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Boomwhackers

Students in Middle School are having a blast learning an advanced musical concept.

Mr. Kelby Schnepel is teaching counterpoint to his seventh grade Music Appreciation classes. Counterpoint is an abstract puzzle that explores the relationship between two or more musical lines.  

There are many counterpoint rules that musicians should strive to follow when composing. Johann Joseph Fux developed a widely known set of rules in the 1700s. Among Fux's rules: Start and end lines on the same note; use no less than eight notes and no more than 16; always include one climax or high point; and use two to four leaps in different directions.

Beethoven and Mozart used counterpoint when creating their masterpieces. However, some of the rules - such as avoid excessive use of patterns and use mostly stepwise motion - are vague and can be difficult to grasp, even for experienced musicians. It can take a lot of thought, along with trial and error, to piece together the best-sounding songs. 

Still, Mr. Schnepel wanted to give teaching counterpoint a try with his seventh graders. He also wanted to make it fun.

After explaining Fux's rules, he instructed the students to compose their own melodies. Then the class played the melodies using Boomwhackers, which are plastic tubes tuned to various musical pitches. They can be banged on a desk or the ground or a body part, with different sounds coming out.

Mr. Schnepel acknowledges he wasn't sure how this teaching experiment would work out. Counterpoint is usually studied by students in college, he said.

So he has been thrilled with how his students have developed so far.

“It's working. In a way, it's a logic puzzle and they love that," he said. 


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Eighth graders in Kelby Schnepel's Music Appreciation classes are studying counterpoint, with the use of Boomwhackers.

Eighth graders in Kelby Schnepel's Music Appreciation classes are studying counterpoint, with the use of Boomwhackers.

Eighth graders in Kelby Schnepel's Music Appreciation classes are studying counterpoint, with the use of Boomwhackers.

Eighth graders in Kelby Schnepel's Music Appreciation classes are studying counterpoint, with the use of Boomwhackers.

Eighth graders in Kelby Schnepel's Music Appreciation classes are studying counterpoint, with the use of Boomwhackers.

Eighth graders in Kelby Schnepel's Music Appreciation classes are studying counterpoint, with the use of Boomwhackers.

Eighth graders in Kelby Schnepel's Music Appreciation classes are studying counterpoint, with the use of Boomwhackers.

Eighth graders in Kelby Schnepel's Music Appreciation classes are studying counterpoint, with the use of Boomwhackers.

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