Clever Echo???

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Clever Echo in the Secondary School Music Classroom

The Oxford English dictionary gives the definition of the word echo as “a sound or sounds caused by the reflection of sound waves from a surface back to the listener”. [1]

In the classroom, echoing is an activity in which something is performed firstly by the teacher and is then repeated by the students.

For example, in the music classroom, a teacher could play or sing a melody for the students to sing back. Or a rhythm is played on a drum for the students to clap it back. Or a series of chords (a chord progression) is played on the piano and the students sing back the bassline or the chords vertically and so on.

The problem with these activities is their limitations as far as what it tells us about what our students know. They only tell us that their students can reproduce the sound(s) that they are hearing and not much more.

Turning these activities into clever echoes adds a whole new level. The students must repeat what was performed for them labeling the names of the pitches or rhythms etc that were given to them.

You could think of clever echo as an instant dictation or transcription exercise.

Think of it in the same way as we think of learning a language.

Students learning a language are asked to “Write down what I say”. The teacher then reads a short phrase or sentence, using only words the student knows, then the students write that sentence, using their knowledge of how to spell the words they heard.

This is exactly what we are asking our music students to do when we give them any form of transcription exercise – they must know the “spelling” of the music before they can possibly know how to write it down. Using movable do or tonic solfa is the pitch “alphabet” and rhythm or time names are the rhythmic “alphabet” we use to “spell” the rhythms, melodies, harmonies we are given.

Clever echo activities should form a part of every music lesson, regardless of what stage of learning a class is at. They are also a great way to prepare for a transcription or dictation activity or other activities that use the elements found in the clever echo activity.

The basic rhythmic clever echo steps are:

Step 1: Teacher claps two, four or more beats using ONLY rhythms known by the students.

Step 2: Students clap this rhythm.

Step 3: Students clap and say the rhythm names of this rhythm.

Here is an example from the Musicianship & Aural Training for the Secondary School Level 3 (Upper Secondary) books:

and a higher level example from Jenn Gillan’s wesbite:

The basic melodic clever echo steps are:

Step 1: Teacher sings a melody, two, four or more beats long, using ONLY pitches known by the students, on a neutral syllable (such as “loo”).

Step 2: Students sing this melody (also using the neutral syllable).

Step 3: Students sing this melody in solfa with handsigns.

Optional Step 4:  Students sing this melody in letter names in various keys.

Here is an example from the Musicianship & Aural Training for the Secondary School Level 3 (Upper Secondary) books:

The basic interval clever echo steps are:

Step 1: Teacher sings two notes, using pitches and creating intervals known by the students, on a neutral syllable (such as “loo”).

Step 2: Students sing these notes (also using the neutral syllable).

Step 3: Students sing these notes in solfa with handsigns (using either a particular key – in context – or from a given first note – in abstract) and label the interval between the two notes (e.g. Major 3rd, Perfect octave etc).

Here is an example from the Musicianship & Aural Training for the Secondary School Level 3 (Upper Secondary) books:

The basic harmony (chord) clever echo steps are:

Step 1: Teacher plays a chord – harmonically and then melodically (as an arpeggio – the notes played ascending then descending).

Step 2: Students sing this chord melodically (using the neutral syllable such as “loo”).

Step 3: Students sing this chord melodically in solfa with handsigns.

Optional Step 4: Students label the chord type of this chord (e.g. Major, minor etc.

Here is an example from the Musicianship & Aural Training for the Secondary School Level 3 (Upper Secondary) books:

The basic harmony (bassline) clever echo steps are:

Step 1: Teacher plays a chord progression (beginning with only two).

Step 2: Students sing the bassline of the chord progression (using the neutral syllable such as “loo”).

Step 3: Students sing the bassline of the chord progression in solfa with handsigns.

Optional Step 4: Students sing back each chord of the chord progression melodically in solfa with handsigns, labelling each chord with its position within the key (I, IV etc) and its chord type.

Here is an example from the Musicianship & Aural Training for the Secondary School Level 3 (Upper Secondary) books:

There are LOTS of other fun things you can add to these basic clever echo activities – but I will save these for another post!

Would love to hear your comments, ideas, suggestions for clever echo activities so please feel free

Happy teaching!

 

[1] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/echo

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