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Thursday, November 4, 2021

Two favorite web tools for beginning string orchestra


I have been using a couple of website in my classroom that have saved me so much time!  I'm loving all of the possibilities these free websites have to offer.  Check them out!


This website is super time saving!  I want my beginners to practice counting rhythms, but it takes a lot of time to make/draw my own different rhythms every day.  This website does all the work for me!  For daily rhythm drills, I just go to this website, select my parameters (note values, time signatures, etc.) and rhythms are automatically generated.   Rhythms are projected on a screen in front of the room.  Students then count/clap rhythms, take turns playing rhythms 'solo' as a game, pluck rhythms on open strings, pluck a rhythm on each note of the D scale, etc.  We started with very basic rhythms - only quarter notes, half notes, and quarter notes (with rests).  Students were saying 1, 2, 3, 4 while performing the rhythms.  I just switched them to counting with subdivision (1+2+3+4+) to help them transition into reading and counting eighth notes.  Next week I'll change the parameters to add eighth notes.  Students are quickly and easily getting lots of practice with rhythm thanks to this website. 


I've been having so much fun with this website.  It's super easy/quick to use and is a great way to gamify your lesson.  There are quite a few games you can do with your students using the picker wheel.  Here are a couple games I've done which were super effective to help my students learn their music:

1. Note Recognition Game

My students are playing their first 'real' concert piece.  They are still pretty new at reading notes and they need lots of repetition.  For this game, I created some short music snippets from our concert piece (First Christmas March) using an add-on in Google Slides called Flat for docs. 

I then put the names of the notes on the picker wheel.  

To play the game, I passed out 1-2 music excerpts to all my students.  I spun the wheel to select a series of notes.  Students then raced to be the first one to stand up if the notes on the wheel matched their excerpt.  It required students to read the notes on their excerpt over and over while waiting to see if theirs would be next.  Candy isn't necessary, but I gave students 2 Tootsie Fruities before the game.  I told them if their excerpt came up and they didn't stand, they would have to give a candy back to me...or if they stood up and their excerpt didn't match the wheel, they would have to give me a candy.  I gave students a candy if they were first to stand.  That added a little extra incentive and competitive aspect which was really fun.  I just did one round...but I could have had students trade excerpts to keep things going and have them practice reading more notes.

2. Intonation match challenge

Now that my students are getting faster at note reading, I wanted to help them listen better and play better in tune.  I used the same picker wheel (since these are the passages that need tuning) from the last game.  After a lesson about ear training, intonation, and matching pitch, I spun the wheel to select a series of notes from our concert piece.  I played the notes, and students had to echo the notes back to me with great intonation.  They had to listen to try to match my playing.  After a few spins, I let students be the model and I was pleasantly surprised to find almost all of the students volunteering to play alone and model great intonation for the whole class...after which the class would echo and try to emulate each other.  I complimented each student who volunteered and I felt it created a lot of trust in my classroom.  This simple activity dramatically improved the quality of intonation.  

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