65/100 Pentatonic Composition

Here’s an idea for call-and-response pentatonic song composition.

I started by teaching the song “Hill ‘n’ Gully Ride-a” – but you can skip this step if you like. The children just need to understand the concept of call-and-response; here’s an example;


And the full song; the words that change are the call, and the response stays the same.

Not last night but the night before:  step back baby, step back 

Twenty-four robbers at my door:  step back baby, step back 

I went down to let them in:  step back baby, step back 

Hit them on the head with my rolling-pin:  step back baby, step back 

You should have seen how those robbers ran:  step back baby, step back 

When I got out my frying pan:  step back baby, step back 

Some went East and some went West:  step back baby, step back 

Some jumped over the cuckoo’s nest:  step back baby, step back  

So, now we are going to make up our own song. The idea is that each line changes, and there is a constant response, or refrain. For example:

I like eating fish and chips; yummy in my tummy

feeding the lions

Pizza with apple sauce; yummy in my tummy

Chocolate sauce on my ice-cream; yummy in my tummy    

Grate a bit of cheese on my sandwich; yummy in my tummy 

Now, using the notes C D E G A on chime bars or other pitched percussion just bong out the syllables of your call; for example; C D E D G A G for “I like eating fish and chips”. Trust me – anything you do will sound plausible – that’s the beauty of using a pentatonic scale. For the response, everyone claps the rhythm of the response, or plays it on unpitched percussion.

Once you have demonstrated the idea a few times, you can divide the children into groups of about 3. Their mission is to each create a phrase (sentence) on a topic and work out which notes they want to play it on. As a group, they all play the response on unpitched percussion.

Each group gets a set of chime bars/boomwhackers/pitched percussion for the notes C D E G A, and a set of hand-held percussion like castanets, shakers, jingles. You could also give them pencil and paper to make notes.

Prepare for a wall of sound as they all get busy…

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