Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

It's All About The Music-SFSKIDS

I sometimes wonder if we realize the role music plays in our everyday lives; especially for children.  It seems as if they are wired to notice a rhythm, a beat, in everything.  On April 29, 2014 Larry Ferlazzo, educator, author and blogger at Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day... featured the updated website of the San Francisco Symphony for children, SFSKIDS.  

At the home page for SFSKIDS a navigation bar offers users the following choices:

  • Discover
  • Listen
  • Play
  • Perform
  • Conduct and
  • Compose.
A search box is located at the far right of this list.  Beneath this is a welcome paragraph with an invitation to start.

Deciding to start before exploring the navigation bar, I clicked Let's Start!  You arrive at the Discover Music, Sea of Knowledge page.  In the lower right-hand corner you have the choice to visit the previous location, advance to the next location or enter the Sea of Knowledge.  Off to the Sea of Knowledge it is!

Here you learn about instruments, music and composers.  (This is the same page you can access by clicking on the Discover button at the top.) Your next window showcases three large bubbles with smaller bubbles attached.  The larger bubbles contain the most information (knowledge); the smaller bubbles show the links between the larger bubbles.  Once you select a larger bubble, more bubbles and links appear as shown in the images below.  I started with instruments.

The language used is easily understood but the depth, bubbles leading to other bubbles, is fantastic.  During your exploration of the Sea of Knowledge you can hear, softly in the backward, the roll of waves.  There are many opportunities to listen to music during the journey.

When you get to an actual picture of an instrument a short example of it being played begins.  You can zoom in on parts of each instrument.  If you select music or composers you can access a timeline.  Choosing a specific period will give you certain musical pieces.  A short history is given for each. 

Moving to Listen, you hear the sound of a babbling brook at the Music Streams page.  You can make a choice from the list of the music library or by category.  The categories are music by themes and music by composers.  For individual works you are given a time length, the ability to see and hear more on the theme and from that composer.  You can also return to the music library.

Under the Play category, Musical Skies, you have two games, Star Catcher and Mood Journey.  If you like a musical piece, click on it again.  You can use that music to play either of the games.  In the former you try to catch stars according to the beat of the music (your cursor is a conductor rabbit.) In the later words appear on the screen which may or may not reflect your mood as you listen to the music.  Click on any which are true for you.

Tweeting birds invite you to the Music Garden at the Perform page.  From a list of thirteen you pick an instrument. In play the scale a new window opens with a scale.  You click on the individual notes.  You are instructed how to play the instrument in feel the instrument.  With a combination of using your mouse and pressing number keys you pretend to play.  (It's really nifty how they do this.)

With sounds of an orchestra warming up, you are ready to Conduct at the Symphony Hall page.  After clicking on Let's Start! you are once again at the music library ready to learn.  You are first given a right hand beat pattern and a left hand gesture lesson.  Then you can follow or lead the conducting of a piece of music.  (This is great practice for hand/eye coordination and using the computer keyboard.)  Points are given for correctly following the beat.

Selecting the Compose tab takes you to Music Mountain.  When you click on Let's Start! for the first time, they advise you to do the Music Lessons first.  Then you can move on to Starting Tunes, Quick Start and Building a Staff.  The lessons taken in order are:
  • The Basics
  • Pitches
  • Notes
  • Rests
  • Rhythm
  • Tempo
  • Instrumentation
  • Dynamics
  • More Dynamics and
  • More Symbols.

Here is what the first page looks like.  Simple one sentence instructions pop up on the window guiding the user.  You are actually allowed to drag notes to the scale to create your own composition.  Then you have the ability to change options (music options) such as instrument, tempo and time signature.  Even at this early point you can share your newly created music giving it a name and your name as composer.  A URL link is supplied.  Here is the link to my first composition.  If you click on the down arrow by more additional choices appear.

I feel so fortunate that I discovered this website through a tweet appearing in my feed from Larry Ferlazzo.  The designers and developers of these pages did a marvelous job of providing step-by-step instructions, offering help when necessary and making the learning of all things music interesting and fun.  I highly recommend use of this website, SFSKIDS.

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