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Teacher and Musician Challenge 10

Teacher and Musician Challenge 10 - one chordI wrote recently about my work for Musical Futures Just Play, where I’ve been creating a series of backing tracks for use in this approach to primary school music teaching. Since this is a a ‘skill-based’ approach to music learning, there was a distinct need for focusing on specific chords to ensure that pupils were able to play each one properly and had sufficient time to internalise each chord without being sucked into the ever present school need to race on to the next task in an attempt to demonstrate progress. As a result, I’ve created a variety of tracks that, as one member of the team described it, ‘pitch quantised’ an entire song into just one chord. The challenge for me was to find way of maintaining some degree of musical interest when harmonic progression was a distinct no-go.  It occurred to me, that this could be a great classroom activity in its own right.

The challenge: one chord

Pick a chord and get your class to workshop for an entire lesson on just this chord. The piece will soon get repetitive and dull if you don’t bring in some variety, so work with the class to introduce changes of:

  • instrumentation
  • timbre
  • dynamics
  • register

In creating the backing tracks, I found that the most effective means of creating interest were changes of instrumentation and register. Moving the melody between octaves would give the track a quick jolt in the arm, especially if it coincided with a more energetic drum riff.

Try this approach with a few different chords (being sure to recap each one) and then try working on a simple chord progression. The real trick here to focus on mastery of each chord and avoiding the temptation to move onto the next one.