Don’t worry, there’s no carrots in this post. (Seriously, gross.) Blue Jello is an excellent system of teaching and learning rhythm. I think it’s important for my kids to have a BASIC understanding of music theory. How music is written, how to conduct different time signatures, that notes go up on the staff when they are higher [more on that next week!], and how to figure out some basic rhythms. It will help them throughout their entire church lives. Whether they sing in choir, they have to learn music for a young women’s or young men’s program or if they’re just singing an unfamiliar hymn in sacrament meeting, it will help them catch the new music SO much faster and easier.
The Blue Jello system is geared toward kids/adults who are learning to play instruments and need to be able to read music including simple and complex rhythms. My childhood music theory teacher used it when I was learning piano 20 years ago, so it’s been around awhile. Here’s some videos of it in action with the creator of Blue Jello (and some other pretty cool theory stuff too) Michiko Yurko.
I find the whole thing really intriguing, but I think it’s way too much to do all of that in primary. So, here’s my adaptation of it.
One of my favorite things to do with new songs is clapping the rhythm (I’m sure you’ve all done a little bit of it in your primaries too!). So I’m combing that technique (which gets ALL of my kids involved) with this one. It’s important that you have a basic understanding of reading rhythms yourself for this lesson. It’s important that you do all of the following things in the correct tempo for the song (however fast or slow you want them to sing it) and that you give every note and set of notes its full value. So “jello” should last the same amount of time as “blue” and “two” should be twice as long as blue. When we say “two” and “four” for half and whole notes, we pulse the vowel sound a little on each beat, so two-o and fo-o-o-our.
I’m going to start by asking them if they have good memories. Then I’ll show them each of the cards that I have for the different note values. (Quarter note, half note, etc.) Instead of naming them with their traditional theory names, I’m going to use the blue jello names. So, quarter notes are blue, 2 eighth notes are jello (the word jello is naturally said in that rhythm!) For half notes, we will clap once on the first beat and keep our hands together and point our fingers down to our knees on the second beat. For whole notes, we clap on the first beat, keep our hands together and point down on the second beat, back up on the third and down again on the fourth. We’re going to clap each card and say their names. I’ll go through each one once, and then shuffle them and see if they remember.
Once I feel like they’ve got it, I’ll do a couple of practice combinations, probably just up on the board. And then we’ll be ready to use our Keep the Commandments Rhythm Strips. I’ll do them one at a time for the first few and then do the first four together, then the next couple and the first six, you get the idea. Once we’ve gone through the whole song and we can clap it and blue jello it, I’ll have the pianist play the music. This way the kids will be able to see how the clapping fits into the song. If we have time, I’ll put the song’s words with it too, but if not, we’ll get them in next week when we do our melody lesson. And then we’ll be all set to learn lots of songs! Rhythm + Melody = Music!
Here’s the Keep the Commandments Rhythm Strips:
And here’s my version of the Blue Jello Cards:
At the end of Singing Time, I’ll challenge them to go home and see if they can find blues and jellos and all the rest in music they have at their house and in the hymnals at church next week when we sing songs in Sacrament Meeting.