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Practice makes perfect (especially with friends)

What do all successful musicians have in common? They practice their skills and love telling others about their instruments.
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Pens or pencils
  • Scrap paper
  • Instruments

Before you begin

  • The musicians will probably need to bring their instrument in for this activity. If you’re also putting on a performance, you may want to combine this activity with rehearsals to save people bringing their instruments in twice.
  • The musicians should think about whether they’re happy for other people to use their instrument. They may be happy for people to have a go if they’re careful, or they may not even want people to touch their instrument at all. It’s up to the musician – they set the rules and everyone should respect them.
  • It’s likely that not everyone will be working towards their Musician Staged Activity Badge – music isn’t everyone’s thing, and that’s OK. People may still enjoy taking part in these activities and learning from the musicians, or they may want to do something different. They could practice some beginner vocal exercises, work towards another badge, or even work on their non-performing role in any upcoming performance (if you happen to be organising one).

Get some exercise

It’s up to you how you do this – all that’s needed for the Musician Staged Activity Badge is for the musician to ‘demonstrate some of the musical exercises that they use to practice their skills’. We’ve put together some ideas to get everyone involved.

  1. Each musician should show their audience some of the exercises they use to practice their skills. These could be something like scales or vocal exercises.
  2. The musicians should explain why exercises are important. They’re not always exciting to listen to (or the most fun to play), but they’re important to build skills and help people learn.
  3. If there’s time, a few musicians (ideally with different instruments) could compare their exercises. Are there many similarities? What are the main differences? The audience could help notice what’s different too.
  4. If they want to, two musicians could have an ‘exercise off’. They should take it in turns to show the other player an exercise, getting more complicated each time. When someone runs out of ideas, it’s game over. The audience could cheer and encourage the musicians to challenge themselves.
  5. Everyone should get into a circle. The first person should teach the person to their right a simple rhythm. They should pass it to the person on their right, and so on, until it moves around the circle and back to the first person. If it’s still the same, the first person should add an extra phrase on the end before sending it round again. How long can the rhythm get before it changes midway round the circle?

Show us what you’ve got

It’s up to you how you do this – all that’s needed for the Musician Staged Activity Badge is for the musician to ‘talk about their instrument and why they enjoy playing it’ (we’ll get on to the singers in the next bit). We’ve put together some ideas to get everyone involved.

  1. The musicians should make a short list of the different parts of their instrument. They should include some that are easier to guess (for example, the neck on a violin or mouthpiece on a trumpet) and some that are trickier (for example, the pots on a guitar or the foot on a flute).
  1. Everyone should split into groups. If more than one person plays the same instrument, it’s best for them to be in different groups.
  2. The musicians should read out a part from their list. The rest of their group should guess which part of the instrument it is.
  1. The musician should let everyone know if they’re right and explain what the part does.
  2. Once they’ve finished their list, the musician should tell everyone a bit more about their instrument and why they enjoy playing it.

In the mix

It’s up to you how you do this. All you need to do for the Musician Staged Activity Badge is give singers a chance to ‘talk about the songs they sing and why they enjoy singing them’. For some of the stages, all the musicians will need to talk about ‘well-known pieces of music associated with their instrument’ and ‘musicians associated with their instrument’. 

  1. Everyone should split into small groups.
  2. Each musician should write some musicians associated with their instrument on pieces of scrap paper. On other pieces of paper, they should write some songs those artists have created – they should choose famous songs that are associated with their instrument.
  1. The musicians should jumble their pieces of paper up.
  2. The rest of the group should try to match the artist with the song. It’s OK if this is a bit tricky – the musician who came up with the ideas can offer helpful hints.
  3. Once they’ve matched the musicians to the songs, the rest of the group should tell the musician what they know about them (or what their impressions are, if they’re not sure). For example, for ‘Symphony No. 5’ by Beethoven, people may be able to guess that Beethoven’s name sounds German, but they may want to ask what a symphony is.
  4. The musicians should share all of their knowledge. They may need to go away and learn some more if people ask questions they can’t answer yet.

Reflection

This activity was a chance to reflect on the musicians’ skills. How do people become better musicians? Usually it takes a lot of practice – the key is sticking at it even if it’s not the most interesting thing going on. Do other skills take a lot of practice? Can anyone think of a time they’ve kept on going and learned something new? How do people decide what to practice? Do they find it easy to find exercises that help them work on specific skills?  

Safety

All activities must be safely managed. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.