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  1. Tell your students that since the 1950's, calypso music has mostly been played on professionally crafted instruments, including trumpets, saxophones, clarinets, guitars, and drum sets, as well as the traditional steel pan drum. But in its early days, Calypso was often played on instruments that people made from things they could find, including bamboo tubes, paint cans, shipping cans, garbage cans, and oil drums (big metal barrels that oil was stored or shipped in). Make sure they understand that the objects generally were not played as they were found, but were turned into instruments by the musicians.
  2. Depending on how many objects are available, you may want to pool the materials and have the students work in groups, or let them trade or select objects if they are working alone. Each student or group should try to gather a collection of similar objects, for example plastic tubs of various sizes.
  3. Have the students experiment with "playing" each of their objects. Do some sound higher than the others? Can they get more than one sound from the same object? Can they arrange the objects from lowest to highest sound? If they all sound the same, can they change the pitches of some of them, by cutting the cardboard tubes for example. If you don't mind the mess and the instruments are not going to be permanent, they can try tuning containers by sticking clay or tape to them, or filling them with water, sand, or plaster.
  4. One group may prefer to make maracas of different sizes and pitches, by filling some containers with dried beans; prevent some messes by sealing the containers with strong tape once they have a sound that they like.
  5. Have the students experiment: Do their objects give their best sound when they are held in the hand? Hung from a string? Put on a desk? Taped to a board? Laid across two two boards or dowels with some space beneath them? Tapped with fingers or with another object, or slapped against a thigh or the heel of a hand?
  6. Once they have decided on their objects and decided how best to play them, have them assemble their final instrument from at least three differently-pitched objects and give a demonstration to the class. You may want to use some of their instruments to accompany a song or to play calypso rhythms .

Calypso rhythms

    Goals and standards

  • Goals - Students will learn to perform calypso-style rhythms.
  • Objectives - Students will listen to and imitate one or more calypso-style rhythms. Students will perform rhythms as a group, either all playing the same rhythm, or playing a variety of rhythms at the same time. Students will display good musicianship by keeping a steady beat, keeping to the same beat as the group, and playing rhythms accurately.
  • Grade Level - K-12 (adaptable)
  • Student Prerequisites - none
  • Teacher Expertise - The teacher or an assistant must be able to accurately demonstrate the rhythms and lead the class in playing them. If the students will be playing more than one rhythm at a time, the teacher should be comfortable leading simple percussion ensembles.
  • Time Requirements - Only a few minutes to learn each rhythm
  • Evaluation - Evaluate students on participation as well as rhythmic accuracy.
  • Music Standards Addressed - National Standards for Music Education standards 2 (performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music) and 9 (understanding music in relation to history and culture).
  • Other Subjects Addressed - The activity also addresses National Council for the Social Studies standard 1 (culture).

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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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