Issue 119: Carnival of the Animals – Pianists

After the success of “Aquarium” in calming a “lively” Wider Opportunities Keyboard class last week, I was planning to play them “The Swan”. However, the children seemed much more settled, and I thought I would save “The Swan” for a lesson when I really needed it, and played “Pianists” to the children instead.

This turned out to be an unexpectedly good idea.

We have been working on a little song and five-finger exercise that goes

  • 1 2 3 4 5;
  • 5 4 3 2 1.
  • 1 5 4 5 3 5 2 5 1 5 4 5 3 2 1
  • 1 2 3 4 5;
  • 5 4 3 2 1.
  • 1 5 4 5 3 5 2 5 1 5 4 5 6 7 8

Those are “the words”, and you just number off the notes of a scale (C major in our case) and sing the numbers to the pitches. I haven’t taught them “scale fingering”, so when we get to “6 7 8” they just use any fingers to play the last three notes on their keyboards.

Well, going back to “Pianists”,  as we listened, the children were able to spot that the pianists were playing something similar to the 12345 tune that they already knew. In fact, it is something along the lines of

12121212 12121212 12345432 12345432 1 2345678 (and another octave, but we just went back down again to 1)

We were also able to discuss

  • pitch – each scale starts slightly higher than the previous one
  • tempo – in my recording (Peter Katin and Philip Fowke) the scales are played at different speeds. In all the versions I’ve listened to, the last scale is played slower.
  • texture – the final scale is played in thirds, and so has a much “thicker” texture, and the orchestra plays great loud chords at the end of each scale

So, what with the listening, following the pitch movement of the scales with whole body movements, singing the 12345 song, and playing the two pieces (12345 song and “pianists”) on the keyboards, there was no time for any larking about. The children were kept busy-busy-busy and we had a very good lesson.

You could run the whole lesson using octave set of chime bars, glockenspiels and xylophones instead of keyboards, if you had enough to go round. Or boomwhackers… just remember that the children with 6 7 8 won’t have much to do – maybe you should double them up with 3 2 1.

Great Wall of Chimebars


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