Saturday, October 22, 2011

Music Tip -Ostinato

I’ve been teaching general music at school for 11 years.  Every year we talk about what an ostinato is and every year no one can remember from one week to the next what it is.  This always amazes and perplexes me because we play simple ostinatos on nonpitched and pitched instruments all the time as we use them to accompany chants and songs.

I decided that it is not that my students are dumb—it’s ME.  Evidently I’m not teaching the definition of an ostinato correctly. So I thought back to a brain research class I took and decided I need to teach the definition in a catchy, memorable way.  I decided to put the definition to a catchy tune. Here is what I came up with:

Did you notice the melody was the Hallelujah Chorus.  Thanks, Handel.  BTW, the kids are standing backwards so I could maintain their privacy on the internet.

I taught the song to the 3rd-6th graders and then had them go outside and sing it to the universe.  They looked at me like I was crazy but loved the idea of leaving the classroom.  We also walked down the sidewalk and sang it to the neighbors’ homes across the street from the school. At that point the students KNEW I was crazy.  But guess what?  Three weeks later, when I asked what an ostinato was, every child raised his arm and knew the answer.  And we all burst out singing,
    “Ostinato, ostinato, repeated pattern, repeated pattern”……….

Do you have something you are trying to teach your child at home?  Something he seems to never remember?  Put it to a song, make it silly and enjoy watching the astounding magic that will take place.


  1. Glad you wrote the words down - couldn't quite catch the "repeated pattern" - sooooo, I WILL try that!

  2. I love the idea! I found your blog through another music teacher's blog! I am thankful to see your ideas and experiences! I am in my fourth year of teaching now and have so much to learn!

  3. Oh! I wish we were still going to that school and my kids could be in your music class! My 2 year old REALLY connects with music, and whenever he is having a hard time getting a concept, I make up a song for it, and he gets it!

    Music IS magical. And you are doing amazing work. Thanks!

  4. What a great idea- actions always help with memory too!




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