Monday, April 29, 2013

Multicultural Scales Activity

Like many adults and children, I am intrigued with multicultural music, and I find the theory that underlies ethnic scales, rhythms, ragas, etc. fascinating. Tonality seems to pull on the soul like an invisible tide. Children are capable of exploring much more than major, minor, and pentatonic scales if we set them up to succeed. One of my favorite activites to engage upper elementary through college students in exploring ethnic tonalities involves, believe it or not, Boomwhackers (or bells). Here's a basic outline:

You may click on this FREE poster to save and print it.

Lay a chromatic set of Boomwhackers (or bells) out along the front of your classroom in order from left to right (as in my chart). Invite 13 students, one for each instrument, to come and take their places. Have them sit on the floor or chairs.

Call out note names belonging to a particular scale and have students who have these notes stand. Then direct students in playing the scale ascending and descending as the rest of the class listens carefully. Challenge students to guess the country or culture that uses the scale. Explore half-steps, whole-steps, and wider intervals by looking at the visual spacing created when student players stand.

Here are a few scale examples to try:
C     D     E  F     G      A     B  C     (Major to establish familiar tonality)
C C#           F      G  Ab           C      (Japan, diminished pentatonic)
C     D  Eb      F# G  Ab       B  C      (Russia and Hungary, 'gypsy' minor)
C          Eb  F  F# G          Bb   C      (U.S.A., blues scale, Afro-American)

Try it out with your kiddos and enjoy some FUN music theory! If you'd like more in-depth materials, check out my Music and Scales Around the World package on TPT:

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