A few weeks ago, I discovered “William He Had 7 Sons” and realized that the rhythm was exactly the same as the “In the Hall of the Mountain King” main theme. (The latter has been in my brain lately as my five year old is obsessed with “Hair Up” from the movie Trolls!) I further realized that both are in minor (which I LOVE) and their melodic directions are similar. These 2 pieces are perfect for comparison! The connections are simple to make and short enough for kids to understand. Seizing this opportunity, I set out to create a series of activities! I did this over several lessons, but you can decide what works for you!

  1. Have kids learn it!! 😊
  2. Come up with new activities ~ In this YouTube version, the song includes the sons building a house. They list various steps and do fun movements to go with them. You could easily have your students select a different project for the sons to do and create the steps and verses.
  3. Figure out rhythm and clap it out ~ After the kids know it really well, have kids clap out the rhythm while they sing it. Then have them create the rhythm in Note Knacks measure by measure!
  4. Listen to “In The Hall Of The Mountain King” ~ Have kids tap out the steady beat when they listen to it the first time. Ask them what happens (It gets faster).
    1. Have them tap out the rhythm the second time.
  5. Figure out rhythm in NK ~ same as before – figure it out measure by measure and clap it out.
  6. Compare rhythms ~ similarities/ differences? ~ Students will start to hear the similarities and will point them out ~ go with it! The one difference occurs in the last measure: “7 sons” ends on a quarter and quarter rest, while “In the Hall” ends with a half note. This is an excellent teachable moment to show kids that 2 red NK (quarters) = a blue (half note) EVEN THOUGH one of the reds is a rest!! They will be able to see it clearly!!
  7. Play rhythm with Boomwhackers ~ We all played the rhythm at the same time. Kids had C’s, E’s and G’s, but thinking about it now, it would have been better to give them the notes for an A minor root chord, as both pieces are in minor.
  8. Look at melodies ~ (have them written out on large magnetic staves or whatever you have!) Do they both go in the same direction? (up or down?) Have kids be detectives and look for the similarities even though they are not fluent readers. (After all, music is still a picture made up of symbols) What do they notice?
  9. Listen to each theme ~ you can really go crazy and play each in both minor (as intended) and then in major. What do the kids hear? How does the difference in a couple of notes make them feel? What do they think about that?
  10. Mix up the rhythm to make a new 4mm piece (B Section) OR
  11. Write a whole new 4 mm B Section (Either as a B Section or add it as a C Section)
  12. Decide how to structure the new piece and play ~ What form would your kids want to play? ABA, ABCA, ABACA, etc… It is up to them! Do they want to write in letter names and play it on Boomwhackers? Do you want to keep them in a certain minor pentatonic scale for the whole thing or have them modulate to the relative major for the B and C Sections… or have it be a free for all? The possibilities are endless!!
  13. Listen to “Hair Up” from Trolls to hear variation on “In The Hall of the Mountain King” for fun!!