If you've ever directed a musical program, you know how those "little" things can really add to a performance. In today's article, I'll discuss some special effects that I've tried for various performances to add another layer to each musical.

No. 1: Flashlights

If you are planning any kind of firefly song at your program, flashlights are a really awesome addition! Here is one of my favorite firefly songs, a Japanese folk song called "Hotarukoi."

A rough translation of the text is:

Ho, ho, ho, firefly come,
Here is some water that's bitter,
Here is some water that's sweet to your taste,
Ho, ho, ho, firefly come.

You could hand out flashlights to all students or just some of the students, and for that song, have the lights turned off. Then, as they sing the song, they randomly turn the flashlights off and on! It's a really cool effect that looks very much like fireflies!

You can purchase flashlights like the ones I used on Amazon or Oriental Trading.

No. 2: White gloves and glow sticks

A couple years ago, I taught students the movement for "Aquarium" by Saint-Saëns from John Feierabend's "Move it" DVD.

Then, students performed the movement wearing one glove with a glow stick underneath. We had the lights turned off during this performance piece, and it was a really neat effect!

No. 3: Bird calls

If you have a program about birds, or a part about birds in your program, bird calls are a great special effect! I’ve found several bird calls on the Groth music website, such as a crow call, an owl whistle, and a cuckoo whistle.

Before you sing a song about a certain bird (or as there is a part about a certain bird in your program), you or a student could play that bird call! I've also bought a Kookaburra bird call on iTunes, then burned that to the CD that has all of my accompaniment tracks, so that bird call could be played before we sing "Kookaburra."

No. 4: Ribbons and scarves

Ribbons and scarves are a great way to add pizazz to a program! Whether you do a ribbon dance, movement with scarves, or you are adding color to a scene with scarves or ribbons, they can really add a lot to a program.

No. 5: Whistle

This might seem like an odd addition to the list, but whistles can really come in handy during musical programs! I've used them during drumming pieces to signal the ending, and I've used them for dances to signal changing movement.

No. 6: Umbrellas

If you're doing a rain song, such as "Rain Rain Go Away," or "I don't care if the rain falls down," you could have students use umbrellas as a special effect. Maybe they simply spin the umbrellas as they sing, or maybe they open and close their umbrellas to the beat!

No. 7: Illustrations

Another way to bring a story to life is to have students illustrate certain parts of the story, then project those illustrations with a LCD projector, onto a screen, during those parts.

I created a program for the picture book "Follow the drinking gourd," and had students illustrate certain parts of the book to project during the program. It was a great connection to art, and a wonderful way to help students understand the story even better.

Whether you are performing a big production or doing something more low-key, these special effects can add a lot to your performance. Good luck, and have fun!