Greetings from Full Circle Family Music online!
As an add-on to our two online Full Circle Family Music Sessions, we’ve prepared six shorter videos to encourage creative music-making at home: Family Music Playground.
You can download them onto your computers / devices to avoid connection issues and buffering. These will serve as a resource for you and your family not only during lockdown, but well beyond too – an salann sa bhrot!
Each video begins with a song or instrumental activity from our live music programme, and includes ideas about how to personalise them to suit your family.
There are also suggestions for varying and developing the material – leaving plenty of scope for your imagination. You might find it helpful to watch them in order, but feel free to pick and mix as you discover your favourites.
Have fun! It would be lovely to hear from you about how you get on, via our An Lanntair Children and Families Facebook page.
To help you get the most out of your Family Music Playground adventures, please see below our Full Circle Arts Worker notes for each video..
1. CREATIVE CONVERSATION
Taking the song ‘Do you know the Muffin Man’ as inspiration, this video addresses call and response as a musical structure, looking as ways to introduce variation through a range of elements:
– forte and piano (loud and quiet)
– presto and largo (fast and slow)
– high and low
These three opposites are foundational building blocks of music your child will encounter again and again throughout their musical journey. Whilst there is no substitute for experiencing them in live music making with others, here are some links presenting the concepts in fun, and hopefully memorable, ways. Just click on the words to take you to the link:
high and low
The idea of call and response, though presented here in a musical context, grows out of the social interaction known as serve and return – my turn, your turn. In everyday life, the ability to communicate successfully with others relies on our use of serve and return. Playing the games on this Family Music Playground video will strengthen your family relationships and prepare your children for the wider world. When you come to our live Full Circle music classes, using serve and return techniques as you take part with your child will enhance the experience for both of you. Find out more here.
2. ANIMAL FRIENDS
Taking the song, ‘Bow wow wow’ as inspiration, this video explores ways of incorporating singing into the everyday, by changing the words of songs to fit the context.
You don’t have to be a great singer to introduce singing into the things you do with your children, from caring for their needs to working and playing with them. With a baby, it’s almost impossible to communicate without singing. We switch intuitively into a high-energy, singsong tone and use simple words and short sentences. We sound excited. Our pitch rises at the end of the sentence. This known as parentese or infant-directed speech (IDS) and is common across many languages.
As your child grows, use opportunities such as dressing and undressing, feeding and nappy-changing, tidying up, out and about anywhere, in a sling or buggy, at bath-time and bed-time. For adults, singing in this way can seem uncomfortable but over time you will find you become more spontaneous. Start simple with a song you know and repeat, repeat, repeat – nithear càrn mòr de chlachan beaga! Singing is worthwhile if nothing else for the sheer pleasure of it, particularly when shared with others.
There are strong connections between the development of language skills and musical skills – if it were not so, we would all sound like robots! In our first Family Music Playground video we looked at how singing a simple song like ‘Muffin Man’ can help with taking turns in conversation. Likewise, falling into step with someone, mirroring others, picking up how someone is feeling from the tone of their voice and so on are all musical skills that we have within us by nature. By singing with your child you are not only enabling them to develop as a musician, you are enhancing their social skills and helping them to make their way successfully in the wider world.
Here is a fascinating presentation on music and language from jazz bassist Victor Wooten, challenging the belief that only those who are gifted can really ‘do’ music.
3. SINGING SPIDERS
This video addresses feelings through one of our favourite songs, ‘There’s a spider on my head’ and progresses to look at the different ways we use our voice expressively. The two are linked: children use their voices to communicate emotion long before they develop the spoken language that enables them to tell us in words. Our voice is a central part of our being and integral to our identity.
Voice-sounds and movement are closely linked for young children in their multi-sensory world. Observe a baby wriggling and kicking in the cot, or a two-year old at play – and listen to the sound track they create.
You can make connections with your children and help them develop their emotional and expressive abilities by making the effort to become attuned to these moments: copy a vocal pattern you notice, wait for their response, and make a reply. As you enjoy these semi-improvised playful exchanges, allow them to lead you in the game.
Don’t get bogged down with the ‘singing voice’ but think outside the box. We have many voices in speech such as happy, sad, bouncy, lazy, angry, tired. If you’re stuck, start with animal voices and the many sounds of machinery! By encouraging your child to play around with their voice you are also helping them develop their ability to sing, something all growing musicians need.
A wonderful book to inspire voice-play – with older children it also makes good starting point for a discussion about feelings – is ‘Harold Finds a Voice’ by Courtney Dicmas.
4. SOUND THE DRUM
The first three videos are themed around the musical element of pitch i.e. high and low, up and down. In any music, however, the other vital components are beat and rhythm, highlighted here in Video 4.
Drums, which feature in this video, are commonly associated with beat and rhythm. Belonging to the percussion family of musical instruments (sounded by striking, shaking or scraping), they serve to hold the players together in a band or other ensemble, as well as driving the music forward.
– The beat is the steady pulse that runs through any piece of music. The speed of the beat varies according to its character and mood.
– The rhythm is the way the notes of a piece of music are put together in time to form patterns of sounds: long and short, strong and weak. When someone thinks of some music and asks ‘How does it go?’ what they really mean is ‘Give me the rhythm’.
Everything in the universe has motion: the moon cycles round the earth, the sap rises in the spring and our hearts keep us alive and kicking. Rhythm is everywhere, motivating us through every day at work, rest and play.
“The rhythm of life is a powerful beat,
Puts a tingle in your fingers and a tingle in your feet.”
(Sammy Davis Jr).
Enjoy these two videos, snap-shots of the ‘rhythm of life’ in two very different cultures:
– There is no movement without rhythm
– Making music with stuff from kitchen
5. CLAVES GO FOR A WALK
Like the drums in Video 4, claves belong to the percussion family in music. Commonly pronounced ‘kla-veh’, they can be found in almost all cultures, but are usually associated with Cuban music, characterised by its strong, toe-tapping rhythms and dances. It is thought they were developed from the wooden pegs used in ship-building by African slaves, keeping them together as they sang as they worked.
Playing the claves involves co-ordination between the left and right sides of the body, enhancing communication between different parts of the brain. Having fun with claves will not only help your child develop as a musician and prepare them for learning an instrument, it will also improve concentration and focus, visual and spatial awareness and reading and writing readiness.
When we get out the claves in our live music lessons, we use our imaginations and turn them into other things – the spiky prickles of a hedgehog, the tall ears of a rabbit, an umbrella to shelter us from the rain or a gate that creaks when it opens and closes.
In the book, Stanley’s Stick (John Hegley), a little boy has a stick that transforms into all sorts of things. You can hear the story read out loud here, with a vivid musical accompaniment that really brings the words to life.
6. CLAVES GO FOR A SWIM
Our final video combines voice-play and rhythm in the well-loved Full Circle Family Music song, Deep in the Deep. When you have enjoyed watching it and singing and playing along, you might like to read the book, A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea (Jessica Law). This is a ‘musical read’, a cumulative story told in rhythm and rhyme with verses that get longer and sillier from page to page, and a chorus that comes around again and again.
What will your claves become today? Cumulative songs are great for children because they:
– feature built-in repetition, helping with learning and memory, while still being silly and fun to sing
– provide a mental challenge – keeping track of all those lyrics and what to add each time
– help children develop their singing voices: the natural repetition creates numerous opportunities to listen and practice singing tunefully and with a beautiful tone; and the phrases get longer and longer each time you sing them, which is great for developing breath control.
You can watch the story beautifully sung and animated on the YouTube Barefoot Books channel here. Why not join in and see if you can keep up!