Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Don't Worry!

Don't worry, I'm still here!  I know it's been a long time since I've posted anything on the social networks, and an even longer time since I've written a new blog post.  This has been a busy year full of change for me.  I've been working hard on my Master's Degree of Educational Technology, and I'm happy to announce that I should graduate in May!  I've spent the past two years helping my elementary music department develop, write, and roll out a new curriculum.  This is our first year using it, and although it's a strong curriculum, there is a lot of change, and that leads to a lot of extra work.  A lot of extra work means less time to write.  There's also one more thing...

I've also been getting ready to be a DAD!!!  My wife is due to deliver this week, and I wanted to make sure I got some new stuff out to my followers before my entire life is flipped upside down.  So please, don't worry... be happy!

Sing & Play with Bobby

In this post, you'll learn how you can use "Don't Worry Be Happy" to help teach harmony.  Yes, that may be one of my weakest and weirdest transitions I've ever made, but it works, right?  Even if it doesn't, don't worry... be happy!

My sixth grade students have recently been working on singing in three parts.  We have practiced singing a couple rounds, we sang a Music Express version of "We Go Together" from Grease which has a three part ending, and last week we sang three part harmony to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

As I mentioned above, we rolled out a new curriculum, and I randomly get new ideas all the time.  I didn't have my students sing Bobby McFerrin's hit song, "Don't Worry Be Happy," this year, but I really wish I had because it would be perfect!  You can easily use his website to show how layering parts together can create not only harmony, but an entire song.  Have students choose which part to add to put the full song together.  "Don't Worry Be Happy" has the melody, harmony to the melody, vocal percussion, bass, and three rhythm tracks.  "Just Enough" has the melody, two vocal percussion tracks, two bass tracks, and three riff tracks.  You can play one part at a time to show what it sounds like, then layer them together.  You can let the students choose which parts to add or delete creating their own version of the song.


Incredibox is another amazing website that shows students how layering parts together can create harmony and entire pieces.  There are now four versions of Incredibox.  Each one works the same, but each has different tracks.  My students LOVE creating their own songs with Incredibox.  Students can also record their pieces and share them on Facebook, Twitter, and email.  If you're looking for detailed instructions, then you have to check out Katie Wardrobe's website.  She's another amazing music educator and tech guru, and I'm not even going to attempt rewriting her amazing instructions in my own words.

More Bobby McFerrin

A few years ago, Bobby McFerrin was a panelist for the World Science Festival.  In the video below, he does a wonderful demonstration of how people from all over the world can identify the pentatonic scale.  I tried this activity with my students, and they loved it!  You can keep it simple by using specific notes such as Mi-So-La, or Do-Re-Mi.  It's great for visual and kinesthetic learners.

Music Express Magazine

I love Music Express Magazine, and last year they arranged a kid-friendly version of "Don't Worry Be Happy" in their December issue.  Even though I've been working on three-part harmony with my 6th graders, it's obviously easier to start with two-part harmony.  The Music Express version has some nice two-part harmony in it, and would transition nicely to the Sing and Play website activity mentioned above.  Here is John Jacobson doing his choreography to the piece:

Final Thoughts

Singing in three parts can be challenging.  Finding fun, engaging, and quality songs and activities is one of the best ways to meet your learning target.  I hope you have found these resources helpful!  Next year, I plan on having my students sing the two-part harmony version of "Don't Worry Be Happy" from Music Express, play with "Sing & Play with Bobby" and "Incredibox" online for a while, then transition to three-part harmony with some other songs.

As I mentioned above, my wife and I are expecting our first baby this week.  We are having a little girl, and I cannot wait to meet her!  I know that I will be busy again for a while trying to learn how to take care of her, so thank you for understanding why I won't be posting as often.  I do promise, however, that I will continue writing and sharing ideas as I find time.  I appreciate all of you for checking out my blog, and thanks for sharing it with your friends and colleagues.  Make sure to follow IWB Music on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.  Take care, and don't worry... BE HAPPY!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mr. Rogers' Stop Light (Tempo)

I keep a link to Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood PBS Kids website on my classroom page for my young students to explore at home.  Occasionally I will show a video clip from his site featuring music, but most of the time I just let kids visit it on their own time.  For some reason last week I was looking over the site, and came across the Stop Light Game.  Just as the lights shine in the stop light, a light suddenly turned on in my head!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Philharmonia Orchestra Instrument Guides

I recently came across the website for the Philharmonia Orchestra, and discovered that they have a wonderful set of Instrument Video Guides featuring many of the instruments of the orchestra.  All of the standard instruments of the orchestra are included, and they also feature some fun ones like the contrabass clarinet or the celeste.  Learn more after the jump!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Isle of Friday Afternoons

Isle of Tune is one of the best ways to let your students create music on their own at school or at home.  Simply put down a road, a few cars, street lights, houses, trees, plants, and voilĂ : they have created a song!  I encourage all of you to experiment with Isle of Tune for a while.  Before you know it, half of your day has disappeared creating music!  This site is so intuitive and easy for students pick up, that I have had many emails from teachers and parents sharing with me how much they love this site! Not only can you create songs, but you can also use Isle of Tune as a fun teaching tool.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Behold! The Wall of Whackers!
Boomwhackers are great for the elementary music classroom, but they are such a pain to store.  For the past six years I have kept my large Boomwhackers in laundry baskets and my smaller ones in buckets.  It looked messy and was hard to find the tubes I needed.  I just moved to a new classroom with a very long, empty wall.  I knew I wanted to use the large space for a word wall (which as you can see is still on the to-do list,) but then I found this....

Friday, February 22, 2013


IWB Music now has its own twitter feed!  Simply press the button "Follow @IWBMusic" below, and you're all set! Remember, you can also follow IWB Music on Facebook and Google+.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Kansas City Symphony Kinderkonzert

Photo credit:
I have the wonderful opportunity to take a grade level of my students to see Peter and the Wolf and Other Symphonic Tales performed by the Kansas City Symphony at Helzberg Hall in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts next week.  Peter and the Wolf was one of my favorite pieces growing up, and I am incredibly excited to share it with another generation of young musicians!  The Electric Media Manager for the symphony is a good friend of mine and she shared a series of videos the symphony is using to promote the concert and to educate young musicians about the piece.  These videos feature an introduction by Assistant Conductor, Aram Demirjian and an explanation of each character's traits by local actor and narrator, Alex Espy.  The first video is an introduction to Peter:

Check out the KC Symphony's YouTube channel for more videos each day this week!