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
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…