A little neighbor boy came by recently all excited to talk to my husband. He had just turned 8 years old and wondered where his Wolf Pack met. Clearly he wanted to join Cub Scouts and knew that my husband was a Scouter. After my husband talked to him and told him what he needed to do, he went joyfully on his way.
That took me back to the days when our boys were young Cub Scouts and I was a den leader. Being a Cub Leader is strenuous, but a lot of fun. The BSA is so well organized and has great helps and instructions. All you really need do is follow the guidebook and monthly calendar and you too can be a success! My favorite meetings, though, were the ones in which I could help the boys explore their musical gifts. We sang silly songs. We created whacky musical instruments. We explored rhythm and notation. We even performed for Pack Meetings.
One of our most popular activities was forming a Pop Bottle Band.
First, we gathered the glass pop bottles. This was not too hard seeing that most of us enjoyed drinking the contents. We needed at least eight to ten glass pop bottles to tune to a C Major scale (including an F# and a B flat). But, to really play melodies and accompaniment, we needed a few larger bottles to hit low F, G and B flat. We found that getting sparkling cider bottles worked just fine for the low notes. Higher notes above Treble C we found that some household kitchen bottles that once contained things like soy sauce or vinegar (smaller bottles with long skinny necks) worked perfectly well.
Blowing on the bottles took some practice to develop the skills. So we took some time learning about breathing and lip placement (embrasure). Next we tackled blowing steady quarter note rhythms all together. Next, we used the tuned bottles to play triads in steady beats - the boys playing C E G or F A C or D F# A would take turns playing as directed, and so forth. Then we graduated to playing simple tunes, each boy would play only their assigned pitch as directed by watching the chart. The charts were made very simply by listing the note names or pitch numbers in order according to the music. When I wanted the boys to learn to play chords, I color coded both the chart symbols and the tags for the bottles. Because I only used songs having steady quarter note rhythms or rests, I was able to keep this process organized and under control.
When looking for tunes, they should be short, catchy, and have a melody with very steady beats. Beethoven's famous "Ode to Joy" theme from his 9th Symphony is a favorite. It can be played with steady quarter note beats, but only has 5 pitches. Another favorite was "Joy to the World" - also played with simplified rhythms - but it has eight pitches. Other fun tunes are: "Good King Wenceslas," "Up On the Housetop," "Jingle Bells," "Lightly Row," "Are You Sleeping, Brother John," and "Bingo." A song like "On Top of Old Smokey" can also be use to explore harmony. We had half of the group or the audience sing the melody, while the boys played "omm pah pah" rhythms on the bottles. We had the first beat (oom) played low, usually F, G or C, with the upper notes of the triad played on beats 2 and 3 (pah pah). For inspiration, try looking in beginner piano or recorder instructional books for more songs.
I have used these methods for forming Pop Bottle Bands with other groups, too. The Young Women and their leaders at Girl's Camp were able to do more advanced songs because many of them already played wind instruments and had better skills than the little Cub Scouts. Youth Groups, School groups and Family groups can give amazingly polished performances with very little practice. It can be fun for all -- careful, though, for it can quickly become a free for all!
WARNING! Creating a Pop Bottle Band may become habit-forming and from then on you may always be on the look-out for deep-toned bottles!