“With my chamber group a few weeks ago, things were feeling… well… a little stuck. Most weeks, we have a great, cheerful dynamic, but lately I've been feeling we could use a bit more productive music-making. Some students were tired of the piece we were playing, some felt it was too hard, and others simply wanted to use the time to socialize. So, as a teacher, it was time to think outside the box to bring an engaging lesson that could reach everyone and reset the room.
The following week I came in with a few different scenarios in mind, expecting to read the room and see which direction to take. Here’s what unfolded:
- We started without instruments (This was shockingly hard for me - I’m so used to starting with instruments in hand!).
- Each student was given a small white board, and instructed to write down two measures of rhythms in 4/4 time.
- Students then demonstrated and taught their rhythms to the rest of the group.
- Together, we chose a key (G Major).
- Using this key, we transformed everyone’s rhythms into a short melody.
- We decided on a few different orders, passing the measures around so everyone had a chance to play each other’s creation.
- We added a “drone” (a long, held note) underneath, and kept passing the measures around, so everyone was playing at once.
It was a simple process, and an experiment, but what happened at the end was most exciting… they were wanting more! The questions that are popping up while we go through this process are awesome:
- “What makes a melody?”
- “What happens if what I wrote down feels too hard?” (Interestingly, most wanted to keep practicing it, because after all... they created it!)
- “How can I teach someone else what I’ve created?”
- “How can we work together and listen to and be open to each others’ ideas and suggestions?”
- “How can we smoothly transition from one person’s idea to the next?”
We'll keep exploring these questions, but in the meantime, it's great to see how a slight change of routine can lift everyone's spirits & get the creative juices flowing again!