Ferde Grofé was an American composer and arranger. A “composer” is someone who thinks up the music and writes it down for the musicians to play. An “arranger” decides which instruments to use to play the music that the composer has created. Arrangements for the symphony orchestra are called “orchestrations”.

In “Grand Canyon Suite”, Grofé used music to describe five different scenes from his visit to the Grand Canyon in Arizona! Grofé composed the music, and then arranged (orchestrated) it by choosing the best orchestral instrument to play each sound.

In music, a “suite” is a group of pieces that go together and follow one another in a particular order, kind of like the chapters that make up a book. The five different parts, or “movements” that make up Grofé’s “Grand Canyon Suite” are named “Sunrise”, Painted Dessert”, “On the Trail’, “Sunset”, and “Cloudburst”.

Listen to a short excerpt of “On the Trail”, the third movement of the Grand Canyon Suite, by clicking on the play button below. Notice how Grofé used the instruments of the orchestra to describe the scene of a traveler passing through the Grand Canyon while riding a mule!


On the Trail from Grand Canyon Suite (excerpt) 1.mp3

We hear the movement begin with the mule braying, “hee-haw, hee-haw, hee-haw”! How funny that Grofé chose the violin to make the sound of the mule!

Next, we hear the mule begin to walk along the trail. Grofé actually chose coconut shells to make the sound of the mule’s hooves! However, many orchestras probably use temple blocks or something more common in the orchestra than coconut shells to make a similar sound.

Notice that the mule does not keep a steady pace. Hear him speed up at times!

Can you read and tap the rhythm of the mule's hooves using rhythm syllables?

Let's give it a try!

Say the rhythm syllables out loud. Tap to matchwhat you say.

Remember to keep a steady beat until the mule speeds up just a bit at the end!



Now, let's try reading it along with the music. Click on the video below. Follow the cursor as the music plays. Say the rhythm syllables out loud and tap to match what you say. The pattern will play twice. I'll help you the first time through. When it repeats, you can try it by yourself! You can do it! Just remember to tap what you say!