You’ve probably seen them stuck to your child’s HomeRock binder. Or maybe you’ve seen a bunch of other kids with stickers covering their HomeRock binder….maybe even stuck on their guitar case or even their forehead!
What do those stickers mean?!
BLAM = Big Lessons About Music
BLAM Badges = The reward every musician gets for passing levels of BLAM games
Why does BMF do that?!
Parents want to trust their child’s lessons, trust their teachers, and trust the plan. I remember how shocking it was when I first sat in on my own daughter’s language arts class and the teacher explained the strategy called “Inventive Spelling”. In a nutshell, the rationale behind Inventive Spelling is that letting a child decide the spelling of words in the beginning, even if the spelling is “wrong,” encourages them to write a LOT from the start, even if they don’t yet know how to spell “correctly”.
Writing a lot and writing early ultimately leads to much stronger spelling skills (and reading skills) down the road. Why? Because being corrected a lot discourages kids from writing and they lose confidence. And then they stop wanting to do the one thing, writing, that they need to do to become better writers.
Experience builds confidence
And confident people are more open and willing to learn and grow. Once my daughter developed confidence in her writing skills, she was ready and willing to learn different–aka, the correct–spelling from her teachers.
To believe in Inventive Spelling I needed to understand the why behind all my child’s uncorrected ‘misspellings’ in her writing. Once I understood that there was a clear path to her ultimately learning the correct spellings–and that this curriculum had been proven to work over and over again–I became a believer. My daughter has gone onto become a voracious reader and writer. In fact, she is leaving for college this fall!
We believe in FUN first
Brooklyn Music Factory has a similar plan. We have seen that a fun first approach builds confidence and skills. And our Big Lessons About Music teach the fluency of musicianship. What does that mean?
All Big Lessons About Music fall into one of four categories: Melody • Harmony • Rhythm• Songwriting. Why? Because melody, harmony, rhythm and songwriting are the essential building blocks of rock and pop music. (They are actually the building blocks of all genres of music, but we focus on contemporary music).
Start hearing the notes
Our Melody games, like Wait A Second, challenge students to hear the distance between two notes (yes, we measure distance in sound as musicians!).
When a musician recognizes the distance from a C to an E, she can then apply that information to her instrument and repeat back that melody. Musicians with developed ears can actually hear the notes they see on a page, rather than simply reading them.
FUN FACT: Strong musical ears make for strong sight readers.
Hearing more than one note at a time
If melody is the horizontal part of music, harmony is the vertical aspect of it. Our harmony games, like Major/Minor, challenge students to hear three or more notes at the same time.
Chords support melodies and chords can move in progressions, so BLAM games start by asking students to listen for a single chord quality (is it happy, meaning major, OR is it sad, meaning minor) and graduate to games asking students to hear one chord moving to another and then another. When students hear a chord quality and a harmonic rhythm, they then start to understand why they are learning how to play so many chords (on piano or guitar). They begin to listen more actively and hear MORE when they play music.
FUN FACT: Musicians can learn to hear what they play before they even play it!! And this is what inspires them to WANT to play. They anticipate or imagine a sound, and then make that sound happen on their own instrument.
Get your groove on
In rhythm games, like Groove Puzzler, students get to dive into notes of different lengths and combinations, learning how they form grooves.
At Brooklyn Music Factory, we have found that this is the #1 place to start when giving musicians the tools they need to play with others in a band. Groove, groove, groove! It’s both the MOST fun and the MOST important. At least it feels that way in the beginning. Rhythm and groove are like the glue that binds melody and harmony together.
Groove Puzzler challenges the player to listen for patterns in rhythm and then put the note values in the correct order, left to right, to recreate that pattern. Kids love this game! And what they don’t realize is that they are actually learning how to read rhythms, in addition to listening to and transcribing them.
FUN FACT: John Cage defined music as “controlled sound and silence.” This is a great way to think of rhythm. It’s how we control both the sound and the silence (doesn’t matter if it’s melody OR harmony OR a combination of both).
The power of songwriting
Our final Big Lesson About Music category is songwriting. One of my favorite songwriting games is Word Beat. Word Beat challenges the player to listen to the words and syllables in the lyrics of a song and place them correctly within a measure of music. By “correctly,” I mean accurately place each syllable where it falls in the rhythm sequence. Take, “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream,” for example. The game asks the player to count in their head and decide if the first “row” lands on beat #1 or beat #2 of the measure of music.
Why is this SO powerful? For starters, kids get to listen to words and then drag them around the screen. They LOVE doing that and are addicted to this game!! So just from a focused listening point of view, Word Beat is a hit. But, in addition, the game actually teaches the musician to realize that a song’s lyrics influence the overall groove or rhythm of the song.
Tie it all together
In fact, really smart musicians use the lyrics to help trigger the part they are playing on their instrument. For example, a drummer might know that every time “row” is sung, he is going to play his kick drum with his foot. OR a guitar player might listen for lyrics to help know exactly when to switch from a G chord to a C chord. Word Beat teaches musicians to be more in touch with the story, aka the lyrics of a song.
FUN FACT: Most great drummers memorize the lyrics to the songs they play because it’s the story that helps them remember which beats to play during each section.
Try Big Music Games today for free! Have fun playing!! (Launches April 2018!)
Next up: How Musicians are like Athletes (& Why LeBron James is Nate’s musical hero)