Let's Musicise - a deeper look
Let's Musicise is a method for teaching music in primary schools. It consists several levels I-VI (corresponding roughly to 6 school years in a primary school); each level contains series of short tunes in several parts divided by ability. There is some learning and progression in every lesson/tune.
The reason levels with roman numbers are used is that this allows lessons from level 6 to be played by childre of level 5 or 4; or to be used in school bands and orchestras.
The method is still in the process of developing and comes in diffeent 'versions'. Version 15 consists only of level VI, while version 16 would have levels I to VI. For detailed explanation of levels please see the Let's Musicise main page.
I am using it with many instruments: keyboard/piano, recorder, ocarina, guitar, ukulele, chime-bars, melodica and harmonica; but children who learn other instruments are also encouraged to bring them along.
It appeals to the children and motivates them for learning to read music. It does so in several ways.
This is one of the key elements of the program. In today's international (and most other) school classrooms it's typical to have a student with advanced music capabilities, playing many instruments and reading easily; sitting next to a kid that never played an instrument in his/her life before. Also, the turnaround of students is pretty high in today's urban centres, with a class sometimes starting with one third of students from previous year, and two thirds new arrivals.
Let's Musicise addresses this problem with the concept of starting every year from no-knowledge level (in Voice 1).
Reading and performing, variations, improvisations and creation
The lessons are simple instrumental compositions that the children are learning to read and perform firstly on their own, and later with the whole class.
Every lesson consists of several bars of music, followed by several blank bars, corresponding with the number of bars in the composition. Depending on the ability of the student, these can be used to simply copy the music, write a variation or improvisation, or write another tune employing the learning from the particular lesson.
Parts, or Voices
For every Lesson (music tune), there are four voices (music parts) available.
Percussion: The most simple voice, consisting of two lines (percussion stave), playing Low and High notes with various lengths. For total beginners or children with special needs. The learning is gradual, from simple to more advanced rhythms.
Voice 1: This is the heart of the program, and the other three Voices evolve around it. It's aimed to the majority of students. The learning here is gradual, from one or two notes and rhythmic values, to more complex parts.
Voice 2: Aimed at the advanced students who take music lessons and can read notes comfortably. A normal full sta with coloured notes and note-names engraved in the note-heads. The actual music is a counterpoint of the melody in Voice 1. For version 15, the learning in voice 2 is more accidental than gradual. In version 16 the learning becomes gradual as well.
Chords: chords are written above the voice 2 stave and serve as its extension, for guitar, ukulele and piano/keyboard players. No rhythms are written, children are encouraged to create own rhythmic patterns or arpegios. If stuck, the rhythms for the percussion part could be used.
In the first pitched lesson of most classes, the stave consists of one line, with one note (or two notes in the higher classes).
No time- and key-signatures and bar-lines.
Only long and short (half and quarter) notes.
The notes are colored by pitch and note names are inserted in the note heads.
In version 15, only the main song and its backing track are given. In version 16, additional audio tracks are provided: isolated Voice 1, 2 or percussion etc.
Grasp those rhythms
In the first lesson of every class, every child is encouraged to play percussive instruments. This is make sure that the essential knowledge of length of notes is firmly established. The younger the children are, more of those rhythmic only lessons are provided, with level I almost half of the learning is about rhythms.
One Line Approach
In the first pitched lesson of every class, the stave is stripped out of four out of the five lines and reduced to one line, the G-line, with the G-note as a starting note (or two notes in the higher classes). The G-note is chosen because it is the line that the G-clef resides. Also because it's an easy starting note for the commonly used instruments
in a music classroom: keyboards, guitar, chime-bars, ocarinas, recorders etc. But can also easily be performed on most other instruments.
So, there's only one line, no time- and key-signatures and bar-lines. All these elements are introduced gradually, one at the time. as new notes are learned, more lines are added.
The first note values are quarter (crotchet) and eighth (quaver) notes. Other values are introduced along.
Although all levels start at the same starting point, the higher levels (Iv, V, VI) progress much faster through the material than the lower (I, II, III).
If students feel comfortable, they can start with Voice 2, or guitar/piano players can try chords playing. But most students find this repetition quite reassuring and they prefer to stay in Voice 1.
Coloured notes by pitch
This proved a successful strategy, as experience showed that for many students it didn't make much sense whether the note is on a line or between lines.
In addition to that, note names are engraved in the note heads.
The music played is also a key element of the program. The experience showed that children react positively to Rock music style and their enthusiasm for learning grows if the song possesses rock music elements. Thus, the majority of the Lessons (compositions) are in a Rock/Pop fashion. The other style that is widely accepted is a sort of Jazzy New Age (in lack of better terms). With a bit of mystical and a lot of atmosphere, this music style opens up children's hearts for learning. Finally, wherever possible, famous songs are taught.
As this manual is used for international schools, the international standard of note lengths is applied, with quarters, halves etc. wherever possible, the British names are given as well (crotchet, quaver etc)5