Ben Folds, the National Symphony Orchestra, and Magic: Improvisation Unpacked

Improvisation

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]You may have recently watched a viral video of Ben Folds improvising a work with the National Symphony Orchestra. It’s rather impressive and demonstrates a host of skill sets, not just by Ben, but by the entire orchestra. To create something new on the  spot like this takes knowledge and talent. While Ben is calling the shots, it’s a team effort. These musicians have put in a lifetime of practice to get to this level. Let’s unpack what you are seeing in this short video; there is A LOT going on.


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Improvisation
Ben Folds doing what he does best – singing his head off!

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 Selecting Home Base

The very first thing that is selected is a key center. This is basically picking the musical neighborhood in which all the musicians will play. All basic, western musical keys consist of a set of seven notes. You might be familiar with the song from The Sound of Music, Do Re Mi” in which Julie Andrews lays out the pattern for a major scale – Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti and Do is repeated at the top. You can start on any note on the piano and sing this pattern. The easiest way to find it on the piano is to play C to C on all white notes – that’s the key of C Major. The audience selects a minor. Minor keys are a slightly different pattern. If you were to play A to A on the piano using all white notes, you’d get the a minor scale. With the key selected, the musicians know to hang out in the musical neighborhood of a minor. If they were artists, they might agree upon the same color palette.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Tempo

The next choice the audience makes for Ben and the NSO is the general tempo. Tempo can really affect the mood of a piece of music. Give the choice of a ballad (generally slow) or something upbeat, the audience (nearly unanimously) selects upbeat, indicating a faster speed.

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Text

Ben is a song writer, so they needed a text. The audience is asked to find an interesting bit of text from the evening’s program booklet.

The key, tempo, and text selections can be seen below.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://vimeo.com/226328589″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

The Magic Starts – with a Joke

Ben sits at the keyboard and readies himself to create something entirely new. This is amazing when it happens by yourself as a composer – when you find that right sound and jot it down on staff paper or on the computer. It’s another level of awesomeness when you do it with 50 other people in real time. Be fore he gets started, he makes a wonderful musical joke, invoking Beethoven. He asks, “It has to be something completely new, right?” Without missing a beat, he mimics (although incorrectly – but we’ll forgive him) the main motive of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.

After creating a grove, Ben moves on to a basic melody with the text. He then starts assigning parts to the various sections of the orchestra, starting with the cellos. He instructs them to play “arco,” or with the bow rather than plucking the strings with the fingers. He plays a pattern using the notes A, E, and the next octave B. Without telling the cellos what the notes are, or writing out the rhythms, the cellos nail it. This is exactly what happens in a Kindermusik class when children learn new songs by ear. He further instructs them to alter the pattern on the second iteration. “Just one on the second one.” He then asks for the same pattern at a different pitch level, creating a different harmony. He then asks for a low C and a then a low E, both held for four counts. Note that everyone knows what time signature he’s in just by listening – four beats to the measure. Here’s the creation of he cello line:[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://vimeo.com/226342028″][blockquote cite=”Ben Folds”]”It takes a second to create a whole song.”[/blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Winds – Flutes, Oboes, Clarinets, and Basson

Next, Ben moves on to the reed section and suggests a “one size fits all” accompaniment figure for them. he then, like composers do ALL THE TIME while composing (one of my teachers used to say that there is no good writing, only good rewriting), decides to just give a harmony figure to the clarinets. You’ll note he uses the term “concert” G and E. This is too complicated to explain in detail, but some instruments, clarinets among them, transpose. This means that they might play a written A, but it sounds a “concert” G. Don’t worry about it too much!

So – he asks the clarinets to pick a pitch – E or G – and rock back and forth to that pitches lower neighbor on fast moving notes. It sound like a little flutter. He puts it together with the cellos and decides to make a small change – joking with the audience that it “takes a second to create a whole song.” On the fly, Ben is fitting the pieces together as he creates them. Take a listen:[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://vimeo.com/226345129″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Violins,Violas, and the Rest

Moving on to the rest of strings, he improvises parts for both the first and second violins – slow moving notes in harmony. Not wanting to leave the violas out in the rain, he gives them what he calls a “little timing shizzle.” He gives them what is best described as a rhythmic ostinato – a pattern that repeats over and over. It’s also syncopated, meaning it happens on the off beat. You’ll feel it.

He then turns to the double basses and says “You know what you must do.” Their repeated quarter note figures on the lowest note of the harmony are sort of a bass line trope and why the audience (and the basses) laugh.

Ben then asks the drummer to do his thing, relying on his musical instinct. He asks for a trumpet solo and…ta-da…the under pinnings of a new song are created.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://vimeo.com/226350128″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

The Final Product

And with that, away they go. You’ll note in the final video that some instruments Ben never mentioned play – the horns in F are an example. These are top shelf artists. They know how to join the fun with the information Ben has provided.

He set out to create something new in ten minutes, and that’s exactly what he did. Just shy of the ten minute mark he completes his instructions and the conductor counts everyone in. Ben riffs a melody on text from the program book and eventually gets to the selected text. The act of creation isn’t complete until the music is delivered to an audience. The fun part about this compositional process? The audience was there to see it unfold before hearing the final product. That mad it even more special.

Listen to the end result – its a lot of fun to experience the new song after watching it be built from nothing by a room full of classical musicians, lead by one of the most talented singer-songwriters of our time.

[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://vimeo.com/226351404″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Ben demonstrates the joys of creating original music and improvisation, and he does so with four chords, a room full of incredibly talented orchestral players, and the words from a program book. The truth is, with just a little bit of knowledge, anyone can write a song, and it expresses who you are in a way that mere words just can’t. I’ve taught lots of students over the years, and one of my most special memories is teaching a brother and sister (ages 8 and 11) how to write a song during a summer program. We had so much fun coming up with words and a melody. It was rewarding for all of us.

Writing music is similar to building a house. In the end, you’ve created something. But things crumble. A song lasts forever as long as there’s someone around to sing it.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

DIY Beach in a Bottle!

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, we hope you are enjoying the summer weather! If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, winter is just getting started (of course – winter is a bit milder in some parts of the Southern Hemisphere)! Well, whether you live north or south, we wanted to share a creative way of bringing the beach inside with you! It’s a fun, family activity – you can make a miniature beach scene all your own to remember that special vacation, or simply have a little reminder of warmer weather when things get dreary! Let’s get started…


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Beach in a Bottle
A Ball canning jar works really well – and I don’t say that just because I went to Ball State! – (source: Pinterest)

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What You’ll Need

  • A glass bottle or jar of some type – canning jars work well as they give you a bit more room at the opening to really control your beach scene inside the container. If you want to go big, think of bulk jars of mayo or jam from your local warehouse club. Friendly suggestion – be sure to eat or relocate the contents before making you beach scene!
  • SAND! If you are at the beach, it’s all over the place. Just grab enough to fill the bottom third or so of your bottle or jar. If you aren’t near the beach, hardware stores sell bags of sand. You wont need all of it, but don’t worry – Pinterest has plenty of ideas for the left over sand. You’ll run out of sand before you run out of fun projects!
  • Shells – the right size for your bottle or jar. Remember, they have to fit in the opening.

And if you can find them or have the time…

  • Sea Glass – You can find pieces of sea glass if you take a long walks on the beach. It can add some color and texture to your beach in a bottle.
  • Dried Star Fish – because really, what beach scene is complete without a star fish. A plastic one will do in a pinch.
  • DIY Mini Beach Chair – Want to really make your scene authentic? Try your hand at making a mini-beach chair out popsicle sticks or craft sticks. If this is a family activity, perhaps have an older child work on this.

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Here’s a Kindermusik video that walks you through the process![/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]beach_in_a_bottle_vid[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Step by Step

  1. Fill the bottom third with your sand. You can shake the bottle of jar to level it out, or leave it uneven for that beach dune look!
  2. If you made the mini beach chair, put that in first.
  3. Place your shells and sea glass on the sand. There’s really no wrong way to do this – you’re in charge. Put them in the middle, around the edge, scattered randomly – whatever you like!
  4. Seal up your bottle or jar and display it for all to see! Placing it near a sun-filled widow will add a nice touch to your scene.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]And there you have it! A little bit of the beach inside your home. If you are feeling really adventurous, place a picture of the sky inside the bottle of jar to give your scene an authentic backdrop! You can even place a picture of your little one from that special trip inside the jar!

beach_picture

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]As an added bonus, here’s Maestro Kindermusik Educator Beth Anspach reading from the Kindermusik Creatures of the Ocean Booklet, I Like the Beach. Enjoy![/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajKavm7r_bI”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

At Home Beach Activities

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Whether it’s a beach stay-cation or an actual trip to the beach in store for you, we’re here with some fun and simple ideas for bringing the beach indoors and creating memories that are sure to bring smiles to everyone’s faces for a long time to come. Best of all, instead of “I’m Bored!”, we bet you’ll even hear that sweet little voice begging with a smile, “Can we do that again, Mom?”


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At Home Beach Crafts

Make a Paper Plate Sun and Pipecleaner Windcatcher  

Beach Activities[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Make a Salt Painting

Beach activities[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Make a Beach in a Bottle

beach_in_a_bottle_vid[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Sand Clay Handprint Keepsake

Sand Art[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

At Home Beach Books

Sand, Sea, Me! by Patricia Hubbell

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]sand_sea_and_me[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Commotion in the Ocean by Giles Andreae[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]commotion[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Good Night, Beach by Adam Gamble[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]good_night_beach[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]At the Beach by Anne Rockwell[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]at-the-beach[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

At Home Beach Music – Dance, Sing, and Play Along!

All albums are downloadable from play.Kindermusik.com

1, 2, 3 Octopus & Me

Music Makes My Day

Get Up & Move

The next time you need a little something to keep a little someone occupied, pull out one of these ideas and head to the beach – even if it’s just in your imagination!


[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Ideas shared by Theresa Case who has an award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in beautiful upstate South Carolina, where she’s not too far from the beach![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

7 Tips for Making Every Day a Musical Day

7 tips

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Any parent who’s been attending Kindermusik classes for even a short period of time quickly realizes just how enjoyable and powerful singing, dancing, playing, exploring, and making music can be – not just for their child, but also for them!  It’s no surprise then, that Kindermusik Educators are often asked for ideas about how to include more music into daily routines at home during the week in between classes.  With nearly 40 years of research and wisdom backing us, we’re always thrilled to share some ideas.  Here are a few of those best ideas compiled here for you!


Tip #1 – Sing, sing, sing!  

The most beautiful sound in the world to your child is your voice, whether you think anyone else would agree or not.  Over time, you’ll have an entire repertoire from your Kindermusik classes, and you’ll even get skilled at making up your own words for a new verse or two!

 

Tip # 2 – Keep the music playing

Create playlists or simply let the music stream – in the playroom, in the car, before naps, and before bedtime.  It’s really amazing to watch as your child starts to tune in to sounds of instruments (even naming them!), hums or sings along, breaks out into a spontaneous happy dance, or develops strong opinions about favorite types of music.

 

Tip # 3 – Start a collection of musical instruments 

One of our Baby Bags!
One of our Baby Bags!

Start off with the basics – egg shakers, bells, and drums – then add other age-appropriate instruments along the way.  We recommend keeping your instruments separate from your toys, so that even from an early age, children are learning how to listen, handle, and explore the instruments with focus, care, and creativity.  With you there to support and engage, exploring instruments is an especially delightful learning and play activity.

 

Tip #4 – Make your own homemade instruments

This is a fun, rainy day activity that will keep your child occupied, both as you are making the instrument together and later, as he enjoys exploring and playing with the instrument.  Two simple ideas to get you started are making homemade ankle bells or even a homemade guiro.

 

Tip #5 – Use a favorite lullaby to calm and soothe

Many parents tell us that there are one or two of our Quiet Time lullabies that really touch them and their children.  Learn the words so you can sing those lullabies at home, whether at those times when your child needs a calming moment, a close cuddle, or back rub and song while she falls asleep.

 

Tip #6 – Enjoy a little impromptu dance party

Tears quickly turn into giggles and smiles as you waltz and twirl around the room together, either to a song you hum or a favorite recording from Kindermusik class.  The type of music you choose can fit the need of the moment.  For example, if your child is fussy and needing your attention, cuddle up for a gentle waltz.  If your little one is bouncing off the walls, go for a lively jig.  

 

Tip #7 – Make the most of your Kindermusik Home Materials

Chock-full of ideas and inspiration for you and engaging musical play for your child, your Kindermusik Home Materials are one of your best go-to resources not only for enhancing your overall Kindermusik experience, but for providing hours of learning, engagement, and interactive play at home during the week.

 

These are simple ideas that are oh-so-easy to incorporate either spontaneously or as a planned part of your child’s day.  Without a doubt, music really can make your “everyday” moments a little happier, a little sweeter, and a little easier!


 

Shared by Theresa Case whose award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, South Carolina has been bringing joy to families for over 20 years now.

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Mother’s Day Music Activities

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It’s nearly here! The day we set aside to celebrate mothers and all they do for us. Whether you celebrate by serving up breakfast in bed or making a coupon book for “free hugs,” we all know she’ll love whatever it is you do as long as it’s overflowing with love.Speaking of hugs…

One Mother’s Day, my boys and I cooked up a special gift. We bought a sweater – a simple sweater in a color we knew their mom would love. We then took a picture of the boys hugging the sweater, wrote a little poem, and boxed everything up. The idea was this – anytime my wife wore the sweater she’d be constantly receiving hugs from our boys. It was a big hit!

Mother's Day hug sweater
Our boys and the “Hug Sweater.”

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]That idea is free to the world – but this is a music blog, right? How can we celebrate our mothers in a musical way?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Write a Song!

You don’t need to be a professional musician to write song! Music belongs to everyone! The easiest way to start is picking an existing tune and writing new personal lyrics. Hey – if Weird Al can do it, so can you! Remember, the thought behind the action means so much to Mom! And the simpler the tune, the easier it will be for the little ones to sing along? How about this to the tune of Frère Jacques:

Mom we love you!
Mom we love you!
You’re the best!
Your’e the best!
Thank you for your kisses
Now we’ll do the dishes
After lunch!
After lunch!

It’s silly but singable. You can do it, too! Have fun, be creative, and tell her how you feel![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Make a Mix CD for the Car!

Remember when we were kids? The sweetest thing you could do for someone you liked was to make a mix tape. Well – tapes are pretty much a thing of the past, but we can still make a mix CD…or even a playlist. Find Mom’s most favorite tunes and create a personalized album. You could even create a custom insert for the jewel case with pictures of the little ones. What about adding little recorded messages from the kids between each track – simple things like “Mommy, I love you!” or “Thanks for tucking me in at night!”

A custom CD or playlist complete with little audio notes of love from the kids will be a big hit![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Music and Movement – a Mother’s Day Dance Off!

After the aforementioned breakfast in bed, how about finding some great music – maybe even some Kindermusik tunes – and have a family dance off! Everybody could take part or perhaps Mom can serve a judge and decide who has the best moves. Here are some crazy ideas:

  1. Who can dance like their favorite animal the best?
  2. Who can dance with only their face?
  3. Can you only dance with your legs and not move your upper body?
  4. Who can dance the longest without smiling?

I bet you can come up with your own fun variations on the dance off theme. Get those bodies moving to music as a family![/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

dance_off
Dance Off!

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Dinner Time Opera

We’ve done this before. While you’re eating, when you’d normally have wonderful family conversation, sing instead of talking! This is easier than it sounds. Think about Will Ferrell in Elf...everyone can sing. If you can speak, you can make up a tune for that sentence. Believe me, it’s a woot. You’ll have a hard time not giggling as your conversation and melodic speaking develops.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Eto6DU_2oI”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]However you celebrate Mom, the most important part is time together. She’ll love whatever you do if it’s done from the heart. Have fun infusing music into the day…and if you do Dinner Time Opera, record it. We’d love to include a video or two in a future post!

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there from the Kindermusik family![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

New Father Jitters: A Father’s Day Story

New Father Fears

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Hello friends! The summer months roll onward and this Sunday is Father’s Day. We’re going to give you a list of fun activities for the day, but first, a story. I wear lots of hats – blog editor, professor, conductor – but the one I am most proud of is father. I remember being scared during my wife’s pregnancy; my mind filled with all kinds of scenarios – parenting tests that I would obviously fail. What if I fed the baby too much? What if I couldn’t calm the baby down? What if I DROPPED the baby? That last one haunted me. For a while, as silly as this sounds, it kept me up at night.

And then, our first son came into the world. Instant love for this tiny human filled me from bottom to top. After examining him, the doctor picked him up from the scale and headed my way – intent on placing him in my arms. I felt petrified. Was he serious? He couldn’t be serious…

I AM GOING TO DROP THAT KID.

That instant love had actually intensified the fear.

Father's Day
Nathan and his little brother, Patrick…long ago and far away

The doctor wasn’t stopping; he continued his approach with a wide smile on his face. Couldn’t he tell I was absolutely panicked? Why, oh why, wasn’t he stopping? It seemed as if this powerful love I was feeling brought high-def focus to the image of dropping that swaddled bundle on the faux-wood floor of the delivery room. I could feel myself shaking.

This was it. He was going to make the hand-off, and I was going to immediately drop my son. My brain was screaming, “GIVE HIM BACK TO HIS MOTHER! SHE’S ON A BED! SHE WON’T DROP HIM!”

I managed a little smirk, trying so hard to mask my terror. I imagined a newspaper floating through the air (like in cheesy movies) with this headline: LOCAL FATHER DROPS BRAND NEW SON IN FRONT OF MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS.

But…that didn’t happen. In one of the most magical moments of my life, the instant my son was in my arms, a switch flipped in my brain – or maybe it was my heart. I distinctly recall hearing my own voice say these words in my head:

“I will never let anything happen to this child.”

The fear was no longer front and center, instantly replaced with a protective instinct ten times as powerful – and that’s when I truly felt like a dad.

Our first son is 13 and ready to start high school this fall. I know I can’t be with him at all times  – even though that protective instinct tells me I need to be. I love seeing him laugh with his friends and play trombone in the school band. I love watching him at track meets and hear him still goof around with his 10 year old brother (even though he’s sometimes “too cool” for that). I have found my balance of letting him find his own failure and success. He learns from both.

Sometimes, I look at this nearly six-feet-tall young adult and, in a flash, I am back in that delivery room, holding him for the first time, instantly confident in my new role. For the first two weeks of his life, I couldn’t look into his eyes without weeping tears of complete joy. I wrote him a lullaby, which I would sing to him when he woke up in the middle of those first nights back home. My wife has always insisted I wrote it to stem my own blissful crying. I’ve never told her this – but she was right.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]

Father’s Day Activities and Ideas

Kindermusik Educator Cathy Portele provides a list of fun-filled Father’s Day ideas. Check our her blog post here.

Reader’s Digest gives us a great collection of activities for just about every type of dad – Amusement Park Dad, Golf Dad, Camping Dad – the list goes on!

The Memory Box

This is one of the most special crafts I’ve ever seen. I have done this for my mother and my wife – and when it was done for me, I got that big lump in my throat when you have “all the feels.” It’s simple and highly personal.

You’ll need:
1. A small, wooden box – like this one, found at Michaels:
memorybox

 

2. A sheet of paper

On the sheet of paper, write (or print out using a computer) a list of special memories or thoughts…”Remember I love you, Dad!…”Remember that day at the park with the puppies”…”Remember our trip to the zoo when the giraffe ate your hat!”…anything that has meaning for Dad.

Cut the memories into individual slips, roll them around a pencil to curl them up, and place them in the box.

You can paint the box if you like – maybe even label it “Memory Box.” As time passes, you can add new memories. Sometimes if I’ve had a stressful day, I open up my Memory Box – instant smiles!

The Father’s Day Neck Tie

The classic gift in customizable paper form! The folks over at Kid’s Craft Room provide instructions to create a special, one-of-a-kind tie for Dad. Check it out here.


[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]To all those dad’s out there – Happy Father’s Day from all of us at Kindermusik! We hope to see you and your kids at one of our classes soon. Enjoy your day![/vc_column_text][class_finder_form css=”.vc_custom_1466044991172{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

FLAG DAY FUN!

Flag Day

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I remember a certain Flag Day just a few years ago; it sticks in my memory as a parent. My sons and I were taking in the sights at Independence Mall in Philadelphia. This area is packed full will history – amazing buildings, incredible statues and, of course, the Liberty Bell. This day, as we looked up to see a skydiver floating down toward the Mall with a giant American Flag flowing behind him, my oldest (10 at the time) turned to me and said, “I think I’m done calling you Daddy. I’m going to call you Dad from now on.” His seven year old brother dutifully followed suit. This is what I always remember on Flag Day – that our little ones grow up, seemingly instantaneous, and in this moment, literally with a big leap all at once!

What might you do to celebrate Ol’ Glory? Check out this collection of fun and facts![/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”custom” border_width=”3″ accent_color=”#dd3333″][vc_separator color=”blue” border_width=”3″][vc_column_text]

FLAG MAKER

Long-time education company, Scholastic, has a fun flag online flag maker. Pick colors, shapes, and various other features. When you have the flag of your dreams, print it out! Remember, Betsy Ross didn’t have an inkjet printer. She had to sew hers![/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”custom” border_width=”3″ accent_color=”#dd3333″][vc_separator color=”blue” border_width=”3″][vc_column_text]

FLAG COLORING

Speaking of Betsy Ross, we created a template of her original 1776 flag perfect for coloring. You can download and print it here. Take some pictures and send them to Dr. Boyle. We’ll post some of our favorites on the blog![/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”custom” border_width=”3″ accent_color=”#dd3333″][vc_separator color=”blue” border_width=”3″][vc_column_text]

MUSIC ON THE PLAY.KINDERMUSIK.COM SITE

We have two entire albums of patriotic songs for your kiddos! Check them out over at play.kindermusik.com:

America The Musical: Vol. 1
America The Musical: Vol. 2

The music is organized by time period. Volume 1 covers the founding to 1899, and Volume 2 covers 1900 to 2000. Take a listen to some samples![/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”custom” border_width=”3″ accent_color=”#dd3333″][vc_separator color=”blue” border_width=”3″][vc_column_text]

YANKEE DOODLE HISTORY!

Speaking of music, have you ever thought about the lyrics to Yankee Doodle and what they actually mean? You could spend some time with your little ones learning about these comical words. As it turns out, they reflect a great deal more about the American spirit than you might think. The story dates back to the before Revolution and the tune was sung by the British and Colonists alike.

The British sang the song to mock the colonists and their rag-tag appearance. So what did we do? We made the song our own! In fact, it’s the official state song of Connecticut.

Yankee Doodle went to town – a “doodle” was a fool
A-ridin’ on a pony – considered lower than riding an actual horse
Stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni – teasing the Yanks for a lack of style…

This last line of the verse implies that the Yanks had no sense of culture and that by simply placing a feather in his hat, he had a fancy “macaroni” style wig – which was an outrageous hair piece normally seen in 18th century England – worn by men who, according to one contemporary source, “exceeded the ordinary bounds of fashion” in dress, manner, and speech.

Macaroni Wig
A British gentleman wearing a macaroni wig

So what’s the lesson here? I think it’s something we often teach our children…when someone teases you, try not to let it get under your skin. That’s what the colonists did with Yankee Doodle – and now it’s one of our most precious national songs. More on Yankee Doodle from NPR…[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”custom” border_width=”3″ accent_color=”#dd3333″][vc_separator color=”blue” border_width=”3″][vc_column_text]

PATRIOTIC POM POMS!

Pom Poms

Check out these simple patriotic crepe paper pom poms over at 100Directions.com. Easy to make, they’re a fun way to dress up a room for the holiday, and it’s a craft activity that you can share with the whole family!

Don’t forget to sing our National Anthem, a love song to Old Glory. Enjoy the day – and remember – like another classic song says:

Ev’ry heart beats true
‘neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there’s never a boast or brag.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag![/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]Want to learn about the battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the words to our National Anthem? The Smithsonian Channel has a couple of wonderful, short videos that tell the tale.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Enjoying Spring with Music!

Spring

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In some parts of the world, it’s spring. Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and mamas everywhere are happy that kids can be outside, playing and enjoying the warmer weather. Unlike other times of year when music and the season are synonymous, you may not make a connection between music (or musical activities) and spring, so we’ve come up with a few to brighten your day![/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Featured blogger Theresa Case brings us some music and activities for spring. [/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Watch and Listen: Vivaldi’s “Spring” from the Four Seasons

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Craft Idea: How to Make a Paper Plate Sun and Pipecleaner Windcatcher

[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://kindermusik.wistia.com/medias/euzwum7d5v”][vc_column_text]

Get Outside: How to Make a Seed Grow

[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://kindermusik.wistia.com/medias/1a47x80bgt”][vc_column_text]

Listen and Play: Bird Sounds Vocal Play

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Watch the babies’ faces in this video. For very young children, “vocal play” isn’t about call-and-response or sound-and-echo; it’s about watching and listening, absorbing all that’s going on around them, and working hard to match up what they see with what they hear and feel. You can see the deep focus on some babies’ faces as they watch the mouths making the sounds. Remember: Patience, always beautiful patience with babies, as every sense receptor is “on,” and sifting through all that input takes time.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”green”][vc_column_text]There’s nothing like a little music – and a little together time – to make every day a little brighter!

For more ideas and inspiration to make everyday parenting just a little bit easier and a whole lot more musical, discover Kindermusik, the world’s leading music and movement program for parents and children.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Crazy Sounds: What the Voice Can Do

Overtone Singing Crazy Sounds

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Okay folks…this is going to be a weird post, but stay with me. I’m a collegiate choral director, so singing is big part of my life. The human voice constantly amazes me. As of late, I have been doing a lot of guest conducting with middle school age kids. This age group is a hoot. They are hungry to express who they are becoming and are excited to make music together. Voices are changing at this age and, particularly young men, are figuring out how their new voices work and what they can do. Speaking of what voices can do…[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Overtone Singing

We are capable of singing two pitches at once.

Let me say that again: the human voice is capable of producing two distinct pitches at once. This is called overtone singing. Now – before I blow your mind with some pretty mazing video, let me give you a basic explanation of what overtones are. Within any pitch produced, there is a series of overtones. When I sing a note, there are actually a host of notes that make up the composite sound you are hearing. By manipulating the space inside your mouth, you can cause specific overtones to be heightened and easily perceived.

I know…it sounds crazy. Check out this guy singing Amazing Grace with overtones:[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFWYSW4vfcA”][vc_column_text]I promise, that is actually him. He is clearly producing two pitches at once – a drone pitch that stays the same and the changing whistle pitches above.

Maybe only crazy choral conductors do this, but have you ever hit a note in a room or a stairwell and it “rings” more than any other note? You have hit the resonant pitch for that space. This singer, by changing the shape of the space inside his mouth, changes the resonant frequency causing different overtones to be highlighted. And that’s how he gets different pitches above his drone.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

One Voice: Two Pitches

So this guy produces a static bottom pitch and is able to heighten any of the pitches in that static pitches’s overtone series. I won’t bore you with what those pitches are, but it is always a specific set relating to that bottom pitch produced.

What would happen if you changed the bottom pitch? Well, you’d have access to another set of overtones. Well guess what? There is a guy in Texas named Stuart Hinds who has training himself to change the bottom pitch while also being able to hit any note in the overtone set at will. This takes INCREDIBLE control. The result of this training? Mr. Hinds is able to sing in a round WITH HIMSELF! I promise, what you are about to see and hear is only one person singing. You will see a spectrogram, a visual representation of sound over time. The very bottom stream is the main, bottom pitch that Mr. Hinds sings. You’ll then see the overtones he wants to highlight as the very top stream of notes. Take a listen:[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aU5rtkO6CX8″][vc_column_text]Once again, I know it seems impossible, but those whistle tones are actually being produced by Mr. Hinds’s voice and only Mr. Hinds’s voice. There is no manipulation here. Once voice, two pitches. Pretty amazing.

For me, the most amazing thing about this is the capacity of the human voice. The variety is staggering. We can listen to a rock singer, a folk singer, or an opera singer. We can enjoy R&B and Country. Rap, Pop, Ska, and Jazz – the list never ends – all from the human voice. And think about this as you listen to all of this singing: a child that experiences music on a regular basis will have a deeper appreciation for music throughout her or his life.

Listen to Mr. Hinds with your child. Ask questions. Can they hear the overtones – the whistle tones? Ask if they can believe that it’s only one person singing! See if you can produce overtones. Check out Anna-Maria Hefele’s (another great overtone singer) How-to video. Explore the possibilities![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][class_finder_form css=”.vc_custom_1458189350961{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Self Awareness and the Dragon: A Parenting Fairytale

Singing Self awareness

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]When our sons were young (age 4), they memorized a very simple, two-part definition of self-awareness. Here is it:

1. Always know what’s going on around you.

and…

2. Always know how my choices affect other people.

Our boys, considering their surroundings, about to make good choices...hopefully
Our boys, considering their surroundings, about to make good choices…hopefully

 

The idea was that they would hear my voice, their mother’s voice, or more importantly their own voice recite these words when faced with decisions without one of us present. These two little sentences cover just about any situation that might come up. I thought it might be fun to place “The Definition” (as we refer to it in our family) into a little parenting fairytale.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]

Once upon a time, in the faraway realm of Kindermusika, there lived a Brother and a Sister, two young singers of great renown. Now, this pair had loving parents that taught them some very important lessons. They knew the Golden Rule, and to not eat in bed because of the crumbs. But because their parents were sometimes gone running the business of the realm, the King and Queen also taught them The Definition of Self Awareness. These were magic words that helped the young singers learn to think before acting. Once, the Brother came upon a group of children throwing rocks over a wall. He thought, “Do I know what’s on the other side of that wall? What if there are animals or people over there!?”

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]While walking down the main village street, the sister saw a woman carrying food back from the market. She always made time to take in her surroundings. This time, she saw the woman trip and drop the basket of food. “I should help her,” the Sister thought. “I know the woman would be glad to have an extra set of hands.”[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]And so it went. The Siblings did their best to know what was going on around them and to always think about how their choices would affect others.

And then…it happened. As often is the case with these stories, a Dragon appeared. But this wasn’t your ordinary, fire-breathing monster. No…this Dragon made all kinds of bad choices that wreaked havoc on the realm. He’d knock over barrels of rainwater and play in the mud. He’d let the sheep out of their pasture and chase them into the woods. On a particularly bad day, the Dragon ate all of the village baker’s laundry, including his best puffy white hat. He even left claw marks in the dough.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Now, The Brother and Sister saw all this and once again remembered their parents’ words. The Sister said to the Brother, “I bet we could teach this Dragon some manners. Maybe sharing the Definition will help!”
And that’s just what they did. The Brother and Sister knew that with this type of Dragon – no fire and smoke to worry about, just some poor choices – they show him the way.

While the Dragon was busy using the candlestick maker’s curtains to blow his nose, the Brother walked up politely and sat on a tree stump.

“What do you want?” asked the Dragon, as he sneezed into the brand new curtains.

The Brother, knowing Dragons liked music, sang him a little song (that sounded strangely like Twinkle Twinkle).

Dragon with a stuffy snout
Those curtains need to be thrown out.
Use a tissue when you sneeze
Leave the curtains in the breeze.
Dragon, make a better choice
And your friends will all rejoice![/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]As the Brother sang, the Dragon smiled and slowly put down the Candlestick Maker’s curtains (a bit worse for wear). “I never thought of it that way!” said the Dragon, as he absentmindedly almost sat on the Blacksmith’s roof.

“No! No!” shouted the Sister. The Dragon froze and the Sister began to sing to the Dragon (a tune that oddly resembled Pop Goes the Weasel).

Before you go to sit yourself down
Please check if it is clear, sir!
You may destroy a house or a shop
Think of your career, sir!

“Well, I’m in between jobs at the moment, but I get your point,” chuckled the Dragon – and he stood up just before crushing the Blacksmith’s roof.

“Where did you learn to think about others and make good choices?” asked the Dragon. He was amazed at the music and message of these two young siblings.

“Our parents!” they answered. “They taught us to always know what’s going on around us and to know how our choices might affect others.”

“Incredible!” said the Dragon.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]With that, the Brother, the Sister, and the Dragon, went out to the jousting field for a picnic, to sing songs, and use tissues whenever they sneezed.

And they all lived musically ever after![/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]Our sons are now 9 and 13 and they still have “The Definition” memorized. I’d like to think it helps them make better choices during their day, and perhaps be a bit more compassionate toward others. And who knows…if they ever come across a poor decision-making dragon, maybe they can pass along some good advice.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]