Yesterday, I had the fun chance to be Ms. Wiederkehr’s Monday mystery reader! Reading the book inspired today’s post, you’ll see why when you check out the video here:
Now for the song…can you listen once, then make a list of the numbers and the rhyming words that go with them from memory? Then, try singing it!
Alright, now back to those jazz musicians I was talking about in the book! If you want to learn about the real people we read about, here are the musicians that go with each number, and some links to learn more:
Alright friends! Yesterday, I told you that we were going to learn about the Blues…first though, I think in light of the news that Bill Withers passed away this week, we should learn to sing Lean On Me. Take a few minutes to read about his incredible life, and listen to some of his other songs, too.
If you’ve got 2nd-5th graders, read on to get them working on their own blues song. Blues music came from black musicians out of Texas, Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta here in America. It had its roots in music slaves had sung, like spirituals and field hollers. When we learned about spirituals at school, we talked about how music can make us feel better when we are stuck in really terrible circumstances. The Blues talks about the hard times or bad feelings we have and gets them off our chests. Blues songs can also be about big feelings of love, but for today, let’s hear a song about a struggle you might be able to relate to:
So, to write our own blues song lyrics, we first need to brainstorm what gives us the blues. What are some things that grown ups just don’t understand about being a kid? What’s something your brother or sister does that annoys you? What’s something that generally makes your life feel hard?
Once you decide on a subject, start writing your lyrics down. The formula is to write one phrase, then repeat it again, and then finish off your thought.
So let’s say I’m writing “The Covid-19 Blues.” I might start out like this:
I’m feeling mighty lonesome, having to stay home all day
I’m feeling mighty lonesome, just having to stay at home all day
I know I gotta stay in, but I wanna see my friends and play.
Then keep writing more verses, so think about how you can say more things about your subject that make you feel sad, or grumpy, or frustrated.
Oh I’ve been washing my hands all morning, yes I been washing them all night
I have been washing my hands all morning, and I am washing my hands at night
My hands feel dry and itchy, but I know I’m doing what’s right.
Have you been washing your hands a whole lot, too? I hope so! It’s really important that we rub those germies off with soap and water. Let’s do one more verse…
I watched everything on Netflix, I have played all of my video games
Yes I’ve seen everything on Netflix, and I beat all of my video games
Lord I miss going off to school! This quarantine is kinda lame.
Once you’ve got some lyrics, it’s time to sing the blues. I sang mine along with this 12 bar blues backing track that gives you 4 clicks at the beginning and then you can start singing. There are lots of other blues backing tracks on Youtube that you could try, too.
Hey guys! Today, let’s learn a little more about jazz music by watching this BrainPop video about jazz. (If you don’t have a free BrainPop account, you should totally sign up. This site has EVERYTHING. There are videos for every subject, and other resources to go along with them). Big kids can take the quiz afterward to see what you learned! If you’re in 5th grade, definitely do the challenge afterward! The related reading button is also great to find out more fun information, or try out the games (if you play the meaning of beep, you might want to look at the vocabulary button first!).
We already know that composers are people who write songs, but now let’s see what being a jazz musician or arranger sounds like! Jazz musicians and arrangers get to take a song that someone else writes and use it to create something new. Do you remember what improvising means? Look it up if you forgot!
All of this might sound kind of confusing, so let’s break down how it works. Let’s start with an easy song we can sing, and then hear what a jazz arranger and jazz musicians do with that same song! Try singing along to this song-A Tisket, A Tasket:
So now, an arranger can take a song like this one and rearrange it for a different group of instruments, and add things to or subtract things from the original song. Then, the jazz musicians who play it have the foundation of the original song there while they try new and different things on top! Think of it like a cupcake! The song is the original vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting. The arranger rearranges our cupcake ingredients a bit to make a delicious chocolate cupcake instead, and the musicians frost it up with peanut butter frosting, or cream cheese frosting, or even just the good ole vanilla frosting with lots of extra sprinkles! Oh my goodness, I’m getting hungry! Let’s hear the jazzy version while we bake some cupcakes…
Listen to how the rhythm and the melody can change in this version sung by Ella Fitzgerald. What instruments do you hear now? Try singing along! Are the words all the same? 5th graders, can you hear the syncopation? Look in your notebooks to review what that means!
Now remember, cupcakes can have SO MANY different flavors, and our jazz arrangements and what jazz musicians do with them can, too! So here’s Natalie Cole singing the same song, inspired by Ella Fitzgerald’s version. What’s different this time? This one has even more improvising to listen for, can you hear it? Try singing along if you can!
So to sum up for today, I’ve got one more fun bluesy arrangement I think you’re going to enjoy! Remember from the video, jazz and blues music have a lot of things in common, including that blues scale you heard the jazzbot play. We’ll talk more about the blues tomorrow, but first…
Happy April and happy Jazz Appreciation Month! I’m pretty disappointed that I don’t get to see my students’ faces as you walk into my classroom listening to our new composer of the month. I kept this composer a complete surprise, she isn’t even in your Interactive Music Notebooks! Yes SHE! Today, take a few minutes to learn about and listen to Esperanza Spalding.
Here are the 4 facts we would be reading about her for each week of the month:
Esperanza Spalding is a bassist, singer, arranger, and composer from Portland, Oregon. She was born on October 18th, 1984.
She started playing music professionally when she was 5 years old. She played violin in the Chamber Music Society of Oregon. Later, she taught herself to play guitar and bass.
She has won 4 Grammys, a Boston Music Award, and a Soul Train Music Award.
She says that watching the famous cellist Yo Yo Ma on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood as a kid inspired her to be a musician, too.
You can watch Yo Yo Ma on Mr. Rogers right here! I had big plans for our month of learning about her and making connections in every lesson to African History inspired by this song and music video:
So each grade level has someone different to learn about from the Black Gold history book!
For VPI, Kindergarten, and 1st graders, learn about Miriam Makeba.Learn some facts about her here, listen to her song Pata Pata while showing the steady beat on different body parts, and then learn this Pata Pata dance! Last but not least, bring back our jazz vocabulary word IMPROVISE. When we improvise, we make music up on the spot. Can you improvise your own dance moves to Miriam Makeba’s music on the spot? Ask Alexa, turn on Miriam Makeba on Spotify, or try out this Youtube playlist that I’m jamming to today! Can you click along with Mama Africa to The Click Song? Don’t forget to find South Africa on a map! Did you know it has 3 capital cities? Learn to sing a song from South Africa:
2nd graders, learn about Nelson Mandela. Here is another Ducksters biography to read or listen to about him, and a nice simple video bio. You can make connections between South African Apartheid and the unfair Jim Crow Laws in America. Nelson Mandela has a lot of different names, can you find out why they call him Madiba? Of course, you gotta find that handy dandy South Africa map and talk about those 3 capitals again! Don’t forget to look up South Africa’s flag before you print this free coloring sheet. There were a lot of songs written about Nelson Mandela, but this one is probably the most famous/fun to dance to song. Here’s another freedom dance with moves you can learn to do together as a family (this is always a favorite thing to do with our last 5 minutes of class, everyone leaves with this song stuck in their heads!) You can check out the 2 songs above from South Africa, too!
For 3rd graders and 5th graders, research Sundiata Keita. Again, I like Ducksters to find information, because there is a play button at the bottom of the page to read the text out loud to you! 3rd graders, I know you learn about Ancient Mali in social studies this year, so read all about it!
5th graders, look at the song Balafon that we glued into our notebooks–remember playing this song on our xylophones at school? We watched this video of a real Balafon from West Africa first:
4th graders! Don’t worry I didn’t forget about you! Your job is to research Fela Kuti. I think you’re going to love listening to his music 4th grade friends, but don’t forget to read his biography first. I don’t even have to tell you what to do with this music, because it undoubtedly will kick off an Afrobeat dance party at your house! Try learning a song from Nigeria, too:
I wish we could play some Nigerian singing games together, check out all of these fun ones and pick one to learn more about and play with your family!
Hey guys! Today, I was inspired by one of my favorite books to read with the students. I hope today you will spend a little quality time learning about jazz and Charlie Parker, before watching the video of the book at the bottom of this post.
Jazz musicians all have fun nicknames, so look up Charlie Parker’s nickname, his instrument and the kind of jazz he played first. If you had a jazz nickname, what would yours be? For the little ones, try dancing and singing along to this fun little song about the saxophone. With your 2nd-5th grade students, check out this fantastic House of Sound video to learn about the science behind the Woodwind Family of instruments. As far as the kind of jazz, talk about how bebop is fast, usually played by a smaller group of instruments with musicians playing lots of improvised solos. Improvising is an important vocabulary word, so look it up and write down what it means in your notebook 3rd-5th graders!
Now search for Charlie Parker on your favorite streaming service or good ole Youtube and listen to some more music-can you sit at the beginning and stand up when you think you hear improvising? Try doing a fast crazy dance to match the improvising you hear! Make your dance up high if you hear high notes, down low if you hear low notes, and watch out for rests where you body might stop moving for a beat.
Now it’s time to try improvising with more than just our bodies. Don’t worry, you don’t need a saxophone and anyone can do it! In 2nd grade, we would be starting to learn about scat singing right about now. Scatting is how singers can use their voice to improvise, but we need words to sing right? Singers can make up silly syllables to try to sound like instruments. Expert scatters like Ella Fitzgerald sometimes even use real words like at the beginning of this incredible scat! For your littlest scatters, Hoots the Owl from Sesame Street can help, all you have to do is repeat what he does! For your older ones, just give it a go with this backing track and see what happens. Parents, give it a try too-have fun with it, and enjoy being creative! There’s no wrong answer here, just do whatever feels good and explore all of the cool things your voice can do.
Close out your lesson with this read aloud of one of my favorite books in our music library: