DM-K Mrs. S’s AM class 10/23/15

ogden harp
(Photo courtesy

Today in Mrs. S’s class I brought in a small lever harp. Seeing it in it’s black zipper case, the children wondered what it was. Some children knew. “How did you know?” I asked. “Because of it’s shape!” a little girl volunteered. It is fun to see what music children have been exposed to in their young lives.

We began class singing the DM theme song, and then we sang our Solfa scale “up and down the mountain” (an ascending and descending scale, beginning with middle C as Do). I sang slowly, as they had just begun learning the hand signs two weeks before. I took one girl and one boy volunteer to perform in front of the class. If a child does a sign wrong, I sometimes take the time to correct it–just in a little way to help them learn it. For example, if their fists are up high, I’ll say encouragingly, “Move your fists down by your belly button. Good job!” Or if “Ti” is difficult, I say, “Make some glasses in front of your eyes with your hands. Now POP the first finger up! And then move your hands back out in front of you. That’s right!”

After our scale, I reminded the children how we talked about each note having it’s own name and it’s own voice, just like each of them have their own unique voices, like we talked about last week. Some notes are higher and some are lower. I picked two notes (starting with “Daddy Do” and “Baby Do”) and asked which sound was higher and which one was lower. Daddy Do! I pointed out that “Daddy Do” is taller than “Baby Do” and showed them this by pulling the individual bells out and standing them up next to each other in front of me for the children to see.

I told them that each note sings its voice and we hear different notes because of the vibrations. (One little girl reminded us that “sound is vibrations that travel through the air to your ear that sends a message to your brain.” (I am always amazed at how much young children can remember even with such few repetitions and so much time elapsing in between lessons.) I explained that vibrations can travel at different speeds. “What is speed?” I asked. I ran fast across the front of my teaching space, and ran back the other way. Then I walked slowly back and forth. We talked about fast and slow. I asked them if they had ever seen a speed limit sign (I forgot my visual of one). It shows how fast you can drive your car down a road. “Do you ever say to your Dad or Mom, “Dad! You’re driving too fast!” (I always like getting the children to smile.) We tell cars how many miles per hour they can drive. We can also tell how fast or slow vibrations are going, and that is what gives them their PITCH. I had them repeat that word two or three more times. Pitch is how fast or slow the vibrations are going per second. Middle C (“Daddy Do”) is 256 Hertz, or oscillations per second. So there are 256 sound waves passing by in one second. Wow! That’s fast! Some pitches are a lot slower, like 80 Hertz, or a lot faster, like 440 Hertz. Symphonies tune to A at 440 Hz or above (A above middle C).

I took the cover off of the harp and pulled it to the front. As some of the strings were out of tune, I got out the tuner and started to tune them. One of the children guessed that the red strings were Do (C), and she was right! I showed them how each of the red strings had the same pitch, except that some were lower and some were higher. I meant to show them that the longer strings had the lower pitches and the shorter strings had higher pitches, but I think I might have forgotten that! (You can ask your child.)

I showed them a glissando going up the harp from low to high and going down from high to low. I told them that harpists do not use their pinkies to play the strings–only their thumbs through fourth fingers. I had them all come up and play a glissando on the harp. Then they sat back down and watched Chanson dans la nuit” (French for Song in the Night) by Carlos Salzedo and played by Yolanda Kondonassis (video here). I told them that the song was describing sounds that you might hear at night, such as wind. I asked them what they hear at night. They answered crickets, ants, birds, trees, dear (“reindeer”), bears. So we listened and they loved it. “Can we watch it again?” one little boy asked. I wished! We were out of time, and we sang our goodbye song.

(Glissandos begin at 3:00. Lots of technique talk until then.)

Tip: If you don’t own a harp (what are the chances?!) or know someone who does, you can Google “Suzuki harp teachers” or “harp teachers locally” or “wedding harpist” and see what comes up! Or check with your local university to see if there is a harp teacher in your area. Inviting teachers or students to come demonstrate their instruments can be good advertising for them and good exposure for your students! (Plus, you don’t have to haul it around!) It is always so beneficial for the students to get to see and touch different instruments, because it influences them on future choices of what they might learn to play later.

It’s Recital Time!

I am SO excited for our first recital in Beginning Orchestra! We have planted a bunch of great seeds in our minds this semester, and we’ve been nurturing them with our practicing. We have been able to see the seeds sprouting a little, and that is SO exciting!

We aren’t musical “trees” yet––we have some time to go yet, but we are growing in that direction.

I recently watched this video of a 13-year old who has been playing violin for some years now. She has worked very hard. She gets up very early and practices day after day after day. Her mom helps her, just like in our apple seed, although she doesn’t help her practice every day like she did when she was first starting to learn.

I hope you know how important recitals are. Recitals aren’t about playing perfectly (it’s wonderful when that happens once in a blue moon!). They are about sharing our progress. We need to share our progress so that others can celebrate our hard work with us, just like that potluck picnic we talked about, when everyone brings something to share that they have grown from their garden.

I am proud of each of you for trying to learn to make music better this semester. Thank you for each day that you practiced! Thank you for coming to class whenever you were able to. I hope that the last weeks of orchestra, we will work extra hard to learn “Brother John.” Together, we can do it!


Lord of the Rings

Lindsey Stirling is passionate about moving while she plays her violin. She really feels the music and shows it! But notice that she has learned how to keep her LH (left hand) wrist nice like a slide the whole time (no “pancake” wrist here!). AND she keeps her bow nice and parallel to the bridge the whole time (no crazy “skiing” all over the place bows). If you can get those two things to work for you (your LH and your bow arm) so that you are strong and steady, then you can move your body to the music more freely and joyfully! So keep working on those important posture position skills!

Two voices at once

I was completely delighted to receive an email from one of my students’ families this week with a link to a podcast interview with Simone Dinnerstein, a pianist who loves to go “Bachpacking,” or visiting public schools to share her love of Bach and his “Inventions” (short pieces he wrote to help piano students as exercises, kind of like our “What’s My Secret Recipe?” song, but TONS better.)

Listening to that podcast led me to Simone’s website, on which is a video. Please click on that link and watch this video since she talks about how the two hands in the invention she plays are playing two separate songs at the same time. That is just what we are trying to learn to do in Beginning Orchestra!

Our “Apple Seed” and “Recipe” songs are nothing like Bach’s! They don’t even sound perfect together! But they help you to learn to listen BOTH to yourself AND to someone else at the same time.

This is a really important skill that you will need to learn as you play in an orchestra (or sing in a choir, or accompany someone in a song, or have someone accompany you…). Learning to LISTEN makes you a good member of any kind of ensemble (=French for “together”) group. (A musical ensemble can be a duo, trio, quartet, chamber orchestra, orchestra, symphony, choir, etc.)

Notice how they try to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Twinkle, Twinkle” at the same time? 🙂

So when you practice singing your songs together, one thing that can help you hear yourself if to put one finger in one ear while you sing. It will seem to amplify your voice within your head while still allowing you to hear the other person.

Here’s perhaps the first classical music video I’ve ever seen. It’s Simone performing a piece an album she recorded of from Bach and Schubert (two great classical composers) while showing photos and video from her life:

One of the things I love about this video is the QUIET–no words–just the lovely music. So you can THINK. Lots to think about!

(This was the kind of music I was fortunate enough to fall asleep to at night, played by my mother on our piano in the family room beneath my bedroom. Now you know why I love it!)

Lift, place bowing: Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp K.299, Andantino

When you watch the violinists at the beginning of this piece, did you notice them lifting and placing their bows?

Did you see their bow holds? What about their shoulders?

Did you notice how the bows are going parallel to the bridge and the end of the fingerboard?

The violinists (and other string player) sometimes wiggle their left hand as they play. That’s called vibrato. (We learn that later on, after we get really good at placing each finger and moving our fingers around the fingerboard.)

Did you notice that everyone waited for the conductor and that the conductor looked to the soloists (the flute and harp players) before beginning the piece?

Did you see that everyone is dressed in black?

This lovely piece of music is part of a concerto, which is a song made up of 3 parts, or “movements.” The movements are named after the feeling or tempo of the part. Andantino means “slightly faster than walking pace.” Do you remember which language these musical terms comes from? Yes! Italian!

Mozart wrote this concerto, and this video is the movement andantino. Can you close your eyes and see if you can figure out the approximate bpm (beats per minute)? Remember that 60 bpm is 1 beat per second, so something slower than one beat per second would be fewer beats per minute and something faster than that would be more beats per minute. Andantino is often around 80 bpm (just a hint!).

The K in the name of this piece (K.299) stands for Köchel, the last name of a man (Ludwig von Köchel) who made a chronological list of all of Mozart’s pieces (“works”). The number stands for the number of the piece in that list. There are 629 works catalogued on his list!

Here’s some trivia for you: notice which fingers the harpist uses when he plays? Never the pinky finger! Also, did you know that flutes can be made out of nickel, silver, brass, and wood, or some are even made of gold! (A famous flutist named James Galway wrote a book about his life and career called The Man with the Golden Flute. He has a photo of himself holding his golden flute on the cover.)

Here is a video of a young harpist playing another Mozart concerto. (Check out the pinkies!) You can just leave this on as fabulous background music if you don’t want to watch it all…

Solfa, strings on “Where Can I Turn for Peace?”

Here’s something to give the children a little vision of where learning to play Solfa on their D string can take them.

I sincerely welcome replacement recordings! I am neither a professional singer nor professional violinist. The notes are not perfectly in tune, and the breathing is poor. (I didn’t have time to do retakes.) PLEASE: if anyone would like to re-do these recordings and email them to me, I’d love it!

“Where Can I Turn for Peace” is a hymn in the key of D with no accidentals (no added sharps or flats), so it’s an easy transfer from learning to play a D major scale, beginning on open D, particularly for a child who knows the hymn already in their head.

The Solfa for the hymn goes like this:

s f m f f m
s t l s r
m f s l l l s
f l d r
s f m f f m
s t d’ d’ d
d’ t l s d l
f m r d

Usually, the note the song ends in is the key for that song. So in this song, the last note is do on D, and it is in the key of D.


In Delicious Music, we work for smiles. ☺

You earn 1 smile for each day you complete all of your practice instructions.

You earn 1 smile for coming to class.

You earn 1 smile for getting on the sharing box and performing.

You earn 1 smile for participating with a positive attitude in class.

You earn extra smiles for doing something from the Extra Smile list.

While the teacher will plan for some individual and group rewards, parents are responsible to plan for and dutifully carry out those planned rewards. Be aware that what your child dreams up will more than likely be achieved, so only promise what you are willing to do or give.

Here’s an example: When I was about 9 years old, my best friend’s family moved to Switzerland. (I lived in California.) I desperately wanted to go visit her. My dad promised me that if I earned half the money for airfare, he would pay for me to go. Over a 2-year period, I earned the money. He did not expect I would. But he kept his promise, and I, my mom, and my sister went to Switzerland on a wonderful, life-changing trip.