This game and its extension help to:
Go through a series of sounds and movements using your body and ask the children to copy all the sounds you make and all the actions you do. For example:
Make sure that you:
This time instead of asking the children to change when you change, ask them to change only when you say the word change. This can be challenging but helps develop the musical skill of doing one thing whilst someone else is doing something different.
This warm up activity supports the children exploring the range of sounds and colours they can make on their instruments in preparation for later activities.
Make sure that all the children have an instrument or selection of instruments to play. Explain to the group that when you open your hands they are to play – very quietly when they are close together, very loudly when far apart - everything in the middle. They should be silent when your palms are together. Practice going from loud to quiet then quiet to loud. Try to get the full range of dynamics in – can they play any quieter, any louder?
You could ask the children also to conduct using these signals to create short pieces exploring loud and quiet.
Now try this again but instead of loud and quiet use:
Don’t be satisfied with what happens the first time you do this. Challenge the children to be as spiky as possible, or as smooth as possible, to go from a mass of notes to very sparse notes.
Start and Stop
This warm up starts in a similar way to Contrasts but then develops differently. Show the group a clear conducted ‘start’ signal, and a clear conducted ‘stop’ signal. The simplest way to do this is have closed hands (palms together) for stop (or silent) and open hands for play.
Ask the group to start and stop precisely when you give the signals. The children can play anything they like or an idea you have jointly chosen, but must you watch very carefully.
Ensure everyone can see you clearly. Be strict, especially about the stop signal! Ask children with resonant instruments to stop their sound ringing and demand accuracy.
As you conduct, vary the length of the playing time, and the length of the silences to make the activity challenging, to encourage excellent watching and to demonstrate the creative use of silence.
Now ask one or two of the children to be the conductor. Each time ask them to demonstrate the ‘start’ and ‘stop’ signal before the group plays. Encourage strong, clear gestures, and ensure that the whole group is watching the conductor.
Carrying on from before, explain that as you move your hands further apart, they should play louder and when they are closer together they should play quieter.
Ask the children to play and match the dynamic as indicated by your hands. Be playful - allow some extended loud playing as well as controlled quiet playing, with lots of mixing up in between. Keep using silences of different lengths. Try to encourage the full spectrum of dynamics from very very quiet to very loud. You may need to practice the very very quiet playing a few times. Ask one or two children to conduct.
Introduce a new signal – the chop. Explain that when you do a single chop with one hand (like a karate chop) everyone will play one short note (on any pitch) altogether. Practice conducting single chops with varying lengths of silence in between. Be very precise about the ensemble sound and make sure that the group is exactly synchronised on your ‘chop’.
Ask one or two children to conduct some chops. Again, make sure their gestures are clear and strong.
You can now experiment with combining the different signals explored so far to create an improvised piece - chops, continuous sounds with varying dynamics and silence. Invite different children to try this. Comment on their effective use of dynamics, silence and the mixing of the two gestures.
Ask the whole class to play very short quiet sounds with gaps in between, like raindrops, all at different times. Ask them what conducted signal could represent this texture e.g. dotting your fingers in the air. Try a few ideas out and decide on the most effective. Practice starting and stopping together using the new gesture. Discuss with the class what other kinds of sounds you could use to create a different musical textures e.g.:
Collectively decide on a distinctive conducted gesture for each new texture, then practice starting and stopping each one using the new gesture. Invite children to conduct/compose their own compositions using the different gestures.