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Year 3 Music

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Follow the Notes

musical notation

When composers write music down, they use special marks called notes. Here are some musical notes called the crotchet, minim and semibreve notes. The notes tell us the rhythm. They tell us how the music moves. That's because each note has a different length. Another way of saying that is, each note stands for a sound that lasts for a different amount of time. On the crotchet, you count to one. On the minim, you count to two. On the semibreve, you count to four. (You might also hear people say that a crotchet gets one beat, a minim gets two beats and a semibreve gets four beats.) It can be easy to confuse musical notes, and their names, but maybe this activity will help you.

crochet

Can you crochet a crotchet note? A crotchet note is not normally crocheted but our friend Helen was kind enough to crochet us a crotchet note! (That is all a bit of a tongue twister: can you say 'crochet a crotchet note' five times fast?) A crotchet is also the name of an ancient, hooked instrument, which looks similar to the hook used for crochet. If you use your imagination, do you think a crochet hook looks like a crotchet note?

A minim note does not last for the minimum number of beats. It has the length of two beats, and it takes two beats to say 'mi-nim'. A minim is a also a short, vertical stroke in handwriting, which does come from the word 'minimum', meaning 'smallest'. A minim is the basic stroke for the letters 'm', 'i' and 'n', which means that 'minim' is made entirely of letters that are minims! Other minims in handwriting are 'r' and 'u'. Some other letters that are based on minims are 'd' and 'b', as well as 'p' and 'q'. The saying 'minim confusion' is used when a reader work out which letter is which. Can you think of some other words made of minims? Can you write them clearly enough for someone else to tell the difference?

A semibreve is not brief at all: it lasts for four beats. It also takes four beats to say 'se-mi-brev-e'. A semibreve is half the length of a breve, because 'semi' means half. If a semibreve is four beats, how long is a breve note? Incredibly, 'breve' does mean 'short note' although it is 8 crotchets long. A longa, or 'long note', was two or three times as long, but is no longer used because it was too long to fit when used in written music! If we still used those, how many crotchets would last the same time as a longa if it were twice as long as a breve? If it were three times as long? How many minims would last the same amount of beats?

Try this: find a clock with a second hand, the kind that goes 'tick-tick-tick'. Now, say 'ahh' for four ticks. You've just made a sound that lasts as long as a semibreve. (Really, in different songs, notes can last for different times, but we can use the seconds of a clock as an example. A second for each beat is quite slow music.) If a semibreve lasts for four ticks of the clock, then how long would a minim last? Say 'ahh' for two ticks: that's how long a minim lasts. Now, say 'ah' four times, in time with the ticking of the clock like this: 'ah-ah-ah-ah'. You've just made the sound of four crotchets. Perhaps if you crochet quickly, you can crochet four times to make four crotchet notes in time with the ticking of the clock!

This activity is adapted from pages 213 - 215 of What Your Year 3 Child Needs to Know, which can be purchased here. This activity has cross-curricular connections: click below to see related activities .

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language and literature owl
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