Ideas and resources for music education.

Fresh Feels Part I – Classroom Grove

One of my Christmas presents to myself was the book 5 Pop Grooves for Orff Ensembles by Heather Fortune and Ethan Hein.

I don’t teach the Orff approach ‘properly’ by any means, but a lot of the pedagogy behind looping chordal patterns, and melodic improvisation, often finds its way into my classroom practice. I also don’t have any Orff instruments in my current school.

Anyway, ‘Fresh Feels’, one of the aforementioned five pop grooves, has been a great success in my lessons over the past few weeks. Adapting it for the keyboard, I took the two chordal parts, bass line, and iterative melodies (more on this later), and created my own worksheet. I share it here as a PDF and images:

Fresh Feels Student Handout

Fresh Feels Page 1

Fresh Feels Page 2

I also created a GarageBand template using these parts, which is shared here as a .zip file in Dropbox (unzipping on a Mac or iOS device should render it openable):

Fresh Feels Classroom Groove GarageBand Project

Fresh Feels GarageBand Project

Below is a run-down of how I used it in lessons, and why I like it so much..

Stage One – Perform the groove

The ‘groove’ is on a loop as students enter.

Students find the electric piano sound on their keyboards (which always sounds good).

Model ‘Chords 1’, whole notes in 3rds, and students play out loud, together, in time with the project.

At this point, reduce the project to just drums, or drums and bass, depending on your class.

Repeat with ‘Chords 2’, and then the bass line.

Build up a short classroom performance using these three parts. Assign them to students, or ask them to choose (some may be able to play 1/2/3 at a time). Add your own improvised part over the top, or ask a student to do so.

You can provide parts in TAB, or transposed parts, depending on the musicians in your classes. The point is that the piece can be playing on entry, and students can add their parts without the music stopping, as the four-bar loop will continue for ever. You can, of course, start and stop the backing track, but it is very powerful if students can play ‘with the track’ before they’ve really settled into the lesson. Visual and musical modelling is, of course, key here.

Stage Two – the melody

At this point, flip the sheet and introduce the melody. What I like about how the melody is presented in the book is that there is a clear line between melody A and D, being ‘iterative’ in the sense that each is slightly more complex than the other. Melody A, being just quarter notes, ensures students become familiar with the melodic contour. B adds rhythm, C adds a little pickup, and D adds a nice anticipatory syncopation.

N.B. The book includes sample lyrics to help teach these melodies aurally.

I usually give students a little time to learn at least melody A, before returning to whole-class performance as before.

Stage 3 – new ideas

The beauty of these projects are in their flexibility. You could ask students to record these parts into a DAW, and create a project out of it (I did this, and will blog about it soon). Alternatively, the im7-ivm7-vm7-ivm7 groove is a great starting point for improvisation. You can ask students to create new melodies, copy melodies that you sing or play, give them melodic cells as a starting point, or ask them to respond to a ‘question’ phrase that you, or a partner, provides. A-A on the white notes will of course work well. This piece is very fertile creative ground.

There are five grooves in the book, and my plan is to develop a sequential path through them, asking more of the students each time. For now, I’ve been really pleased with how this specific groove has been received, either as a 10 minute starter, a whole lesson, or a more in-depth project over a series of lessons.

Sometimes a stimulus can really inspire us as educators, and for me ‘5 Pop Grooves for Orff Ensembles’ has done exactly that. I haven’t been particularly ‘Orff’ in the way I’ve used it, but my students have been musical when working with this piece. It is a reasonably priced PDF, linking to example videos on YouTube, and is available here.

Let me know if you have any success with this material.


#ideas #resources #orff