TikTok Lesson Ideas You Should Steal For Your Music Classes Part 1

This is a two-part series covering creative TikTok ideas you can adapt for your music classes. These will not involve actually using the TikTok app in class with your students, but rather using some of the challenges and trends as inspiration for creative lessons.

TikTok – really?

OK I admit it. I’m fascinated by – and slightly addicted to – TikTok.  It’s one of those apps that I don’t dare open unless I truly have an hour or so to spare.  Or until a difficult task I need to avoid (hello procrastination).

“But I just don’t get it” I hear you say. 

To be honest, for a while I didn’t either, but luckily for me I have two teenage boys who are able to translate. And then the best next step is to just start exploring. 

TikTok is a video-based app which started out as Music.ally and was originally a lip synching platform. It has since grown into a creative video platform where users share short videos of themselves dancing, taking part in a video based  challenge or sharing tips, ideas, news and all the things you see on other social media platforms. 

So why TikTok? TikTok is all about short videos. And by short – we’re generally talking between 15-60 seconds. Just enough time to share a snippet of a dance, a photography tip, a music video, an instructional tutorial or an idea. 

The limitation of video time length can be a great thing. Users are forced to be succinct and there are some fantastic examples of creativity on the platform due to that restriction. 

TikTok has an audio library which creators can legally use in the videos that they upload.  One of the curious and fascinating things about TikTok (at least to me) is that the same music or audio track will be used over and over for videos of a similar style.  It’s as if there is an unwritten “rule” that if you decide to create your own version of a particular dance or music challenge, you “must” use the same soundtrack as the original video.  

What will you find on TikTok?

Almost anything goes on TikTok, but some of the common video types include:

  • Challenges: a user will share a dance or music-based performance of some kind and then other users learn the routine and upload their own versions (generally) using the same soundtrack. 
  • Tips and tutorials: these are amongst favourite things to see on TikTok. I subscribe to education technology how-to channels, photographers sharing clever tips, gardening tutorials (due to my new-found obsession with succulents), tips on decluttering, tutorials on how to fold household linen and clothing items (yes really – check out #foldingtiktok), recipes and dance channels. 
  • Musical performances: there are lots of musicians sharing performances on TikTok, from unknown artists to some famous types like Charlie Puth, Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande, 5sos, Tones and I, Elton John, Coldplay and others.
  • Motivation and inspiration: daily affirmations, inspirational talks, fitness and healthy eating advice and more.

Let’s look at a few specific ideas you can steal.

Lesson Ideas You Should Steal

In part 1 of this series we’ll look at some of the “challenges” that have been popular on TikTok.  Your students can learn the challenge and then perform them for the class or record a video.

Challenge 1: The Triangle Challenge [conducting patterns]

This TikTok challenge essentially involves conducting patterns and not only that, it uses two patterns of different meters at the same time

Yes, it’s true that the patterns used in the challenge are not exactly the same as the traditional (correct) conducting patterns but I don’t think that’s a big deal. You could use this challenge as an introductory activity in class and then show students how a “real” conductor would perform the patterns when conducting an ensemble. 

What does the challenge involve? 

Start off by making a down/up pattern in the air, snapping your fingers at each end of the line. Then keep that pattern going while you add a triangle pattern with your other hand. Students will end up “conducting” a 2 meter against a 3 meter. 

Here’s an example:

@mikthewonton

drawing out that triangle was 100% the hardest part of this 😭😭 ##fyp ##BackyardVibes ##foryou ##music ##challenge

♬ oops gee accidentally brought this trend back – geeeeeeeeeeee

Some took this to the next level by combining a 3-pattern with a 4-pattern:

@holly.cicely

Part 2, this took 5 hours to learn . ##foryoupage ##fyp ##musicians ##isolationboredom ##uk ##patternchallenge

♬ oops gee accidentally brought this trend back – geeeeeeeeeeee

Then user @kalesigh recorded a series of videos, each progressively more complex involving a variety of geometric shapes (or musical meters!):

@kalesigh

level 7 if u can do this duet me 🤪🤯 ##fyp ##snappingchallenge ##level7 ##hardestone ##duetme

♬ oops gee accidentally brought this trend back – geeeeeeeeeeee

And then followers started to challenge him to add more shapes to his repertoire.

The audio track that is traditionally used to accompany this challenge on TikTok is a short section from the Pentatonix arrangement of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (I have no idea why…!) and if you have a TikTok account you can search for that audio (or search for the hashtag #trianglechallenge) find hundreds of other examples.

Extension options: 

  • Students can come up with their own variations – using different geometric shapes
  • Take this another step having students explore the correlation between shapes and rhythms in the free online drum sequencer Groove Pizza 

Challenge 2: The Hands Challenge [body percussion]

Back in 2018 The Hands Challenge was a popular trend.  You only need your hands and a table or other flat surface and it can be performed alone or with friends. This one is a great option for those of you working in a remote or hybrid learning environment since it’s very adaptable.

Here’s a compilation of TikTok videos showing what the Hands Challenge looks like:

Wondering how you and your students are going to learn this one? Luckily, Nathan Walby from Visual Music Minds created a clear, step-by-step tutorial which breaks it down:

Extension and variation options: 

  • Students can work in pairs or small groups to make a new version of this pattern (a section B) 
  • Students could explore timebre by performing the pattern on different surfaces
  • Ask students to notate the rhythm by handwriting it or by using Noteflight, Flat.io, or another notation app

Challenge 3: The Soap Bop Challenge [your next “cup song”]

If you’ve already done the Cup Song with your students you could use the Soap Bop challenge as a COVID-19 extension activity. 

You will need to adapt it a little so that students mime the tap movement (or ask them to come up with a substitute action) which is not a bad thing anyway since it will save wasting water (the only part of this routine that I’m not a huge fan of!).

Here’s a compilation of Soap Bop challenge performances. The creator of the Soap Bop challenge, Madilyn Bailey break down the routine and teaches it step-by-step at the 3’13” mark: 

How to use these challenges in class

Since we’re not actually going to be using the TikTok app to record these challenges, here are some of the ways you can use them in your classroom:

  • Learn the challenge as a group
  • Have students practice the challenge individually or in pairs
  • Students can create their own variations on the challenge and then teach them to classmates
  • Students then perform their version for the rest of the class.
  • If students are working remotely, they could video-record themselves performing the challenge. You could use Flipgrid to capture the videos or alternatively, use Loom or Screencastify 

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series where we’ll look at the creative ways you can use the TikTok Duet concept to encourage arranging, composition and performance skills in your students.

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Looking for More Resources for Music Teachers?

Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music.

I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.

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I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects. I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences and other music education events.

If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community.

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