The Musical Futures Find Your Voice resources aims to motivate students to sing by recreating as a whole class or small groups backing tracks to popular songs. Students learn how to vocalise basslines, chords and melodies to build a vocal performance, using the common 4-chord structure: I, V, vi, IV (i.e. D, A, bmin, F). This chord structure is so common that 100s of songs have used it (see the Axis of Awesome video below). As a music teacher, I am so grateful to Musical Futuresʼ generous spirit and philosophy behind their work, which brings real-world music learning processes into schools to engage and inspire all students, while promoting inclusion and diversity. If you havenʼt subscribed to the Musical Futures website to access a whole host of free resources, including instructional videos, lessons plans and backing tracks then do it now! Here is an introductory video of Find Your Voice.
Musical Futures also houses a 4-chord song bank that lists songs using the I,V, vi, IV chord progression. Iʼve also included two videos on how to play the chords on the guitar and keyboard (remember you can click on Youtube "settings" to slow down or speed up the video.
Musical Futures provides a process for students to learn how to layer in vocalized basslines, chords and melodies to work toward a vocal performance. The Musical Futures website hosts a series of video clips to guide teachers through the process. The choruses of the following three songs start on the first note of the bassline and are a good start point for students to pitch: Price Tag (Jessie J), Someone Like You (Adele) and Living on a Prayer (Bon Jovi).
As part of the variety of resources housed on the website, Musical Futures features a "Learn to Beatbox with Shlomo" video guide to help teachers and students produce and play with basic beatbox sounds and rhythms. Here is one of the four video guides, which focuses on the basic sounds.
Musical Futures also houses many instructional videos on its MF Youtube Channel. I love the It's Your Voice Warm-ups video, which gives teachers lots of vocalizing and physical exerices to warm-up the body. About 5 minutes into this video, the Musical Futures instructor shares the Pasticine Person warm-up, which is a favorite among her students.
Here is the first of five video clips that move from creating a 4-chord vocal mash-up and beatboxing to small group refinement and use of voice recorders.
Once students feel comfortable with the four chords, they are encouraged to play with the chord sequence and create their own songs. Castleford Academy, a Musical Futures Champion School, shared their Find our Voice scheme of work, which can be downloaded for free on the Musical Futures website. And finally, these elementary students from Norbridge Academy, an elementary MF Champion School, show how a progression through the Find Your Voice and Just Play Musical Futures resources build student confidence, skills and creativity. This girl band wrote lyrics and music about a topic meaningful to them (see below). I'm excited to go through this process with my older elementary students when I return to Glacier Valley Elementary School next fall.
by #Dis Be de Girl Band
We donʼt need makeup to cover our scars
We donʼt need to bottle up our feelings in jars
We donʼt need to hide behind bars
We are shooting stars (2x)
Donʼt let anyone get in your way
Donʼt listen to what they say
ʼCause youʼre perfect any way
ʼCause youʼre beautiful just as you are
We shine brighter together as one
Are friendship will always be strong
We will always get along
We are shooting stars (2x)
After attending the Musical Futures DJ Skills workshop at Fred Longworth High School, I stayed an extra day to observe the music classes at this Musical Futures Champions School. As soon as I walked into the music wing of the school, it was clear that musick-making is part of the school's ethos and students' identities. Photos of Fred Longworth students accompanied by inspiring quotes like these are hung throughout the school:
Three of the young gentlemen (posing in the photo below) enthusiastically shared many of the music classes that Fred Longworth offers: Find Your Voice, Just Play, Band Skills, Production, Songwriting, Film Music, Live Lounge, Music Performance, GCSE Music and DJ Skills. These boys are also part of a band that practices during lunch.
There is a purposeful buzz in the music rooms and practice rooms before, during and after school. Students want to be here and enjoy working on their projects whether it be songwriting, recreating a song of their choice, practicing an instrument or working on a digital audio workstation. A lot goes on in the different music rooms and practices rooms!
Clearly the staff here are a tour de force with Martin Ainscough, the Director of Creative Learning and Director of Musical Futures leading the arts faculty along with Helen Robinson, Head of Music, and Lucy Dalton. Their integration of new music technologies (and old) help students work independently, collaboratively and confidently both in the classroom and from home. A FREE social music platform that Fred Longwroth uses is BandLab, which enables students to make music and share the creative process with others. All of Martin's music modules have an online component, including success criteria, Youtube videos, and instructional videos that he has created. Martin also has helped create two new Musical Futures workshops: DJ Skills and Abelton Live.
To help students gain confidence, the music team at Fred Longworth encourages students to explore their voices through motivating and collaborative projects. For example, students work in small groups to build soundscapes using their voices, found sounds and digital sounds to create a setting or environment that the other students try to identify. They also create soundtracks to short video clips and explore how film soundtracks can change the mood of a piece. Fugu is used throughout UK music production classes. The audio is deleted and students are asked to create their own soundtrack to accompany it.
The class is then tasked to recreate the backing tracks to popular songs using the Musical Futures Find Your Voice resources, which is packed with so many wonderful videos and engaging practices that I had to dedicate a separate blog to it. Students at Fred Longworth High School, a Musical Futures Champion School, use Loopy, Acappella and Garageband to create their own vocal back-ups, using only their voices. Martin shared some video clips that show these apps in action and engage kids.
Finally students progress to working in rock bands comprising of drums, keys, bass guitar, guitar and vocals. This leads to a performance on stage in front of the class in a ‘Battle of the Bands’ context. Here is a group rehearsing in one of the practice rooms.
As a thank you to the young gentlemen who welcomed me in the morning and invited me to sit-in on their lunch band practice, I gave each an Alaskan flag pin and shared the story behind the flag's design and its creator, Benny Benson. The band responded with a video postcard to my students and home state of Alaska. I hope this will be the start of an ongoing video dialogue with the students at Fred Longworth and Glacier Valley Elementary School. Here's that they had to say:
In fact, Fred Longworth and its students are so passionate about the arts as part of their school curriculum that they created this film called Where Did All the Art Go? to advocate for the arts as school funding, English Baccalaureate and Progress 8 performance requirements squeeze out school music and arts programs. Here is the link to the long version of Where Did All the Art Go?
Thank you to the entire Fred Longworth High School community for welcoming me so warmly into their school, sharing their music programs and student voices so openly and teaching me how to make a proper cup of tea! My cup runneth over with so many inspiring ideas to take back with me. It's exciting to think of Glacier Valley becoming a Musical Futures Champion School someday.
This is a personal blog, sharing my experiences living in the UK from January - June 2019 as a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching scholar. This blog is not an official site of the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State. The views expressed on this site are entirely my own and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State, or any of its partner organizations.