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Saturday, January 21, 2023

8 ways to maintain engagement during rehearsals


There are times during rehearsals when some sections need to wait while another section receives special help and instruction. Students do need to learn proper rehearsal etiquette and know how to sit quietly with their instruments.  But too many episodes of sitting/not playing can make rehearsals drag on and on.  

Every rehearsal will likely have moments when some students are not playing, however, there are many ways to include all students in the rehearsal process.  Including all students increases engagement, builds a culture of team responsibility, and creates a more immersive rehearsal experience. It also helps with classroom management since students are too busy to begin off-task behaviors.   As often as possible, I find ways to include all students at all times.  Here are some ideas for including all players while rehearsing one section at a time...

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Rehearsal Game for Orchestra to help students master tricky measures

My orchestra classes have been tirelessly working on concert music to perform in a few weeks.  They're doing a great job and I feel our music is mostly ready.  There are just a few measures here and there that I still visit and work in rehearsals.  Today, I created a game to get students practicing those final tricky measures.  It worked so well!  Students played the game with their their stand partners.  It was interesting to see what measures they chose to have each other play.  They were exactly what I wanted them to practice!  And it turned into a great practice exercise because they had to play any missed measures together five times.  If students tied, they kept playing until the tie was broken.  Students who won the game got a small treat.  

I used a worksheet for students to fill out that shows the measures chosen and helped track the points.  I copied the worksheet on both sides of the paper, so students could keep playing if there was time, or settle tied scores.

Click HERE to access the worksheet with game instructions for students.


Monday, January 2, 2023

Drone Song for Beginning String Orchestra grade .5


Tired of Twinkles?  Here's a great first-ensemble piece for your beginners.  This piece is very simple, grade .5 with the following skills: quarter notes, half notes, whole notes, Notes: D, E, F#, G, A. Violin and viola sections play in unison and cello/bass play in unison. This makes the piece quick to put together.  Let students experiment and decide on dynamics.

Parts included: Score, Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass.

Listen here.


Saturday, December 31, 2022

New Years FREEBIE for your first day back to school


Hopefully your beginners practiced during the holiday break, but if not, here's a fun activity for the first rehearsal back to school...FREE!  All you need is a set of dice for every 2 students.  Or, you can use one set of dice and have the entire class work on the same exercises/activities at the same time.  This kind of activity is student-driven, freeing up the teacher for helping individual students or tuning troublesome instruments.  Get yours free HERE!

Friday, December 30, 2022

New music for beginning orchestra!


I've been wishing for the perfect concert music for beginners, so I wrote some! 

I'm no Richard Meyer or Soon Hee Newbold, but I have a lot of experience teaching beginning strings and I know how hard it is to find the perfect piece for a concert. Beginners are learning so many new skills. It is important to choose concert music that reinforces those skills. Since there is much to learn, I like to have my beginners play concert music that is quick to put together.  Students feel great when they get a real piece of music they can actually play!  A piece that focuses on just a few notes and a few simple rhythms is great for beginners.  

My new music is very attainable and easy to learn because all parts take turns playing the various melody/harmony lines. That means students can practice the same melodies and harmonies before putting it all together. When rehearsing, have students practice all matching measures until they are comfortable with the notes and rhythms. Next, put it all together and it works up very quickly! 

Five Note Ramble for Beginning Orchestra - grade .5

This piece drills only 5 notes - D, E, F#, G, A.  All rhythms are simple.  All instruments gets the main melody/harmony lines at some point. 

Catalyst for Beginning Orchestra - grade 1

This piece is fast paced, set in e minor. All notes are on the on the D string and A string (D string and G string for basses). Rhythms included quarter notes, eighth notes, half notes, whole notes, and rests.  All parts share the same melody/harmony lines at some point, so it works up very easily.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Christmas lesson plan no instruments!


Last day before Christmas break and students want to play a game.  Many are absent because they had family plans/ it seems unproductive to have a regular rehearsal.  So we'll play my favorite game!  I love this game because once students know how to play, they can do it themselves. It frees me up to get some work done and get my classroom ready for the new year.  Students love the game and it promotes friendship and team bonding.  Access for free HERE!

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Give students time to CREATE - favorite websites for music creation


Once a week, I do a 'Flex' day in my orchestra classes.  This is 20 minutes of time devoted to helping struggling students, allow students to complete missing work, and provide enrichment activities for students who need no help from me.  I have grown to love my flex days.  Many of my students have found a new passion for creating music because of the time they get to spend exploring various websites. Here are my favorites....   (as a side note, these sites are GREAT for sub plans!)

Turn everyday sound effects into music:

Lots of settings here to create music.  For a challenge, try to re-create a recognizable tune:

Links to an external site.

Make your own grooves to use as metronome:

Blob opera: to an external site.

Make a Line Rider music video: to an external site.


Turn text into music.  Send kind musical notes to friends or teachers.:

Links to an external site.

Write your own song: Links to an external site.  - $2 per student account - way worth it!

Type a drum beat - turn text into a groove.  Save the link and send to friends for a 'groovy' message:

Links to an external site.

Groove pizza - create your own slices of music: to an external site.

If you like Mario, you'll love this:  Mario Sequencer:

Links to an external site.

Turn keyboard into a piano. Record a song and email it to friends:

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Emoji Game for Orchestra


Need a fun rehearsal game?  I like the emoji game because it works for any holiday!  I'm using this game for Halloween.  As an intro to the game, students could watch the following video featuring Hilary Hahn and TwoSet violin playing a game where they have to guess the emotion being played.

In my free online EMOJI ORCHESTRA GAME, students perform the challenge the corresponds to the emoji.  Send one or two students to the hall while the class or the teacher chooses an emoji from the game board.  

Click on the emoji to show the class the challenge that corresponds to that emoji.  Next, click on the emoji to return the screen back to the main game board.

Don't forget to click on the emoji to return back to the main game board!

Have students come in from the hall and have the class perform the challenge using any music your class is working on.    Students from the hall then must guess the emoji based on what they heard.  You can form teams and keep score if you want.


Thursday, October 27, 2022

Teaching Beginners how to TUNE!


I am so excited for tomorrow because my beginners are going to learn how to tune themselves!  I absolutely love it when my students can enter class, set up, and tune without me.  There are a few VSO's in my classes so I'll probably have to help sometimes...but that's better than tuning all 50 in each class!

Here are some resources I have created in Nearpod to teach my students how to tune:  (I'm sharing these with teachers.  You need a Nearpod account.  Slides are editable.)

How to tune lesson 1 

How to tune lesson 2

Rules of tuning

After the Nearpods, I am going to demo how to use a tuner using a FREE online tuner.  I am LOVING this website - lots of great tools for demo in class.  Also I love the rhythm activities...great for sub plans!

Students will then tune their own instruments (with my help of course) using clip on tuners.  I keep one tuner on every music stand.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Things I never thought I have to do as an orchestra teacher


There's probably way more than 5 things!  What am I missing?  I thought of a few more:

  • Tie shoes
  • Give out snacks when students are hungry
  • Make a student cry (I feel so bad if that happens)
  • Break a bridge in half with my bare hands (while trying to fix it)
  • Become my own secretary, graphic designer, curriculum developer, delivery person, purchasing supervisor, inventory manager, etc.
  • See every little toy trinket as a possible teaching aid.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Note-scapes worksheets for music students


Tired of boring worksheets?  These new note-scapes worksheets are fun!  Students get to be creative by creating their own unique rhythms.  Students stretch their skills by figuring out words using notes of the musical alphabet (D scale notes)...all in the style of popular word-game apps.  12 worksheets total in the set:  3 rhythm worksheets, 3 note worksheets for treble clef, 3 note worksheets for alto clef, and 3 note worksheets for bass clef.