Director's Blog

Say Hey! and Minor Swing, De Colores and more.
By Karen Abraham on February 10, 2012

Hi families 

This week we danced to Say Hey by Michael Franti and Spearhead (the "bonus track version" from All Rebel Rockers). Our Playalong music was Minor Swing: To Django by Children of the Revolution, from a Putomayo 2005 Sampler disc, a tribute to Django Reinhardt.(More about Django below)

When we sang De Colores, I mentioned that this is a song in which the melody does NOT end on the resting tone (tonic) of the piece. Actually, in this song as traditionally sung (and what you hear on the recording), there are two parallel melodic lines. The upper one, that we sing as the melody, may be considered by some to be the harmony while the lower line is considered the actual melody. The lower one does in fact end on the resting tone. Sometime, when we do this in class, we will sing with the lower line, so you can hear how that works.

Keep your Musical Growth Chart handy and refer to it from time to time. Some of the behaviors you see in your children, you may not even think of as being musical responses or behaviors, but in fact they are. Even the adamant dislike or refusal to listen to a particular song or type of music is a musical behavior - it shows discrimination skills and a personal emotionalresponse to particular musical attributes.

And as always, I want to remind you that your ACTIVE musical participation with your child is extremely important! Make sure you don't just listen to the music in the car or at bedtime. Of course, music is soothing and focusing - handy when on a car trip or at settle-down time. But to get the most out of the program and to promote the most musical growth in your child, be sure to give your child the chance to move freely with the music (impossible in a car seat!) and be playful and creative with it - AND MODEL THIS YOURSELF TOO! Your musical interaction with your kids is the surest way to create in them a love of music and the inclination to become music makers themselves. This is true even if you are not "musical" yourself. You don't have to model perfect musicianship, just your own brand of it. Take a chance, and experiment with your voice, be silly, wiggle, jump, etc.

(Sorry for all the emphases above, but I have recently become concerned that some of you are merely putting the CD on for the children and not really making live music with your children.)

 

Django Reinhardt (1910 - 1953) was a pioneer of 'hot" jazz guitar, and this style became known as :"gypsy Jazz". At the age of 13, he was already making a living playing music. At age 18, he was in a fire in which his "right leg was paralysed and the third and fourth fingers of his left hand were badly burned. Doctors believed that he would never play guitar again and intended to amputate one of his legs.Reinhardt refused to have the surgery and left the hospital after a short time; he was able to walk within a year with the aid of a cane.... With rehabilitation and practice he relearned his craft in a completely new way, even as his third and fourth fingers remained partially paralysed. He played all of his guitar solos with only two fingers, and used the two injured digits only for chord work." (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Django_Reinhardt)


Bells Week 4
By Karen Abraham on January 26, 2012

HI! Our free dance this week was "Do You Love Me" by The Contours, a 1962 hit single.

Our play along was "Aha Me Riddle I Day" by Laura Love. I found it on a Putomayo compilation CD that we've had for a while, but apparently there is a Putomayo CD called "The World of Laura Love" that contains this song. It's also available on iTunes (which to me sounds like a slightly different take). I love the lyric parallel with Lukey's Boat, and I love the rhythm and the sound of the song. I hope you liked it too.

 

Rhythm and Rhymes - have fun making verses to this. Take your child's ideas, interests, behaviors, preferences, (or YOUR OWN!) and set them to the rhythm. Last word can repeat, like in most of the recording, or not, like in the tippy toes verse of the recording. Remember, the rhythm is more important than the rhyme! Bring us your ideas next week.

Week Three of Bells
By Karen Abraham on January 20, 2012

I can't believe we're already through week three of this semester! We have already done all but two of the songs from this collection in class at least once, and the last two will be in next week's lesson plan.

I've been busy learning the songs, so I can stay ahead of you guys! It often takes me a bit to get used to the songs. Some of them I don't even like right away! But the more we do with them, and the more I hear how your child responds to them, the more I like them. I admit, when I first heard "Me, You, & We" I thought it was pretty boring. But when I see and hear how the children really latch onto it, and begin doing the motions and singing along so quickly, I change my mind. We adults must remember that for a child, Repetition is good, repetition is good, Repetition is good!

I have been noticing that some of the children who mostly did not vocalize in past semesters are now singing along, with at least some of the words. They have had a chance to listen a lot of music without pressure to produce it. They have seen their grown-ups having a grand time being musical and being silly. They have seen the steady beat put into visible motion. They have heard a lot of tonal patterns and rhythm patterns. They have really ABSORBED all this, and now are ready to begin responding by producing their own sounds and moves with the music. We still don't expect a 2-3-4 year old to be able to sing in tune and move accurately, but they are experimenting, just like they are experimenting with talking - approximating sounds, using one, two, to few words phrases before they speak in sentences (most kids, anyway).

Also remember, each child learns differently. Some jump right in experimenting even in their first semester. Some hold back, watch and listen in class, then go home and sing up a storm. Some children want to stay right close to Mom or Dad, some venture out into the crowd. (Often, even those who have always been outgoing as little ones, get to a "shy stage", because they have begun to differentiate between well-known people and strangers - a good thing!). Some children will develop rhythmically more quickly than tonally, some will do the opposite. Some need to be on the move to process what they are hearing, some need to sit still. Some at times become overwhelmed by the stimulation and need to take a virtual break, by leaving the circle, looking out the window, lying down, clinging to Mom, etc.

So basically, my point is this: Relax about what your child is doing or not doing. Concentrate on being a model of music-making, showing your enjoyment and interest. Also model paying attention to the task (we definitely want our kids to be able to to this, right?) by staying in the music, even when you don't really know the song or your child wanders.

At home, use your songbook at home like a storybook, sing about the pictures, make up a story about the picture, show how you follow along with the words and music while you sing. They will begin to recognize which song is which by the pictures, and they will get to know that music is something you can read too, like words. And use the music in your daily life - it can work wonders for transitions and boring chores. Often works for grown-ups too!

See you next week!

Karen

Welcome to Bells!
By Karen Abraham on January 13, 2012

I want to welcome you all to the Winter 2012 semester at Meadowlark Music Together and to the Bells collection! I'm so glad to have you and your children with us. It looks like it will be an exciting semester. I love the energy we have in our classes!

In Music Together®, we want to create a musical environment and model music-making for our children. Parent/caregiver participation is vital, even if you are "not really a singer". Your voice is SO important to your child, they will focus on it, largely to the exclusion of other voices, even when you think they are not listening. For this reason, please SING, MOVE, PLAY, and show your enthusiasm!

This is also one reason it is so important for you to stay in the music during class, even in between songs. It's important that you try to resist the temptation to talk to other adults or instruct your child verbally. You want your children to learn to pay attention to task, so you need to model paying attention as well as making music. If you talk during or immediately after a song, their attention to the music is distracted and their audiation of the music is disturbed. (Not to mention, it is very hard on my voice when I have to talk or sing over 5 or 6 adults/kids talking!)

Audiation is the mental image of music that goes on during and after hearing or making music - when one is "thinking" music. Audiation is an important part of musical development. You must be able to hear a song in your head to be able to sing it independently and in tune, which is one component of Musical Competence (our ultimate goal in the Music Together program).

The other component of Musical Competence is the ability to move with rhythmic accuracy. This means walking, swaying, tapping the floor, etc. matching the steady beat of the music. This is why I ask you to "move your feet with the beat", "show the beat in your body", and why we generally move and play instruments with the steady beat in songs instead of playing or moving to a rhythm pattern. You'll hear from me about the "macrobeat" and the "microbeat" and even "diminutions" and "elongations" - all of these are steady beats, just of differing durations. (See blog entry, "Beats - macro and micro, etc" (4/7/11) for an explanation of these terms/concepts). Once or twice in each class, I ask you to echo rhythm patterns (like "doo, doo, digga digga doo"); these are the more complicated patterns based on the underlying beat of the song, often the rhythm of the lyrics or a melodic line. Well worth the exposure, but the basic beat comes first in musical development.

Our play along music this week was "Aves" by Guillermo Anderson, from the disc, Putumayo Kids Presents - Animal Playground. Putomayo albums are a good bet for fun, danceable, and play-along-able music. Most of them are pretty upbeat. They are under the "world music" and/or "children's music" category in the library or music stores.

Look at your songbooks with your children! Listen to your CD's with your children! Make up silly verses with your children! Move (with the beat!) with your children! Have fun!

See you next week!

Karen

Final Blog for this semester
By Karen Abraham on November 16, 2011

What a great time I had with you all! Your kids are lovely and cute and full of personality. It's a joy to have them in class.

We've come a long way in 10 weeks - think of all the songs you and your child have learned, think of the things your child does now, that he/she didn't used to be able to do! They all are on their way towards "Basic Music Competencey", the ability to sing in tune and move with accurate rhythm. Of course it doesn't happen all at once, it's an ongoing process, like learning to speak.  So I hope you all come back for more!!

Look at your musical growth chart from time to time. Keep it where you can refer to it at the beginning of next semester and towards the end, and see if you spot any behaviors you see in your child. Keep the music going at home between semesters - it's especially easy now with all the holiday music around!

All new songs in the next collection, Bells. Most are new to me, too, so we'll be doing a little co-learning on some, I'm sure.

I'd love to have you in class again!

 

First week of November, 2011
By Karen Abraham on November 02, 2011

HI everyone! Last week we talked about making any song a lullaby, by singing it soft and low and slow. This week I taught a lullaby that my son made up when he was not quite 4 for my daughter who was not quite 2. (They are now 26 and 24!) He did these words, and the basic melody, and all I had to do was clean up the tonality a little so it was consistent. What a prodigy, huh? Well, now he doesn't sing anymore, where anyone can hear him anyway. But he still loves music, likes to listen, play guitar, do DJ-ing... just for fun, not professionally.

Here are the words, with the scale-step numbers written above (8 is an octave above 1, the high resting tone).  It's in 3, so for the first line, sing:   long-short-long--, long-short-long--, long-short-long--, long-short-long--, second and third lines:  long-- long-- long-- long-- long-- long-- long------,  long-- long-- long-- long-- long-- long-- long------.     If the numbers and all these longs and shorts don't help, just ignore them and try to remember the melody. Next week we'll sing it again, and I will bring the song notation on paper for those who want it.

ROCK THE MOON, by Brady Hall

   8      8     7        6      6   5       4     5     3     3    1     2 

Rock the moon, rock the sun, rock the stars in your arms

    3     2     3    2      3      1       2    

Goodnight starlight, goodnight moon,

   3     2       3     2       3      2     1

Goodnight starlight, goodnight sun. 


You can easily make up your own original lullaby. What do you say to your child at bedtime? What does he or she say to you? Use a phrase or two, and sing it - use any rhythm and notes that seem to fit - and then sing it over and over and eventually put an ending on it. What could be simpler?

Happy singing and sweet dreams!

Karen

Week of October 25
By Karen Abraham on October 31, 2011

Ghostbusters, by Ray Parker Junior!

I hope you have a fun and safe Halloween.

A note on Lullabies:

This week we did Open and Shut Them with a lullaby verse. The recorded version of this some is rather lively and spritely, but when you "song it soft and low" (and slow), it becomes a sweet sounding lullaby. You can do this with any song - imagine She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain as a lullaby. There's already traditional verses about "wearing her flannel nightie" and "She'll have to sleep with grandma" - slow it down and sing about your child's pajamas and teddy bears and sweet dreams... "Oh, she'll wear her pink pajamas when she comes" "Oh, he'll cuddle up with teddy...", "Oh, she'll dream about her kitty...", "Oh, he'll sleep in his big-boy bed..." You get the idea. You can even just sing vocables (la la, doo doo, ba ba, etc, like we do in class). It works with any song - just sing it soft and low and slow.

Surprises and silliness is great, too, but for bedtime gradually calm it down, slow it down, even out your voice, breathe with your child and gradually slow down.

Another goodnight idea: (This is what I used to do with my daughter, who always wanted one more goodnight kiss) Kiss your child's palm, fold his/her fingers over it, and say, "hold onto this, and you can use it when you need it". Well, it worked for us!

Sweet dreams!

Karen

Week of October 18, 2011
By Karen Abraham on October 23, 2011

Did you like our play-along music? It was The Funeral March of the Marionettes, written in 1873 by Charles Gounod, a French composer. It was originally written as a solo piano piece. In 1955, an orchestral arrangement of it was used at the theme song for The Alfred Hitchcock Show, which is probably why it is familiar to many of us. To me, it is especially creepy because I also remember it being the music on a cartoon that scared me to death when I was a very small child (hopping ravens, or something). I was pleased with how it worked as a play-along, with its steady march beat and variations in loudness. Thanks for being great models for your children by responding to the changes!

Of course, Monster Mash (from Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers, 1962) is a Halloween classic. Can't go through October without it!

Karen

Week of October 11, 2011 - Dance/Play-Along/Music Theory Lite
By Karen Abraham on October 11, 2011

This week we danced to the Cupid Shuffle. The artist is a DJ known as Cupid, whose real name is Bryson Bernard, from Lafayette, Louisiana. My husband and I heard an interview with him on the radio a little while ago. This song is from 2007! How have I not been aware of it all this time?! He wrote the song because "sometimes people don't want to dance with a partner ... they want to dance alone and still look good", and you know what? You guys DID look good, all coordinated movements, and great hip motion! And it's so simple, even a child can do it! Check out the videos: Cupid's Instructional Video  or  Cupid on stage

Our Play-Along was The Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley, which hit #1 on the charts in 1958. For some reason, I always think of this as a Halloween song, but it's pretty great any time.

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I'm going to cheat here, and include here part of a previous blog entry for the Music Theory Lite because there are a lot of new families, and some of you may have missed it in the first place :)

A Note on Cadences

In all our classes you have heard me sing "Bum-bum - into the box", high to low, when putting away instruments or other items. Those notes, usually sung in the key of the song we just finished, are the fifth and first scale tones of the key, also known as the dominant and the tonic (or resting tone), or 5-1, or sol-do (thinking the do-re-mi scale). In our most commonly heard music , both popular and classical, the dominant to tonic change is recognized by our ears as a cadence, an ending. Think of the bass lines in your favorite do-wop songs, hymns, folk songs, rock songs - they almost always end with a 5-1. This can be an ascending or a descending interval; our ears hear it the same. 

This is an extremely recognizable interval. (in music, an interval is the distance from one pitch to another). We use it consistently in class to signal the ending of a song, the ending of instrument use, the ending of an activity. I'm sure you have seen our toddlers "get" it after a few weeks! I suspect, that if you were to sing it at home when it's cleanup time, or when a meal is done ("all done" on 5-1), your children will know exactly what to do. (Whether they act on what they know they should do is another question! Toddlers are famous for expressing their increasing independence by saying "NO"). Try using this interval as an aid for transitions from one activity to another at home. And you can reverse it for a little heightened expectation for the next thing! Sing on 5-1 for the end of something, for instance dinner, then sing on 1-5 ("and now....") holding out the 5 ("now...) a little extra time before announcing the next activity ("...clean up!"), which could also be on 5-1, or any melody you want to make up.

 

See you in class!

Karen

Tonal Development, and Play-Along Week of Oct 4, 2011
By Karen Abraham on October 09, 2011

Our play-along piece this week was Kaukapol, by a German group called 17 Hippies, brought to us courtesy of one of our Music Together families (Thanks, Greg and Anke!). It was pretty fast, a little quirky, different, and fun, I thought. I hope you thought so too!

Did you notice that a lot of our little ones vocalized immediately after our songs this week? This is a good illustration of one of the stages in tonal development - Children may not yet be able to produce vocally while also taking in the music, but they are able to keep the tonality in mind and perhaps test their vocalization of it when there is a quiet period. It's a good reason not to immediately begin speaking at the end of a song, but to let a small silence ensue. This allows the tonality, the sound of the song, to gestate a little in the children's, and in our, minds, which is important to ultimately being able to sing in tune. It's also the reason tonal patterns are on the CD's and we do them in class.

Karen