Music With Mrs. Tanenblatt

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

31 Days of Rhythm: Prepare Quarter Notes and Eighth Notes using In the Hall of the Mountain King

This has to be one of my favorite pieces of music to use in my teaching. I love to use classical pieces that my students immediately recognize. They are so much more engaged when they've heard the piece in their lives already.

In this piece, there are just so many great musical concepts just waiting to be unpacked: tempo, dynamics, orchestral instruments, storytelling, pitch, and of course, rhythm. The clear rhythmic motive in this piece is so catchy and accessible for even my youngest students.

For our MIOSM blog series, I am sharing how I use this piece to prepare my young students for quarter note and barred eighth notes. Here are a few different tried-and-true ways to use it:

1. One of my favorite ways to introduce the piece is to play a recording of it while dramatically telling them the story of Peer Gynt’s attempt to flee from the trolls. I think that storytelling is one of the most overlooked aspects of our craft. It is arguably the oldest form of human expression, and I love being able to get my students' attention and help them hone their aural skills by telling them stories.

(If your school and administration is super open-minded, perhaps you could also play them this terrifying video? Just kidding. Don’t show this video unless you want angry parents calling you demanding to know why you showed their child this demonic video in music class.)  

Anyway, while I tell them the story, I begin chanting “tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe, troll” to the rhythm while our hero tries to escape. When the tempo and dynamics increase, I change it to “run run, run run, run run, troll!” It doesn’t take long before all of my students are chanting it along with me. Most are also singing along to the melody.

2. In a previous blog post, Listening Lessons Three Ways, I shared an awesome tool that was given to me by a former teacher: she calls it her "Marauders Map". It is actually two long paper rolls (they are a few feet wide and look great up on a chalkboard or dry erase board.) I start with the iconic notation and then when I'm ready to actually present quarter and eighth notes, I'll put the other one up side-by-side to compare.

3. In case you don't want to make your own map, here is a free printable/projectable one that I created using iconic notation:

4. Another fun activity to do with “Mountain King” is compare it to Mary Had A Little Lamb. I challenge my students to see if they can sing the lyrics to “Mary Had A Little Lamb" to the melody of "Mountain King." The same can also be done using "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" and it's fun to try and do the movements faster and faster with the accelerando in the piece.

5. One of the things that makes "In the Hall of the Mountain King" so accessible for students is the fact that it is so pervasive in popular culture. It's been covered and re-recorded by a number of popular artists and it is frequently heard in TV and movies. I've been told it is sampled in the song "Hair Up" from the new Trolls movie (how appropriate given the subject matter.)

No matter the source, there is a good chance that your students will recognize the tune when they hear it in class, and that is a great way to get them engaged in the lesson! 

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