seen in the photo on the right). This is a good idea as it would create good contrast with the earlier two bars.

7. Joining them together, we now have a four bar rhythmic phrase. Clap the notes of these four bars to 'feel' if it is correct. Do the clapping activity of these four bars a few times and then ask the students for their opinion.

8. Questions that I would ask the students would be; What do you think about the rhythmic flow? Does it feel correct? Is there anything to change? Would you want to change anything?

9. Asking if anyone can improve on it would bring forth an avalanche of ideas from the eager students. Of course, this is encouraged but there must enough lesson time to explore all the students' musical ideas in this case. If not, do this activity at another time.

Here is a clip of the students doing the clapping activity of the four bar rhythm shown in the photo above.