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My children went back to school yesterday, and while I am revelling in the quiet at home right now (they have both reached the stage where they are talking all the time. This is both amazing and so very, very noisy!), I wanted to share with you a nice composition game that we played over the Easter holiday. Some parts of this game would require a little bit of musical knowledge to do, but I will try to show you as much as I can to help you play this game if neither you nor your children have no musical knowledge at all.
So, what do you need to be able to play this game, there are just some very simple items that if you have children at home you will almost certainly have already. Just in case you don’t have any at home already, though, I will link to any products mentioned. You need:
So the first thing I did was to draw a set of 2 staves onto a sheet of plain paper using a 30cm ruler as it fit perfectly along the horizontal page. I drew them firstly using a pencil to make sure I was happy with how the staves looked, and then went over them using my black pen. I added treble clefs to both staves as I am a flautist and most comfortable with treble clef music. I also wanted to keep this activity quite simple to start off with as I was doing it with my 4 and 7 year old.
For those readers who have no musical training, a stave is a set of 5 lines that are drawn parallel to each other and musical notes are written onto the staves rather than on ordinary lined paper. Different clefs, symbols that appear at the start of each stave, will tell you whether you are playing, generally, higher notes or lower notes. The treble clef is used for the higher notes and it looks a bit like the & symbol as you can see in the pictures below.
This took me all of about 5 minutes to prepare. As mentioned above, I wanted the game to be quite simple to start off with (although my 7 year old wanted to try to do the most complicated version of the game as he could as soon as he saw it, and I had to encourage him to do something more simple to start off with!).
I then got out our plastic buttons. We love to do lots of crafts in this house, and I have made all sorts of things for them to do with buttons of all shapes and sizes. Sticking them onto paper to make pictures, piling them on top of each other, colour matching games, threading ribbon, yarn or pipe cleaners through them, all sorts. They are fab things to have at home. And when my children were younger I bought giant buttons, which have the added bonus of coming in bright colours and lots of different shapes. Now they are a bit older and less likely to put stuff in their mouths (sadly they cannot always be trusted in this regard!), we are able to use smaller buttons. So use your own judgement about what size buttons would be suitable for your child. The only proviso here is that if you are using giant buttons, you will need to use maybe A3 paper instead of A4, and draw much larger staves.
I told my children that we would be playing a composition game, explained that that meant they would be making up their own piece of music. I explained what the stave and the treble clef was, and asked my children to place the buttons on the stave, on the lines or in the spaces. I told them that once they had placed the buttons on the staves I would then play back the piece of music they had just written. To play their pieces back we used the children’s keyboard. They have had this for years and we got our one as a gift, it is a John Lewis keyboard, but you can find similar keyboards, including on Amazon, and I will link to an example below if you are interested. We could have used a glockenspiel, or xylophone, the piano, a recorder. Any tuned instrument you have at home really, but we chose the keyboard because I could put it on the table in front of us.
My son has had some home lessons on the piano, so he decided that he would do the playback rather than me, and here is a little taster of some of the tunes they came up with, firstly my son’s composition:
And then my daughter’s:
We had a good few goes at doing this, the children taking it in turn to write their own compositions. And they were so very proud of themselves!
So, for those of you who have no musical knowledge, but want to give this a go, here are a couple of pictures that will hopefully help. You can draw a note on each line on the stave, or in each of the spaces. These notes are labelled with the first 7 letters of the alphabet.
How do you know where each note is on the piano or keyboard? I got some great transparent stickers to put onto our piano keys when I started teaching my son to play. These ones that I have show you what the note would look like on the stave , and also what the name of the note is. I think they are great, and you cannot feel them under your fingers when playing. I will link to these stickers below.
So, if you are interested in buying a keyboard and the stickers you can see in the image above, here is a suggestion for each:
If you try out this game with your children, let me know how you got on, and I would love to hear some of their compositions!
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