Supplementing lessons with fun games and activities will maximize learning and optimize student interest. The songs in the Be A Recorder Star Method Book present many such opportunities. Here is one example: Fun with Improvisation based on “Songbird” (Page 25, Line 2). Try this with your students!
“Songbird” is a very beautiful eight measure tune written in E Minor Pentatonic mode. The melody reinforces the techniques introduced up to Page 25 emphasizing articulation and use of the right hand with Low ‘E’ and ‘D.’ Once students master the techniques, they are ready to include use of Orff instruments with the melody. (Most songs in the Be A Recorder Star Method Book have an accompanying Orff Orchestration.)
Here is an Orff Orchestration for “Songbird.” You may click on the music to download a pdf for easy printing.
TEACHING THE ORCHESTRATION: Each line of the Orff Orchestration is composed in such a way that a child can learn any part in a minute or less. For convenience in teaching the parts, the orchestration has been marked with two sections, A and B:
A Section: The first four measures of the A section consist of a one measure ostinato repeated four times. Each barred instrument part has only two notes with an easy mallet pattern, and each part can be taught easily to the entire class simultaneously with body percussion on the knees. Once body percussion movements have been mastered, movement of body percussion can be transferred to instruments with mallets. You may wish to remove the bars not needed to play the arrangement to eliminate the possibility of wrong notes.
B Section: Likewise, the next four measures of the B section consist of a contrasting one measure ostinato part repeated four times. Each barred instrument has only two notes with an easy mallet pattern, and can be taught using the same process described in the A section.
Simplification of A and B Sections: If mallet players have difficulty with playing the A section followed by the B section, one group can be assigned to only play A, while a second group only plays B as both groups alternate.
FUN WITH IMPROVISATION: Having learned both the recorder part and the Orff Orchestration, it is time for pentatonic fun. Review the notes in the E Minor Pentatonic scale on recorder. (The notes are the same as G Major Pentatonic, except that ‘E’ should be both the prominent note as well as the final note.) Here are the notes to review:
E Minor Pentatonic
Divide the children into three groups (recorders, barred instruments, and rhythm instruments), and play the form as written. Then expand the original eight measure form (A-B) to allow for improvisation. Here is an example of expanding the form to allow for improvisation:
Begin playing only the first measure with soprano glockenspiels and continue to repeat.
Add alto metallophones with only the first measure and continue to repeat.
Add bass metallophones with only the first measure and continue to repeat.
Add all rhythm instruments with only the first measure and continue to repeat.
On cue, play full form twice as written with all instruments and recorders (A-B).
All barred and rhythm instruments continue to repeat full form, (A-B).
All recorders play the A Section only.
Individual recorder players may take turns improvising solos on the B Section using only the notes of the E Minor Pentatonic Scale.
Play full form twice as written with all recorders.
Ritard on final measure and hold to the count of three.
As long as each soloist improvises using only the notes on the E Minor Pentatonic Scale with mixed values of half notes, quarter notes and eighth notes, and concludes on ‘E,’ the experience will be very successful and positive for each child. Rotate groups so that each child may experience the joy of improvisation.
INTEGRATIVE POSSIBILTIES: Beyond the musical elements of the lesson, many other disciplines may be included. Here are some examples:
1. Physical Education – Divide children into cooperative teams to compose dance movements to the form. Each team may take turns performing their dance.
2. Language Arts – Children may compose lyrics (in English or maybe even Japanese) to fit the melody.
3. Visual Arts – Children may paint pictures depicting life in Japan, written Japanese characters or calligraphy.
4. Social Studies – Present the final product as a musical prelude or interlude for an assembly program on the history or culture of Japan.
An easy to play simple eight measure song may expand into one or possibly even more entire lessons with multiple outcomes, both musical and cross-disciplinary. This orchestration is a useful example that may be used to spark further creative possibilities for Be A Recorder Star.
Ran Whitley, DM, PhD
Professor of Music