Adventures in Sound
Adventures in Sound

Pyramid

Duration: 15 minutes
Age range: 10 and over, depending on ability
Players: ideally about 15. You need five groups with between one and four people in each.

  • This game, along with it's more advanced sibling Pyramid Two, helps to develop an awareness of different time values in the context of an underlying pulse. A piece of music may be moving along at a given tempo but, subjectively, can appear fast or slow depending on how frequently you are playing notes. In a piece of classical music, for example, the piccolo may play a dozen or more notes while the contrabass is playing only one, albeit a long one.
  • Provide each of your group with an instrument. Audition each of these in turn and establish which of them is the deepest in pitch and which the highest. Without being too scientific, arrange your orchestra in an arc with the deepest instrument at one end, the highest at the other end and the others in ascending order of pitch in between. If you are using tuned instruments then decide on a key.
  • Establish a slow, steady pulse.
  • Instruct the player of the deepest instrument to play on the first of every group of four beats. This establishes your bars. Now instruct the next person to play on the first and third beat of each bar. The next person plays on every beat of each bar.
  • If this is already challenging your orchestra then assign your remaining musicians equally between these three parts.
  • If you wish to take the game further then the fourth person plays two notes per beat and the fifth person plays four notes per beat. Encourage even playing: the notes should all be of equal length.




 

Tips: Make sure you have an able player in each group with a preponderance of manual agility in the faster groups

The players will get better with practice but tailor the game to the ability of your group. Keeping a steady beat requires a rare form of relaxed concentration while playing the faster notes quickly and evenly takes dexterity. Build your pyramid on firm foundations and make sure each course is secure before adding the next layer

If it's practical, swap instruments so that players experience the game from different perspectives. This also prevents the players of the deeper instruments from getting bored. If you have more players than layers then double up so you have two or more to a stratum. Alternatively, split into smaller groups of players and observers. This will allow players to rest.

Note: Assuming we are in the time signature of 4/4 (also known as common time) then, depending on your group, you may find it useful to call the different note lengths by name. The four beat note is a semibreve, the two beat note a minim, the one beat note a crotchet, the half beat note a quaver and the quarter beat note a semiquaver. (In North America these are called whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes and sixteenth notes respectively.) If your deeper notes are not sustaining notes it may seem inappropriate to describe them as semibreves or minims. Imagine them filling the intervening space or substitute an instrument or voice which can sustain. It works very well with chime bars.

  From the forthcoming FurtherAdventures in Sound