Summer is the perfect time to bring music-making and nature together. Young children love exploring the world around them—from animals to plants to weather—and they love creating sound. In Kindermusik, we have a song for everything, turning your ordinary day into a musical summer day! Try these easy family activities to add a lovely tune to your day.
One of the great things about musical activities is that they make really great indoor activities. When it’s too hot or too cold to be outside, you can make musical fun indoors with a little creativity, a little inspiration, and these five simple ideas.
It’s that time of the year again. Gifts, egg nog, and mistletoe are everywhere. But along with the drinks and decorations, Christmas music is everywhere. To celebrate the season, we turn to the the folks over at Vox. In this video, Vox tells the tale of that secret chord that shows up in so many Christmas songs, from Bing Crosby to Mariah Carey.
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Ahoy, mateys! Did ye know? Tomorrah is National Talk Like a Pirate Day! Huzzah! Hoist the main sail! Batten down the hatches! WHERE’S MY PARROT?! It’s fun to talk like a pirate…ye just need an extry big bucket of RRRRRRRRRRRs!
Here in Kindermusik land, we be doin’ a bit more than just talk like a pirate! We sing like pirates! How do we do that? Well…ye came to the right place!
Our first test…know someone with a birthday tomorrow? Why not sing the traditional Happy Birthday song in Pirate instead of boring old land lover language? Let’s give it a go. It’s pretty simple…
Happy Birthday to ye, Happy Birthday to ye, Happy Birthday dear Blue Beard! Happy Birthday to ye!
Easy as an albatross pie! Let’s try another one…[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
Mary Had a Little Lamb? No…She Had a Ship…and a Parrot!
The pirate version of Mary Had a Little Lamb has Mary out on the high seas looking for treasure! Here be a link for some accompaniment music for ye!
Mary had a little ship, Little ship, little ship! Mary had a little ship And sailed the seven seas! And Everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went! Everywhere that Mary went Her sails would catch the breeze!
She found some treasure on the beach, On the beach, on the beach! She found some treasure on the beach And split it with her crew! Her parrot asked her “Where’s my gold? Where’s my gold?” Her parrot asked her “Where’s my gold? A bird deserves gold, too!”
Did ye ever hear tell of a parrot demanding gold? Well, this be a pirate parrot. Always best to do what a pirate parrot asks of ye!
Try makin’ up yer own verses![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Traditional Sea Shanties
What be a Sea Shanty, ye ask? Well, I’ll tell ye – but listen up, mateys! Capt’n Dr. Boyle doesn’t like repeatin’ his-self. I’m busy tryin’ to talk a parrot out of his gold.
A Sea Shanty is a work song – used to get a group of people to complete a task that requires cooperation – or in pirate speak, a song to make us move as one, like a school of fish swimmin’ in the sea….ARRRRRRRRRRGH!
Here’s a classic – Haul Away, Joe![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBigLvMyKzU&index=1&list=PLC161314B67D41FE1″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]There be some great songs about pirates, and Ward, the Pirate is probably one of the finest ye’ll hear. Take a listen to Ralph Vaughn Williams’ setting of the story of Capt’n Ward. Here be the words of the song! Ye can listen to a recordin’ below…
Come all you gallant seamen bold, All you that march to drum, Let’s go and look for Captain Ward, Far on the sea he roams; He is the biggest robber That ever you did hear, There’s not been such a robber found For above this hundred year.
A ship was sailing from the east And going to the west, Loaded with silks and satins And velvets of the best, But meeting there with Captain Ward, It proved a bad meeting; He robbèd them of all their wealth And bid them tell their king.
O then the king provided a ship of noble fame, She’s call’d the “Royal Rainbow,” If you would know her name; She was as well provided for As any ship could be, Full thirteen hundred men on board To bear her company.
‘Twas eight o’ clock in the morning When they began to fight, And so they did continue there Till nine o’ clock at night. “Fight on, fight on,” says Captain Ward, “This sport well pleases me, For if you fight this month or more, Your master I will be.”
O then the gallant “Rainbow” She fired, she fired in vain, Till six and thirty of her men All on the deck were slain. “Go home, go home,” says Captain Ward, “And tell your king from me, If he reigns king on all the land, Ward will reign king on sea!”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeZh_xnwZyo”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]So there ye be! Enjoy the day and have fun singing like a pirate. If ye want to talk like a pirate, just be sure it’s not like our friend, Rupert. He get’s the words wrong all the time. Ye can learn about his tale in the book, Rupert the Wrong Word Pirate.
Sail on, me hearties! Sail on![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[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.
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 minorscale. 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]
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.
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]
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]How could you not love a book with a title character named Skippyjon Jones?! The adventures of Skippyjon Jones are a delightful series of books based on author Judy Schachner’s real-life Siamese cat.
Apparently, Skippyjon Jones is no ordinary pet. Because Skippyjon Jones is certainly no ordinary cat. And that’s precisely what makes the hilarious adventures of Skippyjon Jones so appealing and yet so relatable to adults and kids alike.
“Oh, I’m Skippyjonjones, With a mind of my own, And I’ll bounce on my bed for hours. I know I’m a cat, But forget about that…”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]The original story in the series, simply entitled Skippyjon Jones, introduces us to this uniquely lovable cat who has exasperated his mother who has to wake up Skippyjon Jones not in his bed, but in a bird nest outside. We immediately know we’re in for a lot of laughs as Mama Junebug Jones fusses at her little darling.
“No self-respecting cat ever slept with a flock of birds,” she scolded. “Or ate worms, or flew, or did his laundry in Mrs. Doohiggy’s birdbath.”
This is one of those rollicking read-aloud’s that draws you in from the very first page, keeps your attention all the way to end, and then makes you want to keep reading the next story in the series![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]From the way the words are laid out on each page to the colorful and whimsical illustrations, this book just makes you feel like becoming Skippyjon Jones as you read. You just can’t resist reading this book with drama, flair, and even adding in a song or two.
Preschoolers and big kids will especially love this story, and the others in the series because of the way the author invites you into Skippyjon Jones’s huge imagination, and the reader is delighted to discover a story within the story.
“With a walk into his closet, his thoughts took him down a lonesome desert road, far, far away in old Mexico…”
Oh, did I mention that the old Mexico part of the story line becomes possible because Skippyjon Jones is banished to his room after the incident with the birds?!
Skippyjon Jones embodies personality with a capital “P” – much like some of our own children. This story is not just fun for kids, it also helps adults discover all that there can be to appreciate and enjoy in a childhood filled with big imagination and creative play. It’s no wonder the book has won the E.B. White Read Aloud Award and why we wholeheartedly give it a two thumbs up.
Skippyjon Jones, written and illustrated by Judy Schachner and published by Puffin Books, may be purchased at your local bookseller or online at Amazon.com in Kindle, paperback, and hardcover formats.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Shared by Theresa Case who has an award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, South Carolina[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Happy Independence Day to those celebrating in the United States! Music has been with us from the beginning. Native peoples had their own music, used for ceremony and celebration. Settlers from Western Europe, mainly from the British Isles, the Netherlands, France, and Spain, brought with them a rich musical tapestry. Folk songs, tavern songs, and religious music from these cultures provided part of basis of an American musical sound. The music of the fields – songs of the slaves – were the bedrock of gospel, jazz, blues, and rock and roll, which were some of the first truly American original musical genres. Let’s learn a bit about American musical heritage!
Folk music of just about any culture is the musical language of its people. Often times, the rhythms and melodies are related to how people speak – the cadence of their speech patterns. What songs were popular in the late 1700s, right around the date of American independence? Here’s an example…Early One Morning, an English folk song that tells the tale of a young maiden forsaken by a young man.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGYdD3M6BH8″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Here’s an early video recording of a Scottish folk song, The Four Marys, that found its way to Appalachia. It dates back to the middle of the 1700s. This recording is from 1966.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/mrPTrkpO6EQ?list=PL7C924A91D47257E1″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Our National Anthem actually uses the tune of an English drinking song, To Anacreon in Heaven, a tune written in the mid 1770s by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreon Society in London. Here is an ensemble at the University of Michigan performing the original work.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/3l-n64NWHS4″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Songs of the Fields
Africans from a tremendously wide variety of ethnic groups were brought to the colonies against their will and were forced into slavery. They brought music with them, rich in polyrhythms (multiple rhythms at once) and syncopated rhythms (think Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones – lots of syncopation there). The percussive nature of this music, coupled with syncopation and call and response formats, would find its way into many popular forms of the late 1800s and the 1900s such as blues, jazz, gospel, and rock. Listen to Roll Jordan, Roll, taken from the movie, 12 Years a Slave. Clapping on the back beat (beats 2 and 4), the syncopation on the word “Jordan,” and the contrast between the solo voice and the full group are all typical of the genre. Most slave songs related stories from the Bible, especially those that dealt with freedom.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/7oFcFzJT7Tw”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Early American Hymns and the Sacred Harp
In the late 1700s and into the 1800s, early shape note singing was used in New England, and worked its way down to the south and out to the west. In 1844, a collection of tunes called The Sacred Harp was published. Groups would gather together, without instruments, sit in sections in what is called the hollow square, with a leader in the center who calls the number of the tune to be sung. In recent years, Sacred Harp singing has experienced a resurgence. The tunes are characterized by even rhythms and are often based on the five note pentatonic scale (our normal scale has seven notes). Take a look at this mini-documentary on Sacred Harp singing.
Without the American genres of Rhythm and Blues and Country of the first half of the 20th Century, the American genre of Rock and Roll wouldn’t exist today. The music of African slaves found its way into churches and the folk songs of Europeans morphed into songs of Appalachia and influenced Country music. The melting pot of the United States does more than mix cultures, it also mixes the music of those cultures. We can trace the uniquely American musical genres of today back to the music of those that brought their music here. Here’s an early bluesman, Big Joe Williams, singing and playing Baby Please Don’t Go from 1935.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/g22l1hnAnlA”][vc_column_text]Now…fast forward 70 years or so and you can hear Aerosmith’s rendition of that original blues tune. Take a listen. Sounds a bit different…but you can hear its roots in Big Joe Williams’ music.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/9r25eLFBAc4″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In the grand scheme of things, we are a young country. England’s been around in one form or another for over 1000 years. China, depending on who you talk to, is over 4000 years old. We’ll hit 250 in just under 10 years. But music…music is timeless. And once that music finds its way into our bones, it becomes part of who we are. You can’t tell the American story without Rock and Roll and R & B, without Country and Hip Hop. So while you’re watching fireworks this year, be sure to listen to some American music! There’s lots to choose from. I’m old fashioned – I’ll settle in with some booming Sousa marches. In fact, that’s what I’ll leave you with – Captain John Philip Sousa’s immortal march, The Invincible Eagle March. Happy 4th of July![/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/1hXGZwHsTcM”][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[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
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!