Mike Moxcey ©2001

Musical Improvisation of Songs

/* these are notes I made for a show at preschool about writing songs */

This lesson shows what a song is and how one is written.

A song is words and music although it doesn't necessarily require a musical instrument.

Sing (with clapping perhaps) Hambone, Hambone or some other call and response song.  Ditties used for jumping rope are excellent.  Even doing it while you're jumping a rope is real good because it reinforces counting:
Cinderella dressed in yellow went upstairs to kiss a fellow.
Made a mistake, kissed a snake, how many doctors did it take?
One, two, three, four, ...  (depending on how good you are at jumping rope).
A tune is a melody without words.
Play Sailor's Hornpipe or some other familiar melody on an instrument.  Don't get fancy and don't play it through more than once or the kids will get bored.
There are many ways of creating songs including:
  1. Altering one word
  2. Altering several lines
  3. Writing new words to an old song
  4. Altering the music of an existing song
  5. Writing a brand new song
Changing One Word
"I'll bet there's a song you know that you don't even realize you're writing every time you sing it.  Let's sing Happy Birthday to You."
Start singing it and stop on the IV chord:  "Happy birthday dear ***"
"Who are we singing happy birthday to?"  This gets a real surprise out of the kids.
Come up with a name to use and then start the song over.  You have to have completion.
Writing new words to an old song
The original music to Happy Birthday went to the song Good Morning to You where the teacher would sing to the kids and then the kids would sing back to the teacher.  Go over the words quickly then try singing it all together.
teacher: Good morning to you, Good morning to you,
Good morning dear children, Good morning to you.
kids: Good morning to you, Good morning to you,
Good morning dear teacher, Good morning to you.
Altering the music of an existing song
Do the version: Happy Birthday Cha Cha Cha
Altering several lines
There are several songs you can do for this.
How Would You Like a Great Big Ice Cream? and ask for other favorite foods

You can do Old MacDonald had a Farm or Old MacDonald had a Zoo (where you can do weird animals and their movements: snake can slither, kangaroo can hop, ... fly, crawl, scratch, etc.)

Ask for names to rhyme with Darling You Can't Love Hannah (to the tune of Darling You Can't Love One) and get silly (you can't love Hannah and still eat bananas).

Writing a brand new song from scratch with a class of children is kind of tricky.  You can try to come up with neat rhymes or try to create a simple song about a classroom task such as picking up toys or setting out the snack.  When I worked with Janet Krech who was really good on the piano (she'd bring a portable electric one), we'd let the kids paste individual notes on a large music staff and she would play the song but
  1. I'm not that good at sight-reading and
  2. the tunes left a lot to be desired.
But the kids enjoyed it.  To keep it manageable, we had words ready to go and put in measures and explained there could only be two notes in each section (measures we'd marked out ahead of time).
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