Some out-takes from our lessons..
Life is full of surprises
In our lesson today, we ran through the musical elements. Tempo, Dynamics, Pitch, Timbre, Texture… ‘and what’s the one we’ve missed?’ asked the harmonica teacher. ‘The element of surprise!’, quipped Oscar.
While considering dynamics today, we agreed that our new song should start really quietly to create interest, then crescendo towards the end for impact. So what is the Italian term for playing ‘loudly’? asked the teacher. Forte came the reply. Correct! And we write this as the letter f. What if we wanted to play ‘very loudly’? We’d call this fortissimo, which is written as ff.
Now let’s go the other way. What’s the Italian term for playing ‘quietly’ or ‘softly’? asked the teacher. Piano came the reply. That’s correct! And we write this as p. So how would we write ‘very softly’? Correct! That would be pp. Great, and what do we call this in Italian? Derek’s hand shot up, “Ooh I know, I know, it’s Pea-in-a-Cinema!” That’s very close Derek, but we’ll call it pianissimo. You can find out more about dynamics in our Musical Elements menu.
One wheel on my wagon
‘What’s the musical term for layers of music‘ the teacher asked. No answer came. The teacher pretended to thumb a message on a mobile phone and said, ‘my mum asked me what time I’d be home this afternoon, so I said I’d…. He waited for someone to say Text Ya! ‘Play video games‘, Joseph replied excitedly.
Moving on, the group explored texture in the form of melody and harmony. Then two children played the same note, but an octave apart. There was certainly a thicker texture, but there was no melody. ‘So what do we call two notes that sound like one? the teacher asked. As usual no answer came. ‘It starts with uni..‘ he prompted. Joseph piped up again, ‘unicycle!’
Blowing Up Your Harmonica
During our lesson today, we were looking at arrow tab with some KS1 children. The teacher asked what a white, down-arrow meant. Ryan answered, ‘it means it’s a draw note, so you have to breathe in.’ Right answer! The teacher then asked what a black up-arrow meant. ‘I know’, answered Jessica, ‘it means you have to blow up.’
Harmonica Al Dente
During our lesson today, we were talking about pitch and considering ways of moving from high to low, or low to high notes on the harmonica. In one breath, Lola played from 4B to 1B, showing great use of sliding technique. The teacher asked everyone what we call this movement. ‘I think it’s a Lasagne‘, replied Lola. ‘That’s a different kind of Italian take-away, Lola’, the teacher chuckled. ‘We call this one a glissando!’.
In our lesson today, we were talking about solos; when a musician plays a passage or whole piece of music alone. Building the group’s musical vocabulary, the teacher asked what we would call a group of two musicians. ‘Judo’, said Hugh, our martial arts expert. ‘I think you mean a Duo’, the teacher replied. The teacher then asked what we would call a group of three musicians. ‘It’s a trio’, answered Lily. ‘That’s correct Lily, well done,’ replied the teacher. Finally the teacher asked what we would call a group of four musicians. ‘Ooh, ooh, I know,’ said Olivia, jumping up and down, ‘it’s a boy band.’
Which is Witch?
During our lesson today, we were learning all about slide notes. ‘So what’s the special Italian word we’ve learned, that means to slide across two or more holes in one direction?’ asked the teacher. The children looked puzzled, so our teacher demonstrated the key skill. Still no answer. ‘It begins with G’, said the teacher, prompting her class. ‘Come on, we learned it last lesson, G-G-G..’ Nobody answered. ‘I know’, said Lucas, raising his hand. ‘It’s Grizelda!’ It was nearly Halloween, so Lucas might have had other spooky things on his mind. ‘Thank you Lucas’, said our teacher, ‘I think you mean Glissando!‘
In a fix
During our lesson today we were talking about how important good breathing skills are for playing the harmonica. ‘So what supports our breathing at all times?’, asked the teacher. ‘Ooh! ooh! I know!, I know!’, Katie urged, with her hand up. ‘Yes Katie?’, motioned the teacher. ‘It’s your dilemma’, Katie exclaimed knowledgeably. ‘I like your thinking Katie,’ replied the teacher, ‘but that’ll be your diaphragm!’.
During our lesson today, we checked our knowledge of standard note names. ‘A crotchet is one beat, it looks like a tadpole with a long tail and we can say boom when we see it on our chart,’ explained the teacher. The group practised their crotchets. ‘Then we have a minim, which looks like a d. We can say di-ah and make an action like digging with a big garden spade.’ The group practised their minims. ‘Then we have quavers, which are like crotchets with a hook at the end of their tails. If there are two or more crotchets in a row, their tails connect. We can call two crotchets a Bubba!’. The group practise their quavers. ‘OK Thomas,’ said the teacher, ‘can you tell me what this phrase of notes says?’. Thomas hadn’t really been concentrating. ‘Er, er, boom, boom, baboon, boom,’ he blurted.
Putting your foot in it
We were learning our first piece with a new group at school today, when Hugh asked if he could play it by himself. The teacher encouraged him to stand in front of the group and show everyone what he’d been practising. Hugh not only played it faultlessly, he even ended with a flourish of ascending blow notes. The teacher asked what we call a flourish like this. Blank faces. ‘OK’, said the teacher, ‘I’ll give you a clue. It begins with G.’ Blank faces. ‘Gliss..?’ he prompted. Blank faces. ‘Glissand..?’ he prompted again. ‘Ooh I know’, said Theo, ‘Glissandals’. Trust Luca to put his foot in it. ‘That’s very close Theo, but there’s no footwear involved. It’s Glissando!’ You can find our more about playing glissandos here. If you don’t have your subscriber log in, check our Music Diary or email a request with your harmonaut’s name.
A cup half full
Today we were working on a new way to play the C major scale, by pairing notes. We call this playing in couplets. It makes a simple exercise more exciting and promotes good breathing and navigation skills. We can add other effects to make the process even more challenging, such as legato and staccato, and emphasise notes. Eventually we produce a fun melody with an Irish twist. So what do we mean by a couplet?’ asked the teacher. No reply. ‘The answer’s in the word! Try removing the last two letters‘ the teacher prompted. ‘I know, I know‘, said Jake, ‘it’s a small cup‘.
Today in class we were working on Tingalayo, an infectious calypso song from Trinidad. You can check it out on our subscriber Music Library page here. Anyone who knows the song Under The Sea from Disney’s Little Mermaid animation, will know how much fun a calypso can be. So what do we call this kind of music form the Caribbean?’ asked the teacher. No reply. ‘We learnt the name last week, is starts with C and ends with O and it’s sunshine music‘ the teacher prompted. ‘I know, I know‘, said Chester, ‘it’s a Calippo‘.