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Improvising with Our Voices

Aim: How can we improvise melodies using our voices?
Summary: Students use their singing voices to take turns improvising and creating melodic phrases on a given theme.
Standards: US 1, 3, 4 6; NYC 1, 2, 3
Modality: performing, responding, creating
Materials: Teacher Worksheet
Time Required: 15 minutes

Instructions

  1. Encourage students to “put on their singing voices” and have sung conversations, promoting the idea of musical questions and answers.
  2. Sing an initial question, prompting students to take turns singing an answer.
    Suggested themes:
    • Conversational themes with questions and answers (from speaking to singing)
    • Creating a sung story
    • Nonsense syllables in a song (e.g., students create their own question and answer scatting using any neutral syllables)
    • Borrowing musical questions and answers from a known song (e.g., “Bluebird, Bluebird,” or “Lemonade”)
      Download Teacher Worksheet

Going Deeper

Once the students are comfortable singing this way, lead students to discover that the musical question has an “open, unanswered” feeling that is away from the “home note” (tonic), whereas the musical answer has a “closed, resolved” feeling that comes from ending on the home note (tonic).

Video

Grade 1 Activity Exemplar: Performing

This video is an exemplar of an activity from Carnegie Hall’s Music Educators Toolbox entitled "Improvising with Our Voices." Students use their singing voices to take turns improvising and creating melodic phrases on a given theme.

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