11/29/09 “Listen up!” Update: The Shapes Game
I used the following lesson with Josiah Quincy Upper School’s 8th grade band on Friday, November 20th.
A couple of weeks ago I was having a conversation with a friend that got me thinking about melodic contour. Â He’d come from an improvisation class where he’d had to come up with a melodic shape, or contour, that would be repeated throughout his improvisation. Â This meant that the notes could be different, but that each “grouping” of notes had to create a similar shape through the rise and fall of pitches and dynamics. Â I thought this would be a great way to reinforce the concept of melodic contour and articulation, and I came up with a game to make it a little more interesting:
I began by presenting the idea of a melodic “shape” by singing a four note ascending and descending line and drew it on the board. Â It looked something like this:
I then altered my “shape” by singing it again and adding some basic articulation: I shortened the first note to make it a staccato note, and slurred the others together for a smooth legato line. Â I then asked a student to come forward and alter the original shape on the board to something that looked more like what I’d just sang; after a few tries, he came up with this:
We were now ready for the fun part. Â Instruments in hand, we sat in a circle and played The Shapes Game. Â I started it off by calling out “Four notes!” and I sang a four note pattern with basic articulation. Â The student to my left had to match my shape and articulation, but not my exact pitches, and so on around the circle. Â I was also watching the clock and, after five or six students played the shape, I called out another number of notes, sang a different shape with articulation, and the student we stopped on had to pick up the new shape and pass it around the circle. Â All of the students who participated seemed to grasp the concepts of shape and articulation (especially staccato, legato, and accents) and were actively engaged in the learning process! Â I learned that I need to exaggerate my legato, staccato, and accents, and be mindful of the ways that instrumentalists conceptualize articulation on their instruments, something that will make future rounds of The Shapes Game even more successful. Â All in all, I was thrilled and can’t wait to bring the lesson to the other levels.