Note to educators: Lesson will exceed the recommended time if the optional activities are carried out
By the end of the lesson, students will be able to:
Duration: 10 minutes
Watch the video below by Singapore Chinese Orchestra, An Instrumental discovery of Chinese Orchestra Webisode 1. Through this video, students will gain a basic understanding of the beginnings of the Chinese orchestra and its instruments. After watching the video, you can check their understanding with the following questions. Teachers can either screen the video in class or set this as an individual task ahead of in-class lesson.
Teacher to conclude this section with the following key points:
Duration: 15 minutes
To allow students to better appreciate the idea of the pentatonic scale (a scale that is made of 5 tones), teacher can play the following video, Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale, or re-enact the activity with the students.
For this activity, download and print Annex A: Music Resource Worksheet (see download below) and to distribute to every student in the class. Parts 1 to 3 covers different aspects of the instruments and Chinese traditional music. As students are watching the video, they can jot down notes in the worksheet. Alternatively, teacher may utilize students’ Personalised Learning Devices (PLDs) to create a digital poster using Google Jamboard. For this activity, you will be required to screen the video, I Kid You Not #8: The Art of Chinese String Instruments. The timings are given below.
Part 1: Get to know the physical construct of the instruments
Duration: 10 minutes
Begin this part by asking your students if they know what a string instrument is and to name a few that they already know of. Explain to students that in Chinese traditional music, there are string instruments as well. Instruct your students to look out for the physical features of the three instruments (erhu, yangqin and pipa) and to jot them down in the worksheet. For this activity, you will be required to screen the video, I Kid You Not #8: The Art of Chinese String Instruments.
Before screening the video, teachers can get students to fill in the KWL chart. After filling the KWL chart, you can screen the video. As students are watching the video, they can jot down the answers to the different parts in the worksheet.
To find out more about the physical features of the three instruments, students to watch the video from 2m49s to 4m34s.
Part 2: Playing Techniques
Duration: 10 - 30 minutes
Optional: Teachers who are able to demonstrate on the instruments are encouraged to do so
Screen I Kid You Not #8: The Art of Chinese String Instruments from 4m34s to 8m02s. As students are watching the video, they can fill up the sections on playing techniques.
Note: *Both tremolo techniques used in pipa and yangqin are used to emulate long notes on the instrument since the instrument sound decays the moment it is generated
Part : Expressing Moods & Emotions
Duration: 10 minutes
Traditional music often gives us a glimpse into the lives and culture of people from the past. For this next section, screen I Kid You Not #8: The Art of Chinese String Instruments from 8m28s to 13m47s.
You can conclude the section by summarising that traditional Chinese music are often programmatic in nature, evoking scenery, moods or emotions, and can sometimes be based on a poem or story. You can then instruct your students to complete the last column of KWL chart and elicit a response from them about what they have learned.
Duration: 30 minutes
If time permits, teacher can show examples of solo pieces for the three string instruments and have students to observe salient features of the music. Before starting on this activity, download, print and disseminate Annex B: Music Listening Appreciation Worksheet (see download section below).
Before playing the pieces, share with students the title and the composer of the pieces you have selected.
After listening to the pieces, lead a discussion on the salient points of the pieces including the following:
Then, instruct students to select one or more pieces and record their reaction to the music they have listened to on Annex B. You can encourage your students to share their response with the class before concluding the lesson.
Possible Links to next lesson:
Chew Lixian is the music coordinator at Zhonghua Secondary School. She has clinched the first prize in the Sheng Open Category of the National Chinese Music Competition and performed as a soloist with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. As a performer and an educator, she hopes to spread her love for Chinese music to the wider community.