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Lesson plan, appropriate for the secondary music classroom, for an activity that allows students to create elaborations on a simple melody in the style of a Balinese gamelan.

The gamelan of Java and Bali typically use a very different conception from Western practice in the creation and elaboration of a melody. Studying the differences can give insight into cultural differences, encourage understanding and appreciation of Non-Western musics, and give musicians new tools to use in composition and improvisation. It can be particularly useful to students who have not otherwise been given the chance to explore music improvisation techniques.

    Goals and standards

  • Grade Level - 4-12
  • Student Prerequisites - Students should be able to play a melody on their instruments easily and accurately. Knowledge of scales and chords is not required for the activity, but students with such knowledge will be more successful and benefit more from the activity. If a written composition assignment is included, students must be able to compose and write a melodic line accurately using common notation .
  • Teacher Expertise - The teacher should be a trained musician or music educator comfortable with basic improvisation techniques.
  • Time Requirements - Depends on several things, including number of students (all should have a chance to improvise several times), and whether full lecture and/or written assignments are included. Doing the full activity can easily take two approximately-one-hour class periods, plus homework time.
  • Goals - The student will improvise elaborations to a basic melody, using a standard technique from gamelan music.
  • Objectives - The class will discuss this technique of melodic elaboration, listen to examples, and play a basic tune together on their instruments. Then each student individually will use the technique to improvise an elaboration of the melody.
  • Music Standards Addressed - National Standards for Music Education standards 2 (performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music), 3 (improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments), 4 (composing and arranging music within specified guidelines), 5 (reading and notating music), 6 (listening to, analyzing, and describing music), and 9 (understanding music in relation to history and culture).
  • Other Subjects Addressed - The activity also addresses National Standards in the Social Studies standard 1 (culture).
  • Evaluation - Assess student success in crafting a pleasing and/or interesting melodic elaboration within the guidelines of the activity.
  • Follow-up - Once the students understand the concepts, you may include short sessions of this kind of improvisation as a warm-up to other music class or rehearsal activities, allowing the students a chance to develop confidence and skill in improvisation over time.
  • Extensions - Encourage advanced students to explore the similarities and differences between Western classical, jazz, and Balinese melodic elaboration styles, either in practice on their instruments, or as the subject of a written essay.

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Source:  OpenStax, Musical travels for children. OpenStax CNX. Jan 06, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10221/1.11
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