I remember the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I said to myself, “I am on vacation, I don’t need to exercise”. As you can imagine, when I returned to campus that fall, I was huffing and puffing as I walked from one class building to another. You guessed it—I got out of shape. The same exact thing can happen to our brains and our musical skills if we let it.
In this post, I want to share some tips and tricks to keep our skills going all summer long. I have put suggestions into grade categories, but this does not mean that older students won’t benefit from things in younger categories and vice versa.
If I had to simplify all the activities we do in these classes, I would use the categories of movement, listening, creating, singing, and playing. For movement, there is a great series on youtube called GoNoodle. These are fun videos that show you what dance moves to do on the screen as you do them. Another popular series of videos is from the game Just Dance. Parents, please preview the Just Dance songs first to be sure they are appropriate for your child. Maybe your child would want to invite some friends over for a dance party!
For listening, we have both live and recorded options. For live music, our region has the excellent American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront August 23, 24, and 25. I recommend going to the website https://americanfolkfestival.com/ and checking the schedule to see which acts might interest your child. Often, they have videos of the groups on the website so you can hear the style of music. Many towns have community bands that play outdoor concert series in the summer. I know the Bangor Band even has a website with its concert schedule: https://bangorband.org/ There are limitless options for recorded music. One great site that I have used with students is through the London Symphony Orchestra https://play.lso.co.uk/ With this site, your child can listen to a piece of music while selecting multiple camera angles to view the performance as a member of the orchestra, from the conductor’s perspective, from an audience perspective, or to see instrument sections up close.
For creating, there are a couple of fun sites that do not require any knowledge of music notation. Groove Pizza- https://apps.musedlab.org/groovepizza/?museid=H19DNpaRN& allows you to create your own drum patterns by clicking dots in a circular pattern. Chrome Song Maker- https://musiclab.chromeexperiments.com/Song-Maker/ allows you to create a melody on a grid representing pitch (vertical) and rhythm (horizontal).
For singing, there are thousands of fun Karaoke options on Youtube. Simply type in the title of the song and artist and the word “karaoke”. Karaoke means the backing music is there, but the main vocals are left out. Again, check a song for content to be sure it is a good fit for your child.
For playing, it is fun to explore the sounds we can make from everyday objects. Children this age often enjoy making their own instruments, like a guitar out of a Kleenex box and rubber bands to a drum out of an oatmeal container. Another idea is to find relatives and friends that own musical instruments and would not mind your child playing them.
As I said above, all of the options for PreK-1st Grade are still great choices for older children, especially the American Folk Festival, community band concerts, Groove Pizza, and Chrome Song Maker.
Children in the intermediate grades may want to have more control over their music making and benefit from more time spent on music creation. In addition to Groove Pizza and Chrome Songmaker, there are a few other music creation sites that I recommend.
The first group do not require an e-mail address or registration. Drumbit- https://drumbit.app/ is modeled after a physical drum machine. You can layer rhythms and select which type of drum/cymbal is making the sound. The Rhythm Trainer- http://www.therhythmtrainer.com/ This site has two modes. One plays the rhythm and you have to put the notes in order to “write” what you heard. The other option shows the rhythm and you have to select the recording that matches.
Other options for online music creation involves having to register with an e-mail address. They are still free (unless you select a premium upgrade). Soundation- https://soundation.com/ and AudioTool https://www.audiotool.com/ are simple DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations), they allow you to record either using a microphone or enter information with a MIDI keyboard. These can be really powerful tools for music creation.
For intermediate students in band, think of your instrument as your best friend. You love to spend time with them, but if you spend too much time with them every single day, they start to drive you crazy! Maybe play your instrument just a few minutes every day. Or, if you play it a lot one day, take a break the next day. Getting together with friends that play the same or different instruments can be awesome. Have a jam session together. Maybe start your own rock band!
All of the music we have played in band should be available on your school Google Drive account. If you have trouble finding something, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to find it for you. You can always buy music for your instrument, but I always like pursuing free options first. The Bangor Public Library has a great selection of music at different levels. If you are not sure of the exact title you want, ask a librarian to help you.
6th Grade and Above
Just like with intermediate students, middle schoolers really excel with music creation. Check out the options in the intermediate category, as they are still great for this age. If you are into keyboard, Chrome Chords- https://musiclab.chromeexperiments.com/Chords/ can show you how to play different chords. musictheory.net is for motivated students that want to get better at reading notes on a staff, understanding scales and chords, hearing intervals between notes, etc. There’s a lot of complicated stuff that you can access on this site, so do not feel discouraged if something is a little advanced for you. If you are comfortable giving an e-mail address to register, Noteflight https://www.noteflight.com/ and MuseScore https://musescore.org/en are both free online music notation softwares. If you want to start exploring songwriting and composition, check these out to put your ideas into notation that can be printed.
For Chorus students, find music that you love to sing. Sing in the car on a long trip. Find karaoke options on Youtube, as suggested above. You do not have to sing every day, but do it often enough that you maintain your breath control and your range.
For band students, the same thing applies to middle school as I said for intermediate students, you do not have to play every day. You do not have to play for an hour at a time. Find a way to motivate yourself to play. I have an awesome app called The Amazing Slow Downer (*this one costs money, but you can get a free trial version. Can’t get the app? E-mail me and I could probably convert a song for you). This app allows you to take any recording and slow it down to a speed that is comfortable for you to play along AND it can change the key of the original recording to match the key of your instrument without distorting the sound.
I know I have thrown a lot of ideas at you in this post. If you should have any questions, please e-mail me email@example.com. Have a terrific summer and make some great music!