Episode 7 features an item that has been around for a long time, but many of us explored it greatly when having to teach in various teaching scenarios throughout this pandemic. I am speaking of the play-along videos. These are videos that include a song, various rhythm, melodic, or body percussion patterns, and a moving conductor so that the students can watch and actively “play along” with the video. It is very similar to “follow the bouncy ball” karaoke videos.

YouTube Episode: https://youtu.be/Lacn-5FfRRE

The Benefits

There are many reasons these play-along videos have worked so well:

  • You can find numerous videos to a variety of styles of music on YouTube.
  • You can create your own with tools such as Canva (to create beautiful slides), a recording of a song, a presentation program (like PowerpoInt or Keynote), and a screen recording tool (such as Screencastify or Loom).
  • You can utilize body percussion so the students can move in their spaces when socially distanced.
  • You can utilize classroom instruments, virtual instruments that they can access on their devices, classroom objects like desks, or body percussion to actively make music. This was very beneficial since music class can have an enormous amount of restrictions when teaching in-person during the pandemic.
  • You could assign this as an activity on a choice board for asynchronous atmospheres.
  • You could implement this nicely into a concurrent or hybrid teaching scenario.
  • You could also assign these videos on a google classroom, Seesaw, Schoology, or other learning management systems or platforms with the students using various tools to record themselves for a playing or movement assessment.

The Amount of Choices

There are so many wonderful play-along videos available on YouTube for you to use in any teaching scenario. Some of the ones that I have seen and used:

  • Elementary Groove Tracks – This channel is created by Cameron Moten, an elementary music educator. Cameron’s videos feature the arrow, but also him conducting as well. He explains his process to Katie Wardrobe on her podcast here.
  • Ukulaliens – This channel is created by Rachel Webley and has many ukulele play-along videos. This past summer, I started teaching ukulele to students in our school’s Summer Adventure Experience and they loved the videos!
  • ukeplayalongs – This is another channel that we loved for their wonderful ukulele play-along videos to current pop songs.
  • Music Class with Ms. Watson – This channel is created by Abby Watson, an elementary music educator and the daughter of Dr. Scott Watson (music educator and popular composer for school band literature). I personally love Abby’s bucket drumming videos, but she has quite a variety of play-along and movement videos on her channel.
  • Dr. Missy Strong – Her YouTube channel has two move-its that my students cannot get enough of! Accompanied by her son, check out Bright Suns (Oga’s Cantina) and Trombone Shorty: Hurricane Season.
  • Jennifer Wentworth – Jennifer has two excellent body percussion play-alongs that my students adore! She also has many read-alouds which come in very handy on days when you need to rest your voice, or for any remote, concurrent, or asynchronous learning.
  • Irene Smykowski – Irene has multiple body percussion videos to various popular songs for upper elementary students.
  • Musication – It would not be accurate if I did not mention this wonderful channel as a source for play-along videos. Musication features numerous boomwhacker play-along videos that my students cannot get enough of. And you are not confined to boomwhackers. My upper elementary students have successfully used the videos for tone chimes as well.
  • Mr. Henry’s Music World – I discovered this channel through Katie. He has a variety of videos for elementary music, including play-alongs and so much more.
  • Visual Musical Minds – Nathan Walby’s channel is phenomenal. It is well-made and executed so you can grab a video and intuitively implement it into your teaching day and your curriculum. He also created the “The Everything File” where he explains how to use his free resource of play-along items so you can create your own videos.
  • Video Creation Course – Katie ran an excellent course titled “Video Creation for Music Teachers” that covered how to create a play-along video in-depth.

How to Create a Play-Along Video

Episode 7 goes into these steps in more detail.

  • Choose your goal. Is it to practice a steady beat movement? To experience movement with form? To read and perform certain rhythm patterns as a part of the practice portion in the Kodály approach? To play as an ensemble like in the boomwhacker play-along videos?
  • Choose the music. Does the music have a strong beat that you can feel well or does it have a lot of subdivisions in it? Are you going to use this in your classroom or publish it publicly where copyright will need to be addressed? Is the music an appropriate length?
  • Create the patterns. Are there resources already available for this part so that you do not need to recreate the wheel? Like Katie Wardrobe’s free notation files which also include a collection of 36 Free Guitar Chord Images and a collection of 22 Ukulele Chord Images? Or if you are a member of her community, the boomwhacker and body percussion files? Or Nathan’s everything file?
  • Use the free educators version of Canva to create beautiful backgrounds for the notation, boomwhacker, ukulele chords, boomwhacker, etc slides.
  • From here, I export the Canva file as individual .png files and bring them into Keynote or Powerpoint.
  • Using the program’s shapes tool, I create a “conducting box” to go around the first beat.
    • Keynote: Shape>Square. Then click the Format tab to click Fill>No Fill. To change the weight of the border so that it is a thicker box, click Border>Line>10pt
    • Powerpoint: Insert>Shapes>Square. Then click on the screen to place the square. Then click on the Shape Format tab, click Shape Fill>No Fill. Then Outline>Weight>6pt
  • Using the program’s animation tool, I use the “move” animation to move the box to the second beat. I continue until I have moved the box to the end of the measure. Each program is different, but I usually have the box moving at .5 or less per second so that it moves quickly with the music.
    • Keynote: Click on the box you created. Click the Animate tab. Then, click Action>Add an Effect>Move>.2s>click “Align to path” and then physically move the box to the next place on the screen. Next, click Add Action>Move>.2s>click “Align to path” and then physically move the box to the next place on the screen. Continue until you have all of the boxes you need for this slide. I do not add any slide transition animations if I know that the song has a quick tempo. Finally, test the slide to see if it worked.
    • Powerpoint: This is trickier for the version I am using on a Mac. Click the box you created. Click the Animations tab. Then click Path Animation>Lines. Then click Effect Options>Right. Then move the box to where it should end up (this might move the original box as well, so you will need to move it back). Then, change the timing to .5 seconds. Click Exit Effects>Disappear and change the “On Click” to “After Previous”. Copy and paste the box to the next place on the screen. You will need to add “Appear” to that box and change the “On Click” to “After Previous”. I did not find this to be intuitive on the version I am using on the Mac. This is probably much easier on another version of powerpoint where you can access a menu called More Motion Paths.
  • If the pattern is going to be repeated multiple times, I copy and paste the box with the animations and place them on each slide with the same pattern.
  • I continue until I have finished the conducting box on each slide.
  • In Powerpoint or Keynote, I can add the soundtrack to the slideshow.
    • Keynote: Document>Audio
    • Powerpoint: Insert>Audio>Audio From File, then when the icon appears, click on the audio icon and Playback tab will appear. Click on “Play in Background”.
  • I launch a screen recording tool such as Loom, Screencastify, or Screencast-o-matic. I make sure that the screen recording tool can source the audio, as Loom shows in its preferences menu. I turn off my microphone, click record, play the slide show in presentation mode, and move the box with the soundtrack.
  • When I accomplish a recording that worked well, I will trim off any extra footage in the beginning or end of the video.
  • When completed, I show my students.

What are some of your favorite play-along videos?

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