Where is the love, Spiderverse?

I’m a total fan of Musical Futures. I think it fits really well with the IB framework, and it fits perfectly with my school’s strategy of Inclusion and Student Voice & Choice. 

All well and good, but when I did my training, my kids were in the middle of their creative cycles and so I couldn’t backtrack and try out my Musical Futures resources. I did try one activity, and the kids went wild for it – they were chattering, “This was SO MUCH FUN” as they left the room.

The resources we were given are fantastic… but generic.  They don’t actually fit to anything I’m doing in my class right now. However, I have a background in graphic design, so happened to ask at my PD, “So… if I were to make this myself, I’d make a series of images and overlay transparencies, then move all those over to a movie editor and just make sure the sound match the picture?”  The instructors affirmed that this is exactly how you did it.

But who has the time? It’s a pretty daunting task.

Enter the Amazing, Miraculous, Nanjing International School. For our five days of INSET, we were given five themes and told we could do whatever we wanted during our week, as long as they fit our themes. We had to fill out coloured cards and stick them to different boards so that there was accountability, but then afterwards we were sent off on our own. Fantastic! I choose “Inclusion.”

 Musical Futures encompasses inclusion and differentiation because: 
1. Everybody is playing the same song (inclusion).
2. Everybody learns every instrument – guitar, keyboard, drums, bass, ukulele & voice (inclusion)
3. Beginners on guitar uses sponges and only play the red notes, while intermediates play the full chords with no muted strings. Experts play the chord properly (differentiation)
4. Beginners on keyboards play root positions; intermediate play inversions (differentiation).
5. Beginners on bass play the roots shown; intermediates play rhythm patterns (differentiation)

I spend Monday just trying to figure out how this whole thing would work. Making the templates. Tuesday, I failed spectacularly. Of course, failure at Nanjing International School is praised, so when I failed, I emailed the Director, Deputy Director and Head of Middle School and was congratulated on my failure. (It’s a cool school where you can totally mess up and the admin is happy to hear it! I forgot that the music was capo 5. D’OH! All my work on Monday, for nothing!!!

But not for nothing. It’s really important that we teachers share our failures with our kids. How many times have I gone into a practice room and heard a horrible noise in which half the room is playing in a different key? Clutching my seemingly bleeding ears, I reach for capos (to everyone’s relief!) I had made the same mistake.

What should I do? Should I have the kids playing in all the same key? Then they couldn’t play to a track. Should I change to the original key? But the chords would be too difficult for beginners. In the end, I decided to put two different keys on the video. 

Kids need to understand that:
1. It’s okay for a group to play in two different keys; it’s done so that people have easier keys to play.
2. If you are going to play in two different keys, then the stringed instruments need capos.
3. Basses don’t need capos because their notes are easier (if they are playing roots). 

I’m using the “Where is the Love?” video for my grade 7 unit on protest songs. It protests racism and violence.  I’m using “Sunflower” from the Spiderverse for my grade 8 movie soundtrack unit. As my Head of Middle School noted, the kids’ll love this because the music is current. Spiderverse only just came out this past winter, so it’s super topical. 

The good news for me is that I learned how to do this fast. It took me 3 days, on and off (including working from home). However, I found a workflow that it super fast and efficient. If you aren’t efficient, making one of these videos is an absolute killer! However, I discovered that…
1. Make a template and add it on another layer. Keep copying and pasting it. 
2. When adding the cue notes for upcoming chords, just copy and paste from the other layers so that they are always in the same location. 
3. Name the files 01, 02, 03 with the chord names, like 01 C to F Spiderverse.jpg. That way, when you drag them into your movie editor, they’ll all be in the correct order and ready to go.
4. In the movie editor, drag your clips according to the wave length images and not by what you hear. It’ll end up being tighter and it saves time because you don’t have to listen (listen at the very end to debug.)
5. In the movie editor, drag your clips perfectly and watch the chord progression go by only once. When the sizes are all perfect, copy and paste it repeatedly. Debug again. 

I think the next ones I do should go pretty quickly – in about an hour – because now I’ve got my workflow like a well oiled machine.