Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Study Notes - Example: "If I Listen With My Heart"

Having posted about how I prepare to teach a new song, I felt like I wanted to give an example of what I might come up with when I go through that process. I've typed up the notes that I took as I studied our new song "If I Listen With My Heart." These notes merely reflect my thinking about this song. If you were to go through this process you may find some of these same things and notice other things that I may not have seen. Even if you don't have musical training, this process could still help you understand the song better and feel more confident in teaching it.

These typed notes reflect more organization than my handwritten ones. My mind doesn't always follow such a linear path. I sort of jump around from studying words to studying music and then back to words. I write down presentation ideas as they come to me. So please don't think that every song has notes just like this one. My notes can be pretty jumbled until I organize them into a teaching plan. I'll post the teaching plan tomorrow. Here goes...another LONG post.

Notes About the Words

Message: As we learn to listen with our heart, the Spirit will teach us the things our Savior would have us know. This will bring peace into our lives.

Words to explain: search, peace, righteousness, testifies, soul, times of need

Key words: listen (2x), peace (3x), scriptures, prophet, Holy Spirit, teaches, comforts, testifies, quiet

Phrases: 3 verses with 4 phrases - the last phrase is repeated. 10 phrases altogether. Each verse teaches a way to hear the Savior’s voice. We can hear the Savior’s voice in the scriptures, through the words of our prophet and directly through the ministry of the Holy Ghost. The song teaches that this is listening with our heart. Key phrase: “And if I listen...Savior’s voice” (use D&C 8:2 to help explain this concept.)

Actions or Visuals: pictures of Jesus with children, scriptures, and the prophet, and some kind of illustration for the Holy Ghost could be used as reminders for each verse. The words “walk and listen” could be acted out, as well as “search the scriptures,” “hear,” and “listen with my heart.”

Questions: What will I do with my heart? What will I hear if I listen with my heart? What two things would I have liked to do with the Savior? What can I do to hear the Savior’s words? What word describes the Savior’s words? Who speaks the words that Christ would say? What two words describe how the prophet teaches us to live? What name does the song use for the Holy Ghost? What does the Holy Spirit teach me? What else does the Holy Spirit do? What word does the song use to describe how the Holy Spirit speaks?

Notes About the Music

Signature: key is G major. 4/4 time. Beginning pitch is low! B below middle C. The range is pretty extensive. The low B to C above middle C. (on peace) Long introduction.

Mood: The mood is marked “quietly,” but the tempo is not slow. The slower end of the tempo range would allow the children to get the eighth notes in more easily, but the phrases are fairly drawn out, making breathing a bit more of a challenge. We will have to experiment to find a comfortable tempo. The tempo stays steady throughout the whole song. The song feels thoughtful and reflective.

Dynamics: There are no marked dynamics, but the note “quietly” would indicate mp. I feel a natural crescendo build as the first notes in each measure (G, A, B) of the 3rd phrase ascend to the C on “peace.”

Melody: The melody moves smoothly around three important notes: G, A, B. The first two phrases finds these notes ascending in the second beat of each measure. The D and the B below middle C form a sort of foundation at the bottom of the melody range. Sometimes these two notes are heard in the left hand accompaniment. In the third phrase the G, A, and B notes ascend again to a climax on a C note. In the fourth phrase these same notes descend and resolve into a G major chord. It might be fun to bring the chimes for these notes and let the kids hear how important they are in the music.

There are several musical intervals in the melody. The widest interval is in the third phrase; a whole octave jump between the lower B on “can” to the higher B on “hear.” The other jumps ascend from D to G (4th), C to A (5th), D to B (6th), B to A (7th), a jump down from the F# to the lower B (5th), and then back up in the octave jump to the higher B (8th). I’ll need to help the kids hear and sing these vocal “jumps” accurately. I could use pitch-level conducting. Simple stick frog puppets would be fun for the Sunbeams to use instead of the plain pitch sticks.

Phrases: The phrases are musically different from each other. The first two are almost identical except for the last two eighth notes which go up on the second phrase instead of dropping down as it does in the first phrase. The form could be labeled AABC. I could make melody charts to help the kids see the phrases. It might also be fun to bring the paintbrushes and “paint” the phrases in the air. This would also help the children notice some of the wide intervals between the notes.

Rhythm: The last notes (the pick up) before each measure in the first two phrases are two quick eighth notes. On the third phrase the first note is held a ½ beat longer, creating a syncopation that is different than the first two phrases. This second rhythm helps to build to the climax on “peace.” The fourth phrase is also rhythmically different from the others. While similar to the first two phrases, the eighth notes are on the second beat instead of the fourth. All of these fun rhythms keep the music interesting. The song feels quick and light even as it’s meant to be quiet. While the rhythms are definitely fun, the kids may find the eighth notes difficult to sing because they don’t match the words. I’ll need to teach them how to move their voice across the word while keeping the notes distinct. I’ll look for an activity that will take advantage of these lively rhythms. Rhythm sticks would be fun. Someone could use two wood blocks as an accompaniment to keep the beat.

Accompaniment: The accompaniment also contributes to the song. The beautiful harmonies add to the deep feelings generated by the message. The even quarter notes and the regular rhythm helps to create a steady, secure kind of atmosphere. It seems to support the message that we can rely on the Spirit and feel secure in the teachings of the gospel.

Challenges: This song is definitely written for the older children. The message is lovely, but inescapably abstract. We’ll need to spend some time discussing the three ways we can hear the Savior’s voice, emphasizing that the Holy Ghost helps us hear this voice in our mind and heart. Using D&C 8:2 might help the children understand. Three verses and long phrases will be hard for the younger ones to remember. The repeated phrase at the end of the song is effective. I could teach this phrase first so that the juniors can come in with what they remember. Actions for some of the key words would help. Hopefully, over time the younger children will learn from hearing the older children sing. The melody, while beautiful, is all over the place. The range is extensive and it may be a challenge to sing the intervals. The eighth notes are also a little difficult. We’ll need to practice keeping both the notes and the words distinct. I will definitely pray that the Spirit will help the children learn this song.

The teaching plan, based on these notes, will come up tomorrow.

1 comment:

Patti said...

You are just AMAZING. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I look forward to reading your plan tomorrow...I am working on mine tonight and it is just not coming together!

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