Music Program Coordinator Jennifer Lobo wanted to teach her 6th grade music students about creating their own instruments and writing short pieces to perform on them. Spanning five weeks, this Make-Your-Own-Instrument unit touched on every step of the creation process as students built their instruments in the Makerspace and participated in a class performance in the Mary Dixon Chapel on December 10.
"I liked this quarter in music because it was more hands-on," Lilah Gentzler said. "I learned new key words like tempo, moderato, melody and what they mean in music." Lilah chose to make a percussion instrument that she named "Bob the Drum" because she likes drums as instruments.
The unit started on November 7, with reviewing online resources and brainstorming ideas of which instrument each student wanted to make. Ms. Lobo asked that overall the students make at least one of each type of instrument: string, wind, and percussion. Students then spent several weeks of class time making their instruments in the school Makerspace, and fine-tuning them to fix things that weren't working.
Zhara Hunter made an instrument that she called a "styrophone because she thought it would be a challenge. "We learned a lot in this unit," she reflected. "We learned about different notes and tempos, and we learned what an a-b-a pattern was and how to use it."
According to Ms. Lobo, after the instruments were finished, students worked on their compositions, then transcribed them into Finale, a music notation software. They printed the sheet music, practiced, and then performed them.
"When students performed on their instruments, the rest of the class had great observations, comments, and constructive feedback about the music based on the quality of the instrument; the rhythm and tempo; the variation of melody and ABA structure of the composition; the quality and interest of the melody and sound; and the performance quality," Ms. Lobo said.
Juliet Lamichane made a finger piano out of a wood base, bobby pins, and staples. It was able to play different pitches because she placed the staples that attached the bobby pins to the wood in different locations along the bobby pins, to allow more or less vibration.
"I chose to make it because I play the real piano," Juliet said. "I really liked this unit because it let us use our creativity and helped us understand how to transcribe our own music."