Create your own music with these activities from the Link Up repertoire. You can sing or play an instrument for each activity below. Whether your family has experience making music, or you’re trying it together for the first time, the step-by-step instructions will guide you through writing your own blues, covering a rock song with homemade instruments, or even conducting your own family ensemble. Simply pick an activity to get started!
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Write Your Own Blues
- In the first section, the problem is stated.
- In the second section, the phrase is repeated.
- In the third section, the phrase is a response or resolution, and rhymes with the first two sections.
First, write your own blues lyrics. You can write your blues about any problem or challenge. Come up with two phrases: one that describes your challenge (phrase A) and another that comments on it or resolves it (phrase B). Make sure that your two phrases rhyme. For example:
- Phrase A: I’ve got so much homework, I’ve got no time to play.
- Repeat phrase A: I’ve got so much homework, I’ve got no time to play.
- Phrase B: Now that it’s the weekend, I can play all day.
Next, put your lyrics to music with this video from composer Courtney Bryan. Now you’re ready to sing the blues!
Courtney Bryant introduces her original blues “Do Your Thing,” then provides a backing track for your own blues. Sing along as the band plays! If you play an instrument, watch for the chords in the subtitles as you swing and jam along.
For added fun, record your blues and share it with firstname.lastname@example.org!
Rock and Roll Covers
Rock and roll was born in the United States in the 1950s. Its roots lie in African American music traditions, including gospel, blues, and rhythm and blues, as well as country and folk music.
In rock music, a cover is a new performance or recording of a song by someone other than the original recording artist that allows the performer to interpret the piece in their own way. Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” is a classic rock song which has been covered more than 40 times by other famous artists such as The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix. An important part of rock music history, covers pay tribute to the original artist while offering a fresh spin on an existing melody.
First, compare Chuck Berry’s original recording of “Johnny B. Goode” with any of the covers below.
- What is similar to Berry’s version?
- What is different from Berry’s version?
Next, create and perform your own cover of “Johnny B. Goode” using Tracks 47 and 48, or the sheet music below.
- Track 47 provides a slower version of the backing track. Practice playing an instrument or singing along. Use your own style!
- Track 48 is a faster version of the backing track. You can use homemade instruments to augment the accompaniment tracks.
- The “Johnny B. Goode” interactive sheet music below allows you to change the backing track to a different key. Use the “gear” icon to adjust the key of your accompaniment as you play along.
For added fun, record your cover and share it with email@example.com!
Become a Conductor
The conductor of the orchestra has many responsibilities. In addition to making sure the group plays together and everyone plays at the right time, the conductor also sets the tempo or speed; decides how loud or soft the music is; and communicates the overall feeling of a piece of music. Want to become a conductor?
First, learn the basic arm patterns that conductors use. You can use a baton—a long slender stick—or just use your hand. Trace the patterns below in the air in front of you, following the shape and direction of the lines in the numbered order. Practice each pattern a few times to get the hang of it!
Next, explore the different ways you can use your arms and your whole body to communicate to the orchestra. To get some ideas, watch the video Conduct Us. You might be surprised to see who these conductors are, and where the orchestra is playing! Notice how the movements of each conductor change the performance of the orchestra.
- What movements do the conductors use to make the orchestra play fast or slow; or loud or quiet? How do they get the orchestra started?
Now it’s your turn to be the conductor! Select a piece of music from the playlist below:
- Use the 4-beat pattern for “Ode to Joy.”
- Use the 3-beat pattern for The Blue Danube.
- Use the 2-beat pattern for “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Try out the different ways you can communicate the music with your arms and your whole body, and get a feel for what it’s like to conduct.
Next, invite your family to be your “orchestra!” Ask one or more members of your family to sing or play one of the pieces above or a song you know, as you conduct their performance. If you don’t have instruments on hand, your “orchestra” can use body percussion (like clapping or stomping) or play with homemade instruments (like pots and pans or bottles filled with dry rice).Before you conduct your family orchestra, you should decide the following:
- How fast or slow do you want the song to be? It helps to hum it to yourself before you start.
- How do you want the song to be performed? Should it be choppy or smooth? Should it be loud or soft? How can you show this with your body?
After you conduct your family, switch roles! Let one of your family members be the conductor, and you can be the orchestra.
Discover the Orchestra
Discover the sounds of the symphony orchestra through this interactive listening map. Learn how to identify the different instruments and their families, and then put it all together and make the orchestra come alive.
Dance & Move
Discover music from different cultures, from Brazilian samba to swing and beyond, as you learn fun and easy choreography!
Sing & Play
Dive into the basics of singing or playing recorder with tutorials from teaching artists. Learn famous pieces using interactive sheet music and lyrics! Ability to read music is helpful but not required.