Big Black Train Musical Challenge

PRACTICAL THEORY & PLAYING

Over the past few weeks, the students have been on a mighty musical adventure with the Big Black Train.

This is one of my FAVOURITE kinds of learning experience, where each component of the activities we undertook related completely to the next. It also tied together many of the musical concepts we’ve been working with over the past term.

This lesson involved:

  • Aural (musical listening) skills- highs & lows
  • Using a variety of methods to symbolize HIGH & LOW notes- body movements, floor staff, piano playing, note recording
  • Brain Balancing exercises
  • Rhythm recognition & playing in a variety of formats- percussion, piano
  • Dynamics recognition & playing
  • Fine motor Skill Development- pasting, piano playing
  • Finger & musical patterns

SWITCHING ON OUR BRAINS

First, students had to balance on the string using the movements of whichever Brain Balancing Animal Movement card they chose.

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RHYTHM PATTERNS

At the end of the string, there were two rhythms, two fish and two percussion instruments.

The students chose one rhythm to play.

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DYNAMICS

We then flipped the Dynamics Fish to play it Loud (forte) or Soft (piano).

The students then balanced back down the string in the way they’d come, chose another card and balanced back up the string to play the next rhythm.

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BRINGING IT TOGETHER

The students then had to play the whole rhythm pattern with the appropriate dynamics.

I sang the tune of Big Black Train as we said the rhythm aloud together (ti-ti ta etc).

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Soon all the animal cards were flipped and the whole Big Black Train tune sung.

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MUSICAL LISTENING SKILLS

I then sang the Big Black Train with words.

We listened for HIGH & LOW notes in the ‘Big Black Train’ part of the song. We reached UP for HIGH notes and crouched DOWN for LOW notes.

The students then placed dots above & below the string to represent HIGH & LOW notes.

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REPRESENTING WHAT WE’VE LEARNED ON PAPER

We pasted FOUR beats onto a piece of card (hearts). Many students numbered the beats.

We then organised and pasted the rhythm pattern of the tune under each beat.

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DISCOVERING HOW WHAT WE’VE LISTENED TO TRANSLATES TO A MELODIC INSTRUMENT

The students were told there were 2 notes to choose from for the LOW & HIGH notes: E & G. They figured out which was which on the piano, and we wrote the notes under the rhythm.

PATTERNS IN MUSIC

I then showed them the finger pattern for ‘Take me up the mountain’ (from C straight up to G with each finger). We then figured out the finger pattern for “Take me home again” (G straight down to C with each finger).

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We wrote the rhythm pattern and notes for the last half of the tune on the back of the card.

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Each and every student seemed to really enjoy seeing how each part of music relates to each other: sound, rhythm, how we record these things and how music has patterns. They also enjoyed the fact that it was fairly easy to memorize the piece because of the way the learning experience was structured.

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