Friday, April 18, 2014

Part II. Dancing, Singing & Drawing Legato and Staccato

Hello everyone! Ms. Brigid here, fromMerit School of Music  in Chicago, IL. Thank you for joining me! This post takes up where my March 18, 2014 entry, Part I. From Hush Little Baby to Yo-Yo Ma - Using Books, Apps and YouTube Videos to Introduce Legato and Staccato, left off.

A great deal of territory was covered in the first post:

·      Using the lullaby Hush Little Baby with Marla Frazee’s book of the same name to introduce staccato and legato
·      Employing comparative recordings and guided listening to build exposure to different styles, sounds and artists
·      Introducing  real-life musicians Yo-Yo Ma & Bobby McFerrin playing the song through a YouTube video through the Watchlater app

Meet the Orchestra 

The musical collaboration between Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma invariably delights my students, and class discussion leads naturally to questions about the instruments played. Of course, there's an app for that, Meet the Orchestra.

As apps go, Meet the Orchestra is direct and no nonsense. It’s also a fine app for “guess the instrument,”  but you won’t have to guess which instrument I’m focusing on. It’s the cello, of course, in honor of Yo-Yo Ma!

After an orchestra family is selected, each instrument in the section is introduced by name. When a specific instrument is selected, the other members of the family rush off the stage and a solo starts. The title and composer’s name scroll under “now playing,” and general information about the instrument is included.

Excerpts are generous, nicely curated, and can be changed by selecting the notes on the staff. If there are five notes, the instrument has five separate listening examples. My kiddos delight in selecting what comes next.

Questions for guided listening: Was the piece (mostly) high or low? Fast or slow? Piano or Forte? Legato or Staccato? Answers, of course, can be none of the above!

Cello excerpts include:
·      Bach – Bouree frm Suite No.3 in C for unaccompanied cello, BWV1009
·      Brahms – Cello Sonata No.1 in e, Op38
·      Tchaikovsky – Symphony No.4 in f, Op.36
·      Impromptu
·      Saint-Saëns – The Swan from The Carnival of the Animals

Depending on time, age group and intention, other questions might be: How did it make you feel? What kind of brain pictures did you get?

Shall We Dance?
The answer is always “Yes!”

Music Masters II Dancers!

There is a wealth of repertoire that lends itself to dancing legato and staccato. Among my top choices are a handful of movements, or pieces, from Camille Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals. The compositions are short, engaging (most under two minutes), and lovely to move to. Hens & Roosters and Fossils lend themselves to staccato, while The Swan luxuriously exudes legato. Kangaroos and Aquarium have a bit of both.*

Listen. Encourage students to think what animal(s) the composer was writing about.

Look. Multiple book/CD versions of Carnival of the Animals are available. My favorite is the 1999 edition with commentary by Barrie C. Turner and whimsical, colorful illustrations by Sue Williams.  

Move. Encourage students to move freely in response to the movement. Dance streamers (directions below) can heighten the exploration.

Music Masters II Dancer!
Extend. Find actual or animated performances of individual pieces or the whole suite on YouTube. Download through the Watchlater app, and share with your class! The options are thrilling.

A very specific kind of YouTube has emerged where some dedicated soul has downloaded the score and synchronized it to the music. Fascnating.  

There’s even a Bugs and Daffy’s “Carnival of the Animals” from 1976, which combines said characters, a young Michael Tilsen Thomas as conductor, and Ogden Nash lyrics. The orchestra performances are thrilling, but stay away if you’re not a Daffy Duck fan!

Challenge. My kiddos and families always love a Pre-K or Kindergarten challenge. Hand out dance streamers and do preliminary warmups using legato and staccato movements (jump, sway, bounce, twirl, etc). Tell your class, , “I’m going to switch from playing legato to staccato music, and not tell you when I do. Show me, through your movements, which one it is. Freeze when the music stops.”

Dance Streamers - My own invention!  See directions below.

: This goes without saying,, but I’ll say it anyhow. Remind those who need reminding that this is not the opportunity to careen wildly or shake the dance streamers in anyone’s face. Although free movement is encouraged, there are no trips to the hospital in music class!

Here’s where the iPad  shines yet again. The whole suite is in my iTunes, and the songs can be instantly changed with the tap of the finger. There’s no fussing with remotes or manually changing cuts on the CD player.  PIC

Shall We Sing?
That’s what we do!

The American heritage singing game, Jump Josie, beautifully illustrates the difference between legato and staccato and is fun to sing and play. What’s not to like?

Teach the song: Listen. Ask children to listen while you sing. Rock gently side to side (legato) during the first part, and chap hands in the second (staccato).

 Look: Sing the song again, this time using  your iPad and the KidsDoodle or a favorite whiteboard app. Drawing smooth and connected lines during the first section, and short, separate lines on the second. A classroom whiteboard or piece of paper also works.

Rinse and Repeat! Ask children to stand in a circle and echo the song, phrase by phrase. The second section can dispense with echoing. Slow the song down for the legato end “Oh, my Susan Brown.”

Play. There are many ways to play this game. Here is one:
·      Two students go into the circle and hold hands, facing each other. Hands are swung side to side during the first, or legato, section.
·      Dancers in the outside ring sway gently side to side while singing.
·      The staccato, or second section, calls for a change: The dancers inside the ring are the designated jumpers, and the kiddos in the outside ring are the clappers.
·      At the end of the song, ask the two in the middle to choose new partners from the outside ring. Repeat with four students, or “four in the middle.”
·      Eventually, there will be “all in the middle.” Change partners and repeat.
·      Use colors, patterns, clothing, etc., to call dancers into the middle, e.g., “stripes in the middles,” “red in the middle,” glasses in the middle,” and my favorite, “hair in the middle.” Silly is good.
·      Count how many dancers are in the middle. Count by ones, then do it again with two’s.

Shall We Draw?
Of course!
·      Before starting, place paper and markers on tables. Some classrooms have individual student mini-whiteboards, which also works.
·      Sing Jump Josie, drawing on your iPad, paper or whiteboard, making sure to differentiate between legato and staccato marks.
·      Tell students, “We’re going to be artists and draw legato and staccato.
            Let’s practice by singing the song while “air drawing.”
·      As a group, sing Jump Josie and “air draw” legato and staccato.

Fantastic artists! 

·      Ask students to move to their tables, pick up their marker, and “air draw” legato and staccato before touching the paper.
·      Draw while singing the song. Request that the artists sign their work, and put their markers down.
·    Document drawings with the Camera app on your iPad!

Let’s Go On a Gallery Walk!
It’s time for the artists to go on a Gallery Walk! Ask student to walk around the room and look at the drawings of other artists. The kiddos are unfailingly positive about their friends’ work, making this a fun, cumulative celebration.

And Finally…Yo-Yo Ma
The Swan

Bits and Pieces

*You may be wondering why The Aviary isn’t included in the Shall We Dance? staccato column. It’s simply because the accelerated tempo makes it hard to move to. For my purposes, it works best as a listening example.

**Dance Streamers – I invented these dance streamers years ago, finally settling upon flagging tape as the perfect medium due to their softness and the rustling sound they make when fluttering. Cut 5’ lengths of flagging tape, then chose five streamers and tie them at the halfway point on to a flexible plastic bracelet. Use a double knot. Flagging tape is readily available at larger hardware stores. Bracelets can usually be purchased at a party supply store. Dance streamers can be mono or multi-colored, depending on your preference.

And in the did I use my iPad in the activities and blog creation, anyhow?  
Meet the Orchestra app, YouTube video downloads via Watchlater app, music player for listening comparatives and legato and staccato dance challenge, KidsDoodle  legato and staccato drawing demonstration,Camera for taking pictures of kiddos and dance streamers, Screenshots of book cover, app icons, and more!
I am continually inspired by the Children’s Music Network (CMN) community. an international group of socially conscious musicians, educators, librarians, families, songwriters and good people, who “celebrate the positive power of music in the lives of children by sharing songs, exchanging ideas, and creating community.” Please visit CMN, and find a gathering in your region. 

©2014 Brigid Finucane  * 847-213-0713 *


  1. Thank you for another wonderful blog Brigid! I have been doing staccato and legato for the past few weeks with frogs and fish, and then this week with rabbits and groundhogs, everyone waking up for spring. We have played with the parachute and "John the Rabbit" on the parachute, jumping happily on every "yes ma'am" and rocking gently on all of the other words....happy staccato and legato week :-)

  2. Sounds like such fun, Joanie. Bunnies on the parachute for "John the Rabbit" is something that I still go into fits of laughter about. I sometime use the parachute for "Jump Josie." Colorful, and a great visual connection!

  3. Wow. Brigid. I am speechless. You outdid yourself....So many applicable ideas....Thank you...

  4. Thank you, Gari! I am so grateful for your support, always!

  5. Another wonderful post packed with information! Thanks Ms. Brigid

  6. Your welcome, Mr. Bracy. Merit is a wonderful musical laboratory to explore these ideas.


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