TEACHING LIVE LOOPING and simple PRINCIPLES of MUSIC to Schoolchildren

Here is a really fun and powerfully empowering approach to teaching a general elementary or junior high school class about Music and Looping.

It always works, regardless of socio-economic conditions or educational sophistication
and kids get really turned on by it.  Some of this may be pretty self evident
and it is, of course, important to find one’s way in it,  but here’s an approach that works well

1) Take a bunch of pots and pans;  bottles and silverware…………..stuff that would normally be found in a kitchen.

2) Show kids how you can make interesting sounds with said instruments. (TIMBRE)
Put water in pots,   gong the sides with your thumb,  drop a bunch of silverware onto a pan making a crashing sound,   blow notes on a small bottle……….then a big bottle……….just get creative with nothing.   Don’t be afraid to be silly or even slapstick comedic.    Kids love it when adults let ‘their hair down’.

3)  Teach the kids the universal sign (whatever you want it to be)   for STOP PLAYING (CONDUCTING)

4) Teach the kids a really simple rhythm.

I always use      ” ONE  *    DOU-BLE   *   DOU-BLE   *”
X * X X * X X *

(commonly called ‘Cinquillo’, the Malinke rhythmic djembe ‘ride’ that came to the new world in it’s subset form,  “Tresillo”     X * *  X * * X * )

Get them to sing it and then clap it and then sing it and clap it.    (RHYTHM)

5) STOP THEM and then rearrange the ONEs and DOU-BLEs to make a new rhythm
STOP and ask them if someone wants to suggest a new rhythm (using combinations of “ONEs”  and “DOU-BLEs”) (COMPOSITION)

Get everyone to clap this new rhythm in unison with you.

6) STOP THEM   and see if they can play two repititions of the rhythm as loud as they can and two as soft as they can.  (DYNAMICS)

While they do this ,  use your hands up in the air to represent hi volume and down low to represent low volume (more CONDUCTING)

7)  STOP THEM  and tell them that you want to play follow the leader and you want to see how good they are at following your DYNAMIC HAND SIGNALS…………..this is a fun game and you have to tie it to how sophisticated and old they are.(Don’t hesitate to slow down whatever you are doing so that they are all getting it,  but also be aware that you might be able to push them harder than you would ever dream.     There’s nothing more exciting than to be challenged by a teacher in  a very loving and supportive way and then praising them for being really good at following directions)

8) STOP THEM (and praise them)   Then get them to play the same rhythm but  add to the rhythm, yourself,by playing simple subsets of it on different instruments
on a mic that is turned up loud enough for them to clearly hear it over their inevitably boisterous clapping (ORCHESTRATION)

Invent a part on a pan………..stop………..invent another part by playing spoons together……stop…..blow a part on a bottle…..continue in this fashion, writing a few new parts.

9) STOP THE CLASS and explain what a loop is and ask their permission to loop them (they love this)

Ask them to clap by themselves again and record a loop of them doing this and get them to stop and listen as the loop continues.

10)   STOP THE LOOP and ask them to LISTEN VERY CAREFULLY without CLAPPING
Now, START THE LOOP AGAIN and quickly, layer on each part you’ve ‘written’ onto your existing loop until it’s a little composition.

11)  STOP THEM after they ‘get’ what you are doing  and ask them if they have any questions……….they should be bubbling by now.

Answer questions until they are ‘asked out’  and then ask if someone would want to come up and try it out themselves.

Let them know that everyone can get a quick chance so that each person needs to be brief in trying it out.

Most kids will be too shy………….more aggresive kids will sometimes want too much attention so it’s good to preface their attempt with a word about being fair to everyone due to limited time……………everyone will watch it like a hawk!

This whole approach can take from 45 minutes to 1 hour.