Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Preschool/Kindergarten Music Appreciation: B is for Beat

B – Beat, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, Beethoven

If you missed the music appreciation lesson, "A is for Accelerando" you can find it here.

Sing your gathering song

Introduce the Words for the Day
Beat – The steady rhythmic units that dictate the speed (tempo of a piece). When you clap along to a song, you are clapping the beat. This is probably more easily demonstrated than explained.
Rhythm – The rhythm is the way the music moves through the beat. Think of My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean. When you sing this song, your body starts swaying almost involuntarily along to the beat. However, the words/notes do not follow the swaying, they move through it. The way the notes go is the rhythm.

Do a “military cheer” to illustrate the differences between rhythm and beat. Have the kids march in place. Their feet are stomping the beat. Now you call out a cheer that your kids can repeat. This one is easy.
I don’t know what I been told,
(I don’t know what I been told)
That tuna fish is smelling old!
(That tuna fish is smelling old!)
I don’t want to eat it! No!
(I don’t want to eat it! No!)
That tuna fish has got to go!
(That tuna fish has got to go!)

Now say the rhyme again, with children still stomping, but change the rhythm of the words. I give a few different examples in the movie below. Explain that the rhythm is changing, even though the beat always stays the same.

 Excuse my laughing at the end. Jane called from her bedroom, "Why are you talking to yourself?" Ah, kids.

Another activity your kids might like is to have a body percussion “concert.” Have everyone march in place. One person “conducts” a rhythm by clapping it and then everyone else copies it. Continue until everyone gets a chance to clap a short rhythm. I demonstrate a few easy rhythms

Learn the New Song

My Bonnie lies Over the Ocean
In the chorus, which words fall on the beat? Which don’t?
Some people think this song was written after a “prince” (Charles Stuart, known as Bonny Prince Charlie) was defeated and exiled from Scotland. His supporters would still sing it. However, Bonnie could mean either a girl or a boy and so they could pretend it was a love song. What if you changed the word Bonnie to “Bunny?” Would the song have a totally different meaning? Try singing the song with a different word. Bunny, Mommy, Tummy. How silly can you make it? This is called a parody.  To hear the song, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io9MPyXE2K0
My Bonnie lies over the ocean
My Bonnie lies over the sea
My Bonnie lies over the ocean
Oh bring back my Bonnie to me 

Bring back, bring back
Bring back my Bonnie to me, to me
Bring back, bring back
Bring back my Bonnie to me 

This song is fun to sing while you hold hands and sway back and forth. Lean your head back and belt it out!

Sing the song through a couple more times, but have someone hold up one of the "flashcards." The ones for this lesson can be found here. Be sure to use the cards from A is for Accelerando, too. While singing, obey the command on the card. This is built in review!

Introduce the Composer

Beethoven – I’ll be honest, it was hard to choose a composer for the letter B. How do you choose between Beethoven, Bernstein and Bach? (You move Bach to J and Bernstein to L.)
When Beethoven wrote his music, it was considered strange and pushing the boundaries of music, even though today it sounds very classical. His music was full of emotion, indeed, Beethoven was often known as very impassioned. He would frequently get angry and later apologize. All was excused because of his great talent.
Just before he wrote his first symphony, Beethoven began to go deaf. The last ten years of his life he was completely deaf. And yet, he wrote some of the most beautiful and famous pieces of music in the world. Beethoven knew music so well, that he could probably hear the music in his head as he wrote it. But he also composed, by sawing the legs of his (four) pianos and sitting on the floor while he played so he could feel the vibrations. Often he wrote music only in his underwear!
Beethoven’s music reflects the wide range of emotions that Beethoven himself felt so deeply. Listen to excerpts from two of his pieces, “Symphony No. 5” and “Ode to Joy.”  How does the music make you feel? Which one is happy? Which is anxious or angry? Have the children act out the emotions of the music. Can they dance angry? Sad? Happy?
Ode to Joy - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdWyYn0E4Ys  (Skip to 7:00)

Remember, there are no right or wrong answers. If your child thinks “Ode to Joy” sounds angry, don’t correct them.

Sing Requests

You can use the flashcards while singing requests, too!


  1. Love your last line, "If your child thinks "Ode to Joy" sounds angry, don't correct them." I'm totally picturing my son giving these types of 'off' answers when we do this type of music appreciation =)

    1. Ha! Yes, mine too. Although, sometimes their insight into the feelings of a piece is mind-blowing!