For many employees, the thought of a team-building away day fills them with dread. Why is it these corporate off-sites always seems to centre on some humiliating and embarrassing activity? At WeJam we believe music is a brilliant way to bring people together, but just be mindful that not everybody loves singing! For that reason, we’ve put together a list of fun music-based ideas you could try at that next company get-together – none of which require your employees to get on the mic.
WHY MUSIC IS GREAT FOR TEAM BUILDING
Making music inherently requires teamwork. Musicians must work together to stay in time and in harmony, otherwise, we all know how terrible a bad performance can sound. Although not everybody might possess the singing voice of an angel, or have mastered every instrument under the sun, we are all able to clap along to a constant beat with some sense of rhythm. What’s more, people generally love music and being in a band can be good for your health too. Although tastes in genre vary widely, it’s a pretty safe bet that a music-themed away day will appeal to the majority of attendees.
WHAT’S SO BAD ABOUT SINGING?
At WeJam we certainly encourage you to sing along, but the good news is that it’s not compulsory! We recognise that for many people, singing is something to be enjoyed in the shower and not in front of others. The expectation of having to sing in the presence of friends, classmates or colleagues can turn even the keenest or experienced singers into nervous wrecks; one can only imagine this feeling is amplified considerably for those on the tone-deaf end of the vocal spectrum. In some instances where lots of non-musicians are involved, singing as team building has the potential for the reverse effect, inducing an anxiety of judgement, or causing shy characters to retreat further into their shells. Introducing instruments that are new to everybody participating sets up a level playing field; simply using speaking voices has the same effect, but still pushes those partaking sufficiently out of their comfort zones. Unlocking creativity through such musical processes requires both verbal and non-verbal communication, enthusiasm, team spirit and determination. This article explores some musical team building ideas that skip the inclination for singing in these kinds of activities, whilst remaining just as creative and enjoyable for everyone involved
WeJam is the brand-new musical team-building adventure for groups of friends, family or colleagues with any range of musical experience – from complete beginners to professional jammers. Described as “Guitar Hero meets karaoke”, it gives participants the chance to experience playing in a rock band using real instruments. In a typical 75-minute studio session, groups will rehearse and then perform at least one well-known song. Clever technology means that beginners can play vastly simplified versions of their favourite tunes, whilst still sounding and feeling like rockstars. When they correctly play their simplified parts, this, in turn, triggers the more complex original music.
Groups can also order ‘riders’ (a list of items and services they need in the studio when they’re jamming) to ensure their session is accompanied by their favourite services, snacks and drinks. It is the real deal when it comes to the rock star experience. For larger teams or events, WeJam can also set up at private venues of your choosing.
First introduced into the percussion family in 1995, Boomwhackers are pitched, hollow tubes, categorised by bright rainbow colours. When hit against virtually any surface (or indeed each other), they produce musical tones, which when combined in correct rhythm can create any tune the player desires. This makes Boomwhackers ideal for team-building activities because they can be transported easily to any location, and be used in any environment. Whether it be learning a group song, making one up, or exploring rhythms, everybody starts off on a level playing field and has to interact with each other to pull off a finished outcome as a seamless Boomwhacker orchestra.
3. JUNK PERCUSSION
Rhythm holds great capacity for joy. Beats tapped on tabletops can set in motion grooves just as funky as those played on drum kits, bongos or any other professional standard percussion instruments; for this reason, junk percussion is great fun. Using any everyday objects that may otherwise end up in the bin or recycling, participants can build their own instruments from scratch and experiment with sound combinations; different materials produce different timbres. Pots and pans, empty tins, ice cream tubs or buckets make perfect ready-made drums. Shakers can be filled with nutshells, dried beans, coins, or bottle tops; pencils, sticks, and cutlery can make excellent beaters. Following the all-important decorations, rhythms can then be learned and combined into compositions ready for performance. This team-building is music, art, and recycling all in one.
4. ERNST TOCH’S ‘GEOGRAPHICAL FUGUE’
Ok, so this one may be a little avant-garde. Composter Ernst Toch’s ‘Geographical Fugue’ is the third movement of the Gesprochene Musik (Spoken Music) suite, and is designed to be spoken rather than sung. Its performance debut was in June 1930, at the Neue Musik Berlin festival. Providing the individual leading the session is musically literate and has a good handle of reading rhythms, anybody can be taught the components of this piece by ear (although the more musical folk the merrier to help with this!). There are four parts, written in strict fugue, which can be performed by four individuals or, more commonly, four groups of any size. American composer John Cage had the text, originally in German, translated into English in 1935. It reads as follows:
And the big Mississippi
and the town Honolulu
and the lake Titicaca,
the Popocatepetl is not in Canada,
rather in Mexico, Mexico, Mexico!
Canada, Málaga, Rimini, Brindisi
Canada, Málaga, Rimini, Brindisi
Yes, Tibet, Tibet, Tibet, Tibet,
When combined as four lines against each other in rhythmic chaos, the challenge of performing this piece in perfect time is immense and makes a perfect team-building venture, with tongue-twisting phrases and contrasting dynamic markings at every turn. However, there is also an immense sense of achievement for groups that can master it, and there is plenty of opportunity for healthy competition amongst each part. Catch the ‘Geographical Fugue’ in action by clicking on this video link: https://youtu.be/DcTEQi-4VAQ.
5. RAP BATTLES & BEATBOXING
There is a lot to be said for writing a rap in a group. Teams can get creative with language and use it in conjunction with rhythm and rhyme to define and boost them as a group and their goals in working together, or to brainstorm a new work-related task; equally, drafting raps on random topics can be just as fun, and give everybody a chance to showcase their personalities. Performing these in a rap battle to mark the end of a team building session is a great way to showcase each group’s work (and matching dance moves seldom go amiss). Naturally, such performances can go hand in hand with beatboxing, a type of vocal percussion that uses the human voice to mimic the sound of a drum machine or synthesiser. Learning the basic techniques to create a beat can make more roles within a team and add an extra challenge to the performance.
6. UKULELE BAND
The ukulele is one of the most accessible instruments for beginners. With tones higher in pitch than those of the guitar, every song is bound to have an optimistic feel and fill a room with countless rays of musical sunshine. Step-by-step instructions, coupled with colour-coded markings on the fretboard, can aid the learning of hundreds of songs and interchangeable chord progressions. Although playing songs on the ukulele warmly invites the act of singing along, this is not the sole focus, and not everybody has to if they don’t feel comfortable. For corporate events, some experiences even offer tailor-made and branded ukuleles which members of the team can take home at the end of a session.
7. DJ SESSION
Hitting the DJ decks is always great fun and is an activity in which each individual can share their favourite tunes and in turn, their personalities. So often the genre of music we choose to listen to is also a commitment to a community of others who enjoy the same things and can also define the way we perceive the world around us. DJ workshops can give a whole team the chance to share in a range of music tastes together, learning to mix and mash-up songs, switch up tempos and get creative with sound effects.
8. HARMONICA ORCHESTRA
Typically played in country, blues, folk and rock n’ roll music, there is no team too large or too small to take on the challenge of learning the harmonica (also known to some as the mouth organ). Groups have to rally together in harmonica workshops to master the basics of breathing, and then synchronise to play the same notes at the same time on this incredibly versatile, unique instrument.
So there you have it: 8 musical team building activities that are widely available, with no singing required. The vocally shy will be sure to have as much fun as anyone! Next time you’re asked to arrange an office away day, why not suggest one of the above?