Saturday, December 11, 2010

Just one more -- "Pentatonic Moon"

Again, congratulations players!

Also, just a reminder -- there is no ensemble practice next week. We will resume our morning schedule in January after the break.

Enjoy the the holidays, everyone!

Another clip from last night's show -- "Balafon"

Last Night's Winter Concert a Success!

Here's a sample from last night's winter show -- a piece written one of our own students entitled "The Garden."

It was a great show and I want to thank all the kids who worked so hard (and got up so early). Your efforts really paid off. Thanks also to the parents who came out to support what we do and to our colleagues from KDLP and Kids KOR for their wonderful contributions to the program.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Another clip from Friday's show -- "Zuni Song"

Here's a longer clip from both ensembles. As you can see it was a very tight fit, but our group handled it beautifully. Again, excellent work!

Congratulation Ensembles on the Larchmont Show!

Above is the first of two video clips from Friday afternoons show in Larchmont. The kids did such a wonderful job and the people at Landis and Chevalier's were very impressed and please. Good work everyone!

In fact the performance was so good that I am changing the rehearsal schedule from both ensembles tomorrow to just Orff (they have another song to work on). Those of you who are only in recorder ensemble, I will just need to see you Friday morning at our usual time and, of course, Friday night for the Winter Concert.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I keep meaning to post this for general reference. I hope it is helpful for both recorder players and recorder lovers.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Recorder Ensemble -- Tallis Canon

One more thing for you to work on over the break, ensemble cats. Check out this lesson and practice the Canon. Have a great break everybody!

Recorder Lesson on High E

I'm jumping ahead in the recorder lessons to one about the high E -- you'll need this note to play the melody of Zuni Song and the Parallel Melody in Tune of the Buffens -- so practice, practice, practice!

Zuni Song Exercise

Recorder Cats -- this week I also want you to practice making the high E you will need to play "Zuni Song." Listen to the exercise and follow this instructions. Remember -- the more times you repeat it, the better you will play it.

Hey Recorder Ensemble Cats -- check out "Zuni Song"

Here's a recording of the melody line from Zuni song, one of our songs from the concert on December 10.

Francesca, Clark and Aiden -- I'm hoping that you all will work on this over the break. As you can here the melody is really just two phrases --
High D-High E-High E-B-B A-G-B (repeat twice)

G-G-A-G-D A-D-G-G (repeat twice)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Recorder Lesson 6 -- Low D

Here's another lesson for you recorder players -- you'll find this note, low D, very handy!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Tune of the Buffens" Phrase 4

"Tune of the Buffens" Phrase 2

"Tune of the Buffens" Phrase 1 & 3

"Tune of the Buffens" -- Complete

Recorder Ensemble Members and Third Graders -- here is the piece I gave you on Friday. Just click on the play button to hear the recording.

Above I have "deconstructed" it by breaking into smaller, slower chunks for you to learn. I hope you find this process helpful!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Recorder Lesson 5 -- High C & D

Recorder Lesson 4 -- Improvisation

Recorder Lesson 3 -- E

Hi Recorder Ensemble members and third graders. Here's the first of three video lessons to help you practice. Enjoy them -- and no laughing at my hat ;)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More Fifth Grade Frolics

5th Grade Lesson 1 and 2 -- Compositional building blocks: rhythm

Last week and this week 5th graders began general music classes with the aim of having each student develop an original 16 bar composition.

To do this this the students need to develop a comfort level with the basic components of music beginning with rhythm. Last week the students learned the Keith Terry body percussion piece, "Hey, You, What." This week they began to develop a short performance piece using the rhythms of a variety for school rules for inspiration. In both cases the goal was to demonstrate the role that language plays in developing musical rhythm and how things like meter and notation can be used to keep our rhythms organized.

Next week -- melody!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Recorder Lesson 2 -- B-A-G

Here's another 3 minute lesson of the notes B-A-G.

Recorder Lesson 1 -- Basic Technique

Hey Third graders and other recorder lovers. Here is the first of two videos for you to review and practice with. It's all stuff we covered in class last Friday, but this way you can refresh your memory when you need to. Just click on the play button

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Music at Third Street Begins for 2010-2011!

Friday we had our first day of music classes. I know I feel this way every year, but it does seem like Third Street has an exceptionally bright bunch of kids this year. I am excited about the prospect of working with them.

Third Graders were up first. For anyone who is new to the school or to this blog, music at Third Street is taught in three ten week blocks, with Third Grade and Fifth Grade going in Block 1 (this arrangement allows me to cover the whole school). In third grade our primary focus is on melody and note reading so every kid receives a recorder and instruction on how to use it. We also spent a little time discussing other members of the "aerophone" family and how they work. Students also received their first piece of music -- "Mary Had A Little Lamb: -- written in tablature, a style notating that tell the musician how to play as well as what to play.

Friday I also visited all fourth and fifth grade classes to let them know that ensemble is beginning next week. With furlough days coming up in November, I decided to start a little early this year, so we will be ready for our first dhow in December.

At Third Street School there are two ensembles that meet in the morning before classes -- an Orff Ensemble that meets on Tuesdays that is open to 4th and 5th graders and a Recorder Ensemble for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders that meets on Fridays. If anyone is not familiar with Orff Ensemble, there is some video on my website homepage. Permission forms for both ensembles were passed out to students and additional forms are available in the office. Feel free to e mail me at or post me a message on this blog, if you'd like more information about the ensembles.

Should be a great year. Keep checking back!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Video Link Test -- Body Percussion

Body Percussion from Richard Lawton on Vimeo.

I'm trying out a new video hosting site, which, I am told, is nor blocked by LAUSD. This will allow me to post video lessons which the kids can watch on school computers and smartboards, as well they home computers. Let's see how it works.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Orff Ensemble -- "Street Song"

The Orff Ensemble performs one of the best known and most challenging pieces in the Orff repertoire. Way to go guys!

More pictures from Concert in the Park

Concert In the Park concludes my year at Third Street

Last night the year of General Music at Third Street concluded with Concert in The Park. It was a great evening. The Orff and Recorder Ensemble performed and we were joined my Michelle Kopacz's Tap & Movement and Hip Hop Groups, 5th Grade Swing Dancers under the direction of Akiko Morrison and Hannah Limb's 5th graders performing traditional Korean dances. Earlier in the day we had out first grade performance of "The Three Little Pigs" so that concludes my teaching year at Third Street.

I'll be posting some additional pictures and a video here this morning. But I also wanted to say thanks, especially to my fifth graders who will be culminating next week. Diego, Rhett, Ella, Jamie, Alex, Victoria -- I'll miss you guys. You've all come a long way as musicians and will go far, I'm certain. Good luck to you.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Air - Part 2 Complete

Hi recorder ensemble. As discussed here's the second part of Air. Try to work on this and don't forget about the special rehearsal on Tuesday afternoon!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Recorder Ensemble - "Air" (B part)

Recorder cats -- since the second and fourth phrase of "Air" are so similar to the first 8 measures, I'll move right along to the middle section -- what we'll call the B part. This is the part we worked on in class. You should be able to follow along with the music I gave you. The pitch pattern is A-G-A-B-B C-B-C-D A-G-A-B-B C-B-A B-C

Listen to the recording a few times and then try to play along with the metronone.

Kindergarten Week 4 -- Dynamics, Tempo & Pitch

Some student work from Week 3 -- nicely done!

This week kindergarteners had an opportunity to explore the ways the same piece of music can be changed by making it louder or softer, faster or slower, higher or lower in pitch. We call these different ways of playing the music variations and they help keep music interesting. We also spent some time talking about how to use symbols to tell us how to play -- a prelude to note reading.

Homework -- dynamics worksheet

First Grade Week 4 -- Melody and Contour

This week we continued our study of how musical instruments work by focusing on the roll that size and tension play to determining pitch. The kids learned that the shorter, smaller or tighter a vibrating surface was the higher the pitch tended to be. It is from the relationship of highs and lows that the concepts of melody and scales developed.

The kids then got a chance to try the concept out by using the Orff xylophones for the first time. They concluded by constructing a piece of music and movement around the song "All The Leaves Are Falling Down", using scarves to represent the leaves. Very beautiful!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Kindergarten Week 3 -- the same, similar and different

Being able to recognize when things are the same, when they are similar and when they are completely different is essential to being able to classify and organize things and an important musical skill. For this reason we spent a good amount of lesson time in Kinder this week talking about how a variety of objects including the chakere's from last week's lesson. We did manage to get in some singing and dancing as well, beginning with the Spanish body part song "Mi Cuerpo" and ending with the similar song in English, "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes."

First Grade Week 3 -- Aerophones and pitch

This week in First Grade music we continued our study of instruments by focusing on aerophones -- instruments that make music through a vibrating column of air. This would include woodwinds, horns and reeds such as clarinet or saxophone. The kids learned that some of the earliest flutes were often made to resemble birds, most likely because of the sound they made. We also spent a fair amount of time focusing on the concept of pitch -- the relative highness or lowness of sound.

Homework -- Aerophone worksheet

Recorder Ensemble - "Air" (first 8 measures)

Recorder Cats -- here's the first 8 measures of our new piece "Air", slowed down so you can practice it. The pitch pattern is D-D-D-C-B-A-G-A then low D-E-F#-G-A-B-C-D-B-A The last two notes are the pick up to the next phrase -- B-C

Work on this a bit this week and I will be going over the rest of the piece at rehearsal on Friday.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Kindergarten Week 2 -- Patterns in Music

Mr. A, who is compiling video clips for a larger kindergarten project, was kind enough to share this snippet from Friday's lesson on patterns. The kids have been learning about patterns -- especially AB pattern as part of their math instruction and we spent some time looking at how this idea of patterns applies to music. In the video clip, for example, students are developing a hand jive to accompany the the A section of "Bam Chi Chi Bam," a Jamaican folk tune. The kids were able to observe that the phrase "Bam Chi Chi Bam" is actually an ABA pattern itself. Apart from reinforcing the math standards, the goal here is get kids to think about how to keep their music organized so they can make it together more effectively.

Homework: Chakere coloring worksheet

First Grade Week 2 -- How Drums Work

This week in first grade music we focused on drums -- how they can classified as membranophones -- drums with skin heads such as the kettle drum in the photo and idiophones -- drums and other percussion where the instrument itself is what vibrates to produce sound. We also talked about how drums likely developed in hunter/gatherer cultures. It wasn't all science in history, however. The kids learned two songs they seemed to have a lot of fun with -- "Everybody Born in ___________ Skip Around" and "Apples, Peaches, Pears and Plums."

Homework -- Complete Membranophone/Idiophone Worksheet

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Kindergarten Week 1 -- We hear with our ears

We had a terrific first week in Kindergarten music. It was wonderful to meet all the new students (by now they all veteran students, but they are mostly new to me). We learned a wonder train song from Zimbabwe, "M'bombera," which the students sang and played an accompaniment on shakers we made.

The emphasis throughout was how we use our ears, eyes and sense of touch in music to organize sensory input. In the upcoming weeks we will, of course, be talking about how this can be turned into output -- making a joyful in an organized way.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

First Grade Week 1 -- the science of sound

We had a great first day in First Grade music today. After a warming up with a Dr. Suess chant -- "Sing With A Ying" -- the kids and I conducted a series of experiments to learn how sound works. We made observations, not just with our ears, but also with our eyes and our sense of touch (as in the picture of the temples bowls seen here). This is a prelude to a 10 week discussion of how the different families of instruments make different kinds of sounds or timbre and how those sounds can be used to express different ideas. Last year we were able to use these ideas to create a musical version of one of their open court stories, and I hope to do the same this year.

Homework -- Worksheet #1

Street Songs -- Gunild Keetman

Hey Orff Ensemble Cats -- I hope everybody had a great break. Here is a recording of one of the pieces I want us to learn for the June concert. It is probably the most famous Orff piece ever written. And as we discovered today in rehearsal, it requires 3 mallet technique. Are you up to the challenge?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Second Grade Week 9/10 -- Constructing Melody

The last two weeks of second grade music we have been focusing in melody as it relates to rhythm and constructing improvisations and compositions based on the pentatonic. All this is a prelude to a more complete study of melody and note reading in 3rd grade. As this recording from Ms. Nunez's class indicates the kids are well on their way to a real understanding of all these musical concepts.

I had a great time with second grade this year. Have a great break second graders and enjoy your drums!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Concert In The Park -- "The Joker"

What a wonderful time we had at Concert in the Park last night! The kids from both ensembles performed extremely well as you can see from this video. We were joined on the bill by the KDLP drummers, Kids KOR Hip Hop and Tap groups and an aerobics demo by Akiko Morrison. All this on the heels of Hoop-a-thon. It was some day.

Remember ensemble cats -- there will be no rehearsal next week or the following which is Spring Break. Orff rehearsals will resume on Tuesday April 6 and Recorder on Friday April 9.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Orff Rehearsal - "Twinkling Melody"

Here is the other piece "Twinkling Melody." This one was a bit less polished, but the ideas are all there. Give it a listen and pay particular attention to how the piece unfolds. That is how we are doing it for the concert.

Orff Rehearsal - "Chinese Lights"

Orff Ensemble -- here is the recording we made of the first run through of "Chinese Lights". Please give it a listen to familiarize yourself with the arrangement.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"The Joker" - Sopranino Solo Part 2

Dora -- here's the other half of your solo. Remember, it's okay if it has an improvised feeling.

See you on Tuesday!

"The Joker" - Coda with xylophone

Ensemble cats -- here's the final piece of "The Joker". It's a very simple pitch pattern -- A-G-F-D-C. The trick is how to fit it in with what the xylophones are doing. Check it out and try to work on it this week.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Second Grade Week 8 -- Intro to Pitched Percussion

Today we broke some of the Orff Barred Instruments for the second graders so they could try our some of their drumming skills on these wonderful pitched percussion instruments. The kids were very enthusiastic, confirming once again the wisdom of these purchase for the school by Friends of Third a few years ago -- thank you parents.

Rhythm is often taught before pitch in music, as it seems to be a concept that is easier for kids to comprehend. However, as the kids learned today, melody is nothing more than the pitch sequence attached the rhythm. Next week we will continue discussing melody and introduce the concept of pitch names.

I hope you enjoy this brief video as much as Ms. Pak's class seemed to making it.

Fourth Grade Week 8 -- Completing Our Songs

This week we used the music class to review the work the students have done in collaboration with one another on their 16 bar songs. I have to say, this assignment seems to have produced more resistance than in previous years. If we do it again next year I will certainly try to make more resources available on the blog and in the classrooms. However a number of kids were able to complete the assignment with excellent results as shown here in this sweet song from Mr. Basssett's class.

I will be transcribing more of these songs onto Sibelius music scoring software over the weekend so that we can sing a few of them in class. They will also be gathered in a book (as the 5th grade compositions were). This kids have until next week to complete their work.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"The Joker" - Sopranino Solo Part I

Hey Dora -- here's the first half of your Sopranino Solo (actually a duet with me). Gets started on this and I will put up the other half later this week.

"The Joker" - Chorus w/xylophone

...And here's the way the whole chorus sounds with the xylophone part added.

"The Joker" - Chorus Phrase 4

Here's Phrase 4... The pitch pattern is A-A-B flat-A-A-G-G.

"The Joker" - Chorus Phrase 3

Here's phrase 3... The pitch pattern is F-F-A-A F-F-B flat-B flat F-F-C-C D-A-G-F-F.

"The Joker" - Chorus Phrase 2

Here's Phrase 2... The pitch pattern is A-A-B flat-A-A-G-G A-G-F.

"The Joker" - Chorus Phrase 1

Recorder Ensemble -- sorry I couldn't get this up a bit earlier. Here is the recorder part of the chorus of "The Joker" broken into 4 phrases. Try to learn them by practicing them one at a time. (You can also go back at watch the video on B flat I posted a few weeksn ago).

Here's Phrase 1... The pitch pattern is F-F-A-A F-F-B flat-B-Flat F-F-C-C F-F-B flat-B flat.

Second Grade Week 6/7 -- Learning to play our drums

The last couple of weeks in 2nd grade music we've been learning how to use the drums we made, how to achieve different effects by playing with our hands or sticks and also how to improvise. To that end (and this being black history month) we used African children's game songs like "Ise Oluwa" and "Che Che Koolay" to develop our drum vocabulary. As I have observed in the past having the kids fabricate their own drum goes a long way in getting them to really focus on some of the abstract musical concepts I want them to learn.

Next week we will begin talking about how these ideas of beat and rhythm can be transferred to pitched instruments.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fourth Grade Week 6 & 7 -- Developing Our Songs

For the last two weeks Fourth Grade has continued to develop their melody lines which this week they will be turning into full blown songs in a collaboration with a classmate. Thia seems to have been more of struggle this year than in previous years. However, most students seem to have gotten things untracked finally. Here are a couple of examples of successful contour line/melody line projects from Mr. Bassett's class. If you're wondering about the teacher's and president's names, they are used to give the kids some interesting rhythmic ideas.

Homework -- due this Friday is your song melody combined with that of your table partner. Please don't forget about the lyrics -- I want to start singing a few of these next week.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

More pix from drum making

Second Grade Week 5 -- Drum Heads

This week in second grade music we finished our drums by putting the heads on. This activity has become something a few parents help out with every year and I think it is a great experience for them and the kids -- after all, part of what we learning about in this unit is being aware of our community and our heritage. The kids also learned a lovely Yoruban devotional song, "Ise Oluwa," which we will be playing on our drums once all the classes are finished putting them together.

It was a very fun day. I'll post a few more pictures shortly.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fourth Grade Week 5 -- Melody, the Line and Contour

This week's class was devoted the the idea that melody, in addition to following the rhythm pattern, unfolds in a line that rises and falls. We call this "contour." And since it is also called contour in visual art, we will be starting a project that should produce interesting melodies and drawings.

The work from other years posted here shows what I am talking about. First students drew a contour line on the musical staff paper. They then transferred that line to a blank piece of paper and createrd a color drawing around it. For the last step, the step I want to do together in class on Tuesday, they added notes along the line. Please don't do that part yet. And please remember to keep the up and down in your lines of contour reasonable.

Enjoy your three day weekend!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Recorder Lesson 6 - "B flat"

Okay so it's more of a 4 minute lesson. Recorder cats try working on your B flats in addition to the other audio samples I've given. You will need them to play "The Joker."

"D'aquel Fraire Flaco" - rehearsal video

Hi Recorder Cats -- I thought this might be useful to see how all the parts sound together. It is a recording my Orff Level III group made of "D'aquel Fraire Flaco" this summer. Thanks to my ensemble-mates and fellow music teachers -- Kim, Heidi, Carlos and Tammy and instructor, Robbie (on the tenor).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

"D'aquel Fraire Flaco" - part 3

Francesca, Suzie and Chelsea -- you take part 3.

I will learn part 4.

"D'aquel Fraire Flaco" - part 2

Part 2 follows the same pattern -- AABBAA. Let's have Victoria and Dora on part 2. Give it a listen and start to learn it.

"D'aquel Fraire Flaco" - part 1

One more song to give you today -- our 4th and 5th graders in recorder ensemble are playing this Renaissance piece. As the music I gave them on Friday indicates, the song is in two parts -- the A part is repeated twice, then the B part twice, then back A two more times.

Jenny, Diego and Rhett -- here is your part -- part 1. See if you can follow along in your music and begin to learn it.

"The Earth Is Our Mother" -- Phrase 5 (& 6)

Finally here is the last phrase. In the song it is repeated twice. C-A-A-A-G-A-A-A-G-A-A-A.

"The Earth Is Our Mother" -- Phrase 4

Since phrase 3 is a repeat of phrase 1, let's go directly to phrase 4. The pattern is A-G-A-C-D-A.

"The Earth Is Our Mother" -- Phrase 2

Here's the second part of the first line -- the pitches are A-G-A-C-B-A.

"The Earth Is Our Mother" -- Phrase 1

Here is the same song is slower more manageable chunks. In phrase 1 pitch pattern is A-G-A-A-A-G-A-A.

Recorder Ensemble -- "The Earth Is Our Mother" complete

Hey recorder cats -- as promised I will be posting a lot of material for you this weekend. First up is our song "The Earth Is Our Mother." Here is a recording of it at performance speed with both soprano and alto voices.

Second Grade Week 4 -- "Drum Making"

One of the annual events in my program I look most forward to is the making of gourd drums in second grade. It gives a very concrete meaning to the the idea of "hands on" music. The kids can use these drums to learn about beat and rhythm, but we also use them to discuss culture and community. The best part is the kids get to take them home eventually.

Over the years we've managed to get the construction broken into two parts, the first part being the decorating of the gourd shells. Next week we will be putting on the drum heads and for that I could use a little parental assistance. Two parents per class would be great and no musical or drum making ability is required.

The next music class is on Friday. You can let your child's teacher know or you can e mail me at

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fourth Grade Week 4 -- Introduction to Melody

Having spent several weeks discussing beat and rhythm we began this week to talk about melody. As the kids discovered, melody is not that complicated. It is simply a sequence of rising and falling pitches that follows the rhythm pattern, often dictated by the text of lyrics. Using the rhythm rainbow puzzle boxes they made the last week the kids improvised pentatonic melodies on the Orff instruments -- with very pretty results.

Homework -- no worksheet this week. I have my hands full getting the gourds ready for second grade!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Recorder Ensemble -- Presenting The Sub Contrabass

Recorder cats -- here's that video I promised you of the biggest recorder in the world.

Second Grade Week 3 -- "Son Macaron"

On Friday the second graders learned the Yugoslavian beat passing game. I have used this game for a couple of years now and I never cease to be amazed at how excited the kids get. In "Son Macaron" the kids sit in a circle and sing a song while they clap each others hands on the beat. Anybody who is "caught" when the music stops has to leave the circle, but gets to become part of the band. The objective is to reinforce what they are learning about the relationship between rhythm and beat.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Pretty Saro" -- Phrase 8

Last one! Pitch pattern: B-A-G-D-E-D

"Pretty Saro" -- Phrase 7

Pitch pattern: D-D-G-E-D-D-G-A

"Pretty Saro" -- Phrase 6

Pitch pattern: A-B-D-E-D (low D & E)

"Pretty Saro" -- Phrase 5

Pitch pattern: A-B-D-D-E-A-G
(Note -- that's high D and High E)

"Pretty Saro" -- Phrase 4

Pitch pattern: A-A-B-D-D-A

"Pretty Saro" -- Phrase 3

Pitch pattern: D-D-G-E-D-G-A

"Pretty Saro" -- Phrase 2

Pitch pattern: B-A-G-D-E-D

"Pretty Saro" -- Phrase 1

Recorder cats -- listen to the audio and try to read along with the music. The pitch pattern is: