What is Let's Musicise?
Let's Musicise (LM for short) is a method for for teaching the whole class in a primary school play to read, perform, improvise and create music. It was inspired by years of frustration in trying and failing to teach a whole class to learn to read notes.
I have implemented it in our school for a few years and the music learning and enthusiasm have gone through the roof – almost EVERY single child from Y1 to Y6 reads and plays music in our school now. As they are allowed to come to the music room during breaks and lunch, I see them practise the lessons on a daily basis. Not only that - they open to the ideas and make distinctions between improvising, making variations and creating brand new tunes.
The complete program consists of 6 levels, marked with Roman numbers (I to VI) and corresponding to Year 1 to Year 6 UK, or Kindergarten to 5th Grade USA.
|III||Y3||7-8||KS2 (juniors)||2nd Grade||III|
The main idea is to introduce music reading with its bare bones:
two lengths (long and short)
no time signatures
no key signatures
no additional symbols
The G note is taken as a starting note as it can be played on all typical school instruments: ocarina, recorder, guitar and piano.
The crucial process in learning should happen with the first two notes
the G-note is on the line
the A-note is above the line; it's written and sounds higher than G
When the children absorb this key information, introducing more lines becomes a matter of time and patience☺
There are a few more things used here to make the music reading more approachable and children-friendly:
coloured notes (by pitch): this is an old method and provides additional aid in distinguishing the notes
names of notes displayed in staff: helpful, especially with the 'advanced' pupils who still struggle with some note positions/names
Every lesson (composition) consists of four parts:
the Main part (Voice 1), for the majority of the class; the references in this book are made for this part of the lesson, unless specifically mentioned otherwise
Voice 2 (V2) – a more difficult counterpart for the pupils that already play some instrument and are able to read the notes included (advanced)
Percussion - a two line percussion staff, for children that really struggle to read Voice 1 or have real afinity towards drumming
Chords for harmonisation (for teachers or pupils), given above the melody in V2
Children's creativity is encouraged by leaving a few blank lines after every composition (sheets with blank lines are provided separately as well). This place should be used at the discretion of the teacher in several ways:
To simply copy the learned composition, thus practicing and internalizing note reading
To write a variation or even improvisation of on the given theme, using the same notes as in the main melody
To create a new melody, using the notes and other symbols learned o far.
At the beginning, this should only fit the purpose of understating the mathematics of a bar and time-signature: the correct length of notes/rests. As the lessons progress, more stress should start to be given to the underlying harmony and getting nice or unexpected melody lines. At later stages, whole lines are left blank and could be given to pupils as homework or simply noted down after a class-jam.
Rests and tied notes are introduced very early as this helps cement the understanding and internalizing the feeling of pulse and beat.
Most tunes tend to have a contemporary feel, with elements of pop and rock: from all styles tested, these are the ones that work best for keeping the focus, in my experience.
Soundtracks and backing tracks are provided for every lesson.
In every lesson there's a new musical element to be learned, be it a note pitch, length or other symbol or theory concept. This is true for voice 1 and percussion. In voice 2 the learning is more accidental (LM version 15). In LM version 16 voice 2 gets a methodical approach as well.
Good use of this method will have teachers that know how to play a piano or guitar. V2 of every lesson has the chords displayed: use a rhythm that suits your knowledge and tempo that suits the ability of the class. If teachers don't play any instrument, using only the backing tracks will do the same job.
In my experience, 20-30 minutes could be spent productively before losing focus, after which a new activity is to be started.
To get the ball rolling even with the most 'frozen' class, here are some tricks:
First sing the notes: start with singing the note lengths, for ex: loong-loong-short-short-loong...
When two or more notes are present, sing the note pitches: G – A – G G – A etc.
Play the guitar or piano: this is very important, it's in the core of the method and it will make a world of difference. Playing one note isn't fun; combine it with an interesting chord-sequence and it becomes a song. Throughout the course of this method, basic chords are used: major, minor and seventh. This is to allow even a beginner to play. One can (and should if knowledgeable) always try to enrich the simple chord sequences. But even as they are, the provide a good basis for having a proper musical fun.
Play backwards: once the majority of players are confident with the lesson, try playing some lines backwards: it will add excitement and extra fun element, while maximizing the learning.
Change tempi: once they are confident, start playing the song faster and faster, to the limits. Then try and play the lesson at a slower pace. It's great joy, competition and learning: the playing and the note produced become clear and crisp, when getting back to a moderate speed.
Use VLC media player - it has the amazing feature to play faster and slower (usually using the shortcuts "[" and "]") and it's available for all computer platforms.
Divide them in groups: two or four groups, each playing line or two. For ex: boys play line I, girls play line II, boys line III, girls line IV. Sharpens the focus dramatically.
Record the performance (on a mobile phone or sound recorder) and play it back to them. It gets the children really serious about performing and it's great fun too.
All notation and word documents are created using Open Source Software
See: Let's Musicise - a deeper look for more details