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Classical Kids Music Lessons: Fermatas!

Cadenza indication from Beethoven's Concerto in C minor Wikimedia Commons

Need ideas for easy and fun at-home music learning? Here's our daily Classical Kids Music Lesson.

Today we will learn about a musical symbol called the fermata.

Fermata Wikimedia Commons

Target age range: Grades K-6

Have you ever wondered what this symbol means?

It's called a fermata (fer-MAH-ta). When a musician sees this symbol over a note or a group of notes, that means they should hold that note longer than usual. If one musician is playing alone, they get to decide exactly how long to hold it. If an orchestra is playing, the conductor gets to decide how long to hold the fermata. If a small group of musicians is playing together without a conductor, they must use eye contact and body language to signal how long to hold a fermata.

Composers use fermatas for many reasons. Holding a note or group of notes might:

• Build suspense
• Create a feeling of anticipation
• Make music sound more expressive and dramatic

2. Time for a fermata scavenger hunt! Listen to this piece by Mozart, and watch the music. You will see and hear 9 fermatas. Can you find them all? If you want some help, the time markers for each fermata are listed under each video.

(They are at 00:47, 2:08, 2:44, 3:19, 4:18, 4:25, 5:10, 5:16, and 5:39.)

3. In this piece, Amar (Nocturno), by Felipe Villanueva, there are four fermatas right away, then two later on. Answers underneath the video.

(Fermatas are at 0:11, 0:16, 0:20, 0:23, 3:05, and 4:40- at the very end.)

4. There are just two fermatas in the Great Gate of Kiev. One is way at the end. The one in the middle is hard to find. It doesn't last too long, and there are a lot of instruments playing. It might take patience and persistence to find it!

(Fermatas at 3:48 and 5:39)

5. Finally, sing a song you know really well. Try adding a fermata someplace. Sing it for someone and see if they can tell where you add a fermata. Or, make a fermata flashcard by simply drawing the symbol on a notecard. Ask someone to sing a song for you and flash the card every time you want them to hold a note.

Have a question or suggestion? Contact Katie Condon, music education specialist.

More: View all of our daily Classical Kids Music Lessons

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