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Teaching in a Prison - no instruments!


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#1 Enaydee

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 12:52

Hello all

 

Long time reader of the forum and thought I would see if I could pick your brains for a unique challenge I have ahead! I'm due to teach music over summer in a prison. I will have NO instruments or resources other than pens and paper. 

 

I have various things planned regarding the basic building blocks of rhythm and using clapping rhythms to build songs etc. I'm also going to explore doing vocals and singing however this isn't my strong point (I teach piano and drums).

 

Does anyone have experience/any ideas or links to resources of what else I could do? It will probably be in groups of 6/8.

 

Thank you!

 


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#2 hammer action

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 13:56

That sounds like quite a challenge if you have no instruments.....i'd be worried in case they didn't want to sing or clap once i'd got started.

 

A colleague of mine a few years ago taught guitar in prison to small groups.  He got hold of some relatively cheap guitars and took them in with him for the guys to use (they may have shared one between two).  Three chord stuff, playing along with backing tracks, how to tune the guitar etc.  He looked forward to it and said they enjoyed it.  

 

Would that be a possibility?  Would the prison have some guitars or some funding you could use?  There might be a singer in the group once you got started playing chords to well-known tunes?

 

I know you said you teach piano and drums, but some basic stuff on guitar isn't too hard.  There's always ukulele too?


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#3 Enaydee

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 15:20

Thank you for the help! Guitar is a good idea, I know my basic chords and things already so I can build from there. Yes that's my worry that people will be hesitant to clap or sing, though I'm assured that they're there by choice to learn skills so I'm hoping it won't be a problem.


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#4 Saxwarbler

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 16:33

I spent some time a few years ago teaching basic skills at a young offenders' centre. In one room there was a cage full of various instruments - guitars, drums, a couple of keyboards. They were never used because there was no-one able to use them. The lads often used to complain about not having access. Very sad. Guitar sounds like a good plan. You may even find a student who can play it. If you could learn a few popular songs then even better - you could plan something in for the first session and then ask your students what sort of music they'd like to play/sing. Try the 3- or 5-chord song books that are available - there's a very wide range of material in them.

My short experience tells me that inmates are generally responsive to any education. It gets them out of their cells for an hour or so and a little time away from having prison officers breathing down their necks. As one of them told me, 'you're not the one who locks us in at night'. That said, like any teaching, don't be too forgiving too soon - they'll take advantage. Also, be prepared to have any equipment, yours or the prison's, checked and scrutinised before and/or after every session. We used to be equipped with a kit box containing the requisite writing/drawing materials for the size of class, and it had to be checked out and in at every session. Once I was left with a protractor missing at the end of a lesson. I had to tell the officer on duty and all six lads in the class had to be strip-searched before they could go back to their cells and before I could leave the wing. It turned up behind a wall panel in the classroom three weeks later. The officers told me that the lads had probably just been testing me but every incident, however minor it may seem, has to be treated as an escape attempt. Very rewarding though, and a useful experience. Good luck.


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#5 BrokenChordsGirlCG169

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 18:51

That's a great thing to do, good luck! Agree with pps, get some cheap instruments to take in, maybe guitars, since you teach these anyway why not a couple of keyboards and some drums. I have a basic £60 keyboard from Argos, light enough for me to carry around and I'm 5ft0. Assuming you have access to a car of course. They could maybe find a place for the instruments to save moving them in and out each time (and as a pp mentioned, the checks). 

Xylophone? Recorders? (OK in no way 'cool' like guitar but you may be surprised and they're cheap and light).


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#6 BrokenChordsGirlCG169

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 18:53

Also, could you take in something to play music for them to clap/ sing/ play along, and do some simple analysis? Portable CD players and CDs? Laptop? IPad and speakers?


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#7 Enaydee

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 20:39

Thank you for the help all. Some really helpful suggestions that I'll definitely take note of. I'm hoping to convince them of the need for proper instruments after I've been for a few sessions but at the moment it'll be just what I can teach with rhythms and voice!


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#8 peri busy

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 07:23

This brings to mind the group "Stomp" - YouTube them if not familiar. If permitted, you can use brooms, bins, chairs, tables, the floor, walls, in addition to a spectrum of vocal effects (e.g. shhhh, tih tih, chahhh, umta umta, eeeoh  eeeoh   younger folk are very open to this - rap style!) . You would need to be mentally prepared  but could present it as a composition opportunity for your group - make it their own piece, allowing them to create their own riffs and ideas? Each group can then perform for the others at the end of the sessions - mini showcase/concert?


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#9 Saxwarbler

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 18:27

Actually, thinking back, quite a few the lads I taught used to improvise rap. I suspect it was another way of trying to get a reaction from me but since it involved a form of poetry then I used to let them get on with it. All it needs is the hands, something to tap on and maybe some sort of backing track - they'll do the rest.


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#10 GCEA

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Posted 30 July 2017 - 20:18

Billy Bragg has a charity to provide guitars who might be able to help:

 

http://www.billybrag...uitar_doors.php


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#11 Sylvette

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 08:24

How about some beat boxing?


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#12 Cyrilla

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 22:48

How about some beat boxing?

You could show them this guy as inspiration...

 

 

But I WOULD get them singing!   I know people who have worked in prisons and found that folk songs (long stories of love and adventure and death!) went down really well.

 

And there are a lot of inspiring musicians around at the moment in the burgeoning a cappella movement - look at Peter Hollens, Home Free, Pentatonix, who show what can be done with just the human voice:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MDMv4-JG4E

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHLy-k6m6M8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o10drRI3VQ0

 

:)


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