Unit 2 – Lines and Spaces

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pixa linesUnit 2.1 – Unit 2 Songs – Black Crow & The Clown (p.4)

Purpose – Learning Unit 2 songs

  • The purpose of the song sheet at the start of each unit is to help the student to learn the songs aurally, independent of the technical and theoretical challenges of playing from music.
  • Continue the work from Unit 1.3, teaching the student to hear two different pitches
  • Introduce the term pitch. The pitch is how high or low a sound is.

Preparation activities

Revise the activities in Unit 1.3 – playing Stand Up Sit Down. Their ability to recognise pitch differences from Unit 1.3 will directly benefit this activity. If they have struggled with Unit 1.3 then spend longer on this and the supplementary activities. You should still continue with these new songs, but the student may need more guidance. Don’t tell the student the answers. If they’re not coming to the correct conclusions then spend more time playing and exploring and come back to the theory at a later lesson. The time investment now will be well worth it.

Activities

These songs should be taught away from the book and the bench. The page in the book is purely to help the student remember the songs at home. Explain to the student that before we play a piece on the piano it helps if we know what the song sounds like. If we sing a song first, it will be easier to play on the piano.

pixa crowTeach the Black Crow. Audio files are available online. The song is a two note song so-mi-so-mi (e.g. G-E-G-E) Can the student think of some actions for this song? Praise the student if their actions for the first line show the musical shape of the song. If not, guide them. Ask the student why they have chosen their actions. They may direct you to the lyrics. This is fine. Ask them if the actions still work without the lyrics. Some students may immediately recognise the sound of the song is going higher and lower.

When discussing how high or low the sound is, you can introduce the term pitch. Pitch is the musical word that describes how high or low the song is. Ask the student whether the song starts on a high pitch or a low pitch.

pixa clownNext sing The Clown. Will the actions for Black Crow also work for The Clown. If the student wants to bounce around the room for “bounce like a clown” then encourage and enjoy it.

Take the student back to their improvisation drawings. Ask them to create another improvised sound for each picture. Encourage them to describe the sound verbally, using terms like “the pitch is high”

Homework

  • Practise singing the songs with the actions
  • Ask them to teach them to someone at home
  • If they enjoy drawing they could draw a picture of their favourite song to stick in their book

Extension

Ask the student to count how many different pitches there are in each song. They may count the sounds rather than the independent pitches. Using arm movements may help, or a reference to the number of keys you would need on the piano. (see Unit 2.3)

Unit 2.2 – Unit 2 Songs – Cobbler Cobbler & See Saw (p.4)

Purpose – Pulse

  • Perform pulse actions to simple playground rhymes
  • Learn the songs that will be played in Unit 3

Activities

Cobbler Cobbler Explain that a cobbler makes and repairs shoes and they use hammers to hit the nails into the shoes. Pretend to pick up a shoe in one hand (flat hand) and hold a hammer in the other (fist). Then sing the song again while hammering in time with the pulse. Swap hands and repeat.

See Saw Hold your arms out to the sides like the arms of a see saw. Ask the student to choose who will sit on each end. They may choose their friends, or their favourite fictional characters. It’s helpful to have a few they might like in mind, then you can tell them who will be on your see saw. As you sing the song again you rock your arms up and down in time with the pulse. At the end of the song they must freeze. The actions only continue for the duration of the song. They enjoy the freeze element so they like to repeat the song.

At this point there is no need to mention the term pulse. We are just experiencing the concept physically by copying.

If the student struggles maintaining a steady pulse then you can both march around the room as you are singing.

Homework

  • Practise singing the songs with the actions
  • Ask them to teach them to someone at home
  • If they enjoy drawing they could draw a picture of their favourite song to stick in their book

Extension

What happens if the cobbler is feeling very tired? They will work more slowly. Sing Cobbler Cobbler slowly and ensure the pulse is also slower. Oh no! The cobbler forgot about a big order, they will be here any minute. They will have to work faster. Sing Cobbler Cobbler faster and ensure the pulse is also faster. Try not to sing the song too slow or too fast as the pulse will not remain steady. The student can have fun doing it super fast but after their fun, bring them back to a sensible pace. This will be expanded on in Unit 2.5

Unit 2.3 – Black Crow (p.5)

Purpose – Line Notes

  • Sounds are represented as blobs (note heads)
  • Pitch can be shown by placing the blobs on different lines

Preparation activities

Repeat the activities from Unit 2.1. Ask the student to count how many different pitches there are in the song. They may count the sounds rather than the independent pitches. Using arm movements may help, or a reference to the number of keys you would need on the piano. I use a blackbird soft toy to assist this lesson. I move the blackbird high and low with the song, the student then repeats. Then we talk about where high and low are on the keyboard and instead of moving up and down in the air, we move right and left on the keyboard. We then sing the song again while flying the bird right and left along the keyboard.

With the book

Show the student the page (p.5). Explain that each blob is one sound. Can they see how we have shown the high and low sounds on the page? We have used a high line and a low line. We can write high and low to the left of each line. If the student has prior knowledge of music notation we can explain that the score doesn’t look quite the same as normal. We have removed all the bits we don’t need and just left the most important parts.

Show them how to find the two black keys for the song. Look for a gap or valley. The two keys are on either side. Talk about which is the higher pitch and which is the lower pitch. Talk about which one we need to start the song. Using the middle finger on each hand, play the piece (remember the techniques from Unit 1.1).

If a student’s other fingers are sticking up then they are holding tension in their hands. They may also be isolating their fingers to play the keys instead of using whole arm movements. Discuss how their hand is when they are sleeping and totally relaxed. The other fingers are sleeping so they need to just hang next to the middle finger and not curl or stick up.

Homework

  • Practise playing the piece with relaxed fingers, thinking hard about which pitch key is first
  • Make marks or stick stickers on the picture of the keyboard to help them when they get home

Extension

The black crow flies up into the sky. Play the song and then jump both hands together up to another “valley” higher up the keyboard and play again. Repeat until you reach the top. When the hands jump together they should float from the wrists and land in a beautiful hand position. Some students may struggle to start on the correct key on each repeat. Don’t worry if they don’t leap an octave each time. It isn’t important at this stage, although it is interesting to note which students do.

Unit 2.4 – The Clown (p.6)

Purpose – Space Notes

  • Pitch can be shown by placing the blobs in different spaces

Preparation activities

Review the Black Crow and ensure the high and low pitches are performed correctly. Discuss how you know which sounds should be high and which low.

Sing The Clown from memory with actions.

With the book

Look at the Black Crow score (p.5) and remind them that we had two lines going through our blobs to show which sounds were high and which were low. These blobs are called line notes. Look at The Clown (p.6). In this song we are putting our blobs in spaces. These blobs are called space notes. Be careful with your terminology here. When we write “on a line” the words go above. When we talk about notes being “on the line” we mean the line goes through the note head. Once established, just use the phrases “line notes” and “space notes” to avoid confusion.

As with the Black Crow, make marks on the keyboard picture to help at home. Both songs are using the same keys.

Homework

  • Practise playing the piece with relaxed fingers, thinking hard about which pitch key is first.

Extension

The student can repeat this song bouncing down the keyboard.

Unit 2.5 – Heartbeats

Purpose – Pulse

  • Understand music has a heartbeat called the pulse
  • Perform pulse actions to simple songs

Preparation activities

Sing Cobbler Cobbler from Unit 2.2. The hammering action from this song demonstrates the pulse. It’s important that the student can feel and perform the pulse of a song before you explain the theory.

Activities

I have some great foam hearts that I use for this activity and activities throughout the book. If you don’t have hearts, then any foam ball will do. It needs to be soft and elastic.

Discuss what the student is doing with their imaginary hammer. They are banging it in time with the song. It is even and steady, not jazzy and random. What else can they think of that’s even and steady? Clocks have a steady tick tock. Can they move their arm back and forth like a ticking clock?

Do they have something inside their bodies that is even and steady? Their heart! Discuss what happens when they are running a race, or sleeping. Their heart beat can go faster or slower but it is still even and steady – hopefully! We all have a heartbeat. Music has a heartbeat too. They showed the heartbeat of the song with the hammer.

Pick up a sponge and show it beating by squeezing it. Sing Cobbler Cobbler while showing the heartbeat with the sponge. Can they take the sponge and sing it again? Hold the sponge by your heart and press it into your chest in time with the pulse while you sing. Can they do that?

When doctors want to check your heartbeat they measure your pulse – some children will know this so let them tell you if they do. Music has a heartbeat and we call the heartbeat the pulse too. Sometimes we call it the beat.

Homework

  • Practise singing the song and showing the pulse in different ways
  • Do the same with See Saw

Unit 2.6 – Reach for the Sky (p.7)

Purpose – Identify starting pitch

  • We need to identify the starting pitch of a song

Preparation activities

In the same way that you prepared Black Crow and The Clown, this song will need preparing away from the keyboard. Sing the song and show the shape of the melody with actions. Discuss how many pitches there are and which pitch comes first.

With the book

Does this piece use line notes or space notes? Which pitch is first?

Play the song and then jump both hands together up to another “valley” higher up the keyboard and play again. Repeat until you reach the top. When the hands jump together they should float from the wrists and land in a beautiful hand position. Some students may struggle to start on the correct key on each repeat. Don’t worry if they don’t leap an octave each time. It isn’t important at this stage, although it is interesting to note which students do.

If you haven’t already, try jumping up the keyboard for Black Crow and down the keyboard for The Clown. It will be a challenge for the students to remember which pitch starts each one and keep that consistent through the song.

Homework

  • Practise playing the song

Extension

Discuss what happens if you slide one hand up or down to a white key. What must happen to the other hand to keep the song sounding correct? Can they play it on white keys sometimes? How many different places can they find where the song works?

Unit 2.7 – Woof Woof (p.8)

pixa puppyPurpose – Identify starting pitch

  • We need to identify the starting pitch of a song
  • Two notes stacked vertically are played at the same time

Preparation activities

Sing the song but use a speaking voice for the woofs. We can’t sing a chord and both notes are equally important. Students who are having no difficulty with the concepts so far may only need to sing the song a couple of times. Very young students or those who are struggling may need more detailed preparation. For those students, apply the activities from the previous pieces to this piece. A puppet dog would be an excellent prop for this. Ask the students to name the dog.

With the book

Does this piece use line notes or space notes? Which pitch is first? Can they play it?

On the final line they may play it correctly, stop completely or play something incorrect. If they are correct make a lot of fuss and discuss what they did and why is was correct. If not, you will need to talk them through the concept of simultaneous notes. Take a flat object like a rubber or your fingertips and move it along the stave. Explain that the object is like a vacuum or lawnmower. When it runs over a blob, a sound occurs. Sing the song as your object passes each blob and then stop at the final line. Can the student now see that the two blobs occur at the same time? If they can’t see it themselves then you can just inform them.

Homework

  • Practise playing the song
  • They may like to illustrate the book with their own drawing of their pup

Extension

Remind them that all music has a pulse. Do they play this song with a steady pulse?

Unit 2.8 – Balance Balance (p.9)

Purpose – Good hand shape

  • Reminder to use fingertips
  • Introducing repeated notes

Preparation activities

Play around on the black keys with good fingertips and relaxed hands. Bounce on repeated notes. Talk about how tricky it is to stay on those keys and not fall off. Try different fingers. Talk about tightrope walkers balancing on the high wire. They don’t want to fall off! Casually sing the song while you play.

With the book

Does this piece use line notes or space notes? Which pitch is first? Can they play it? Concentrating on good hand position and firm fingertips is the aim of this piece.

At the end of the piece, if they’ve stayed on the black keys then they’re a winner. Would they like to be a winner or a loser? Demonstrate the piece but on the last note, fall off dramatically. You could even jump to another white key entirely and make it sound really wrong. See if they want to try losing. Sometimes it’s fun to get it wrong and we want to teach the student that getting it wrong is not the end of the world. Always finish as a winner though.

Homework

  • Practise the song, getting it right and getting it wrong. Always with perfect fingertips though.

Extension

Can they play the piece using a different finger?

Unit 2.9 – The Cowhand

Purpose – Improvisation

  • Encouraging creativity
  • Exploring the possibilities of the instrument

Activities

Ask the student if they know what a cowhand (cowboy) is. They will probably talk of whips, lassos and horses. Explain that it’s their job to look after the cattle on large North American ranches while on horseback. Start playing a relaxed swung cowboy-style 12-bar blues in F# (pattern do so la so). Ask the student to imagine the cowhand riding their horse across the fields. But wait! There are no cows! The cowhand calls the cows by singing a song but they’ve forgotten the song. Ask the student to play a song for the cowhand on the black keys. They may launch straight into an elaborate melody, but more likely they will start tentatively. Encourage them to increase the number of keys, higher and lower. As they become more confident they can try and use both hands at once, or create interesting rhythms. Remind them that this is improvising. There is no wrong way to do it. They have complete freedom. If they are afraid to try at all, ask them to choose one black key and just play it repeatedly, with or without interesting rhythms. They will slowly venture onto other keys.

Homework

Practise improvising melodies. Each time they do it, it will be different. If they stumble across a nice melody and want to remember it for the lesson then it becomes a composition.

Extension

This activity should be repeated in lessons at regular intervals throughout the book

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