Issue 56: Drones, Rounds, and Ostinati

I used the welcome song Funmje Alafia, Ashe, Ashe, to teach the difference between the three types of accompaniment in double quick time this week. (The words mean something along the lines of “Give me happiness, Amen, amen)

Having taught the song to the year 5/6 class the week before, we sang it through a few times as a memory jogger. Then we sang it again in two groups, the second group starting when the first group had reached “Ashe, Ashe”. This was very straightforward for this age-group, as the tune remains the same until the last phrase, at which time a hand signal at the right time and in the right direction will remind them to sing the higher melody.

“How were we singing the song this time?” I asked, and back came the answer “as a round”. Perfect.

We sang it again, with group 1 singing the final phrase over and over again while group 2 followed me in singing the whole song.

“What did we do this time?” The answers were less certain. I was offered “harmony” as “the final answer”, so obviously the word “ostinato” hadn’t yet taken root from last week.  (query to self and colleague – how did we manage to teach a whole year of samba without using the word “ostinato”?). The children understood the concept very quickly – I shall have to keep reminding them of the word. (query to self – why? How relevant will this word be to their future happiness and success?).

Finally, I set group 1 to singing “Ashe, Ashe” on a single pitch – note F, the starting note. This time, no-one had any knowledge that this is called a “drone” accompaniment.

As it is such a simple tune, I was able to demonstrate the drone and the ostinato accompaniments without too many miss-hits on an alto xylophone (nice big bars means a bigger target area for the beater).

The rest of the lesson followed through on the idea of pentatonic melodies and drone accompaniments. Next week, I shall check if any of these seeds of wisdom have taken root.

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