Elephant and a bit more of the Aquarium

A couple weeks ago I posted about "The Aquarium" from The Carnival of the Animals.  When I was at school today I took a picture of the listening map that I had made for it:
There is one more piece to it that I I forgot to take a photo of and that is the coda which is represented by a descending line of water drops.  

Here's what I do in "The Aquarium" lessons.
  1. The students follow along while I point to the fish.  They are asked to listen for why they think the fish are different shapes and what they represent (shape=rhythm; placement=melody)
  2. They listen again, following along by tracking the fish from their seats.
  3. The next lesson we review and then the students use fish that I have mounted on popsicle sticks to follow along with the listening map.
  4. The lesson after that they can either use fish or scarves to travel in space around the room, using the manipulative to show duration and melodic contour.  They are suppose to "swim" only when they hear the "fish" part)
Here is "The Elephant" listening map, also from The Carnival of the Animals:

"Elephant" from The Carnival of the Animals Listening Map
The first thing that is very obvious to students is the form of the piece and using their background knowledge it is very easy to identify that the form is ABA.  I've also made this into a power point.  You can download this file by clicking here.

"Elephant" Slide one of the Powerpoint

"Elephant" Slide two of the Powerpoint

"Elephant" Slide three of the Powerpoint

"Elephant" Slide four of the Powerpoint
The downfall and/or benefit of the power point is that the students don't immediately identify the form.  

Here is an activity that I do with the students for "The Elephant":

Pocket String Bass:
After listening to "The Elephant" all the way through the students identify that the string bass is the solo instrument.  I then make a big production over the fact that each and everyone of them is going to get to play a string bass that day.  Furthermore they are all going to get to play their basses at THE SAME TIME!  AND here's the best part: their string bass can even fit in their pocket!  GASP!  It's funny, when you first tell them that they all will get to play a bass in class they start looking around the room for the bass, which we all know would take up a large space in the classroom.

Here's how it works.  You will need a string for every student in your class.  The strings should be about 4 feet in length. At the end of each string make a loop and tie it in a knot so that you have a loop at each end:
Nylon string with a loop tied at each end.  The string is approximately 4 feet in length.
From there, you will make a slip knot, that is, pull the string through the loop just like you would for the end of a yo-yo.  Put one of the slip knots around your finger like this:
Make a slip knot at each end.
The other slip knot you put around your foot.  

The next part is very important: you are going to place your finger (the one with the string on it) on the outside part of the ear call the tragus.  We all know that it is very important that our students not stick their fingers IN their ears, so please go over this with your students.  Now, you should have the slip knot around your foot, a slip knot around your finger and the finger with the slip knot on your tragus.  Make the string tight and with your free hand pluck the string.  It will sound like a string bass.  Let your students experiment with how to change the sound of their bass.  They will learn that the tighter the string, the higher the pitch; the looser the string, the lower the pitch.  They can use their fingernail to slide along the string, they can make the string tighter after they pluck it to see how that affects the sound.

Once they have had the chance to experiment it is now time for them to play their bass along with the solo bass in "The Elephant."  I have them pluck their string for every elephant they see (every strong beat).  In the b-section I have them slide their fingers along the string but you can change it however you like.  In my "old-school" listening map you'll see and hear that in the b-section there is a spot where they pluck (beats 2 & 4 of the second line of the b-section).  I found a way to add that to the power point  yet that I'm satisfied with.  If you do, please share it with me! :)

Happy bass playing!


  1. I love this!!
    I am a little confused about the string bass though. Why do the kids need to put their finger on the outside of their ear? Are they supposed to do this as they pluck the string? How do they do both at the same time with their free hand?

    1. Hi Holly,

      Sorry about the confusion! Let me see if I can explain it better-
      1. Make a slip knot on one end of the string and put that around your foot.

      2. Make a slip knot on the other end, put that around your finger and put the finger with the string on the tragus. If you don't put your finger on the outside of the ear you won't be able to hear the string.

      You should now have one end of the string around your foot and the other around your finger with that finger on the tragus. The other hand should be free.

      3. Using the free hand, pluck the string. This will sound like a string bass. The beautiful part is you really hear a simulated string bass but you're the only one that can hear it.

      Please, if this still doesn't make sense, let me know and I'll see if I can get my husband to video tape me with a string so you can see.

      Thanks for your reply!!

  2. Got it!! Thank you! :)
    This is really neat!

  3. I love the string bass idea. I'll definitely have to try it this year!

  4. Good idea! It looks like you used yarn for this. Does it matter what kind of string you use?

    1. I don't think so but I use the nylon string. . . you have to burn the edges so they don't fray but they last a long time. 17 years and counting!

  5. I am so excited to do this with my kids. They are going to love that they can take the string bass home and its something that I can actually afford on my music budget :) Thank you!


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