Listening Game – Tap Upon the Box

In my sessions I have a section where we use untuned percussion instruments and I like to introduce the instruments via a simple listening game.  For this you’ll need some contrasting percussion instruments (e.g. bells, shakers, claves, drums) and a lidded box large enough to hold the instruments and for you to be able to play them without the children seeing.

Start by singing (the tune is borrowed from “Rain is Falling Down”) and doing the actions. The children can copy, tapping on the floor or clapping their hands instead of tapping. For older children I ask for a volunteer to come up and join me in tapping on the box.

Tap Upon the Box
Tap upon the box  <tap>
Tap upon the box <tap>
Tap it loud <TAP, TAP, TAP>
Tap it soft <tap, tap, tap>
Tap upon the box <tap>

After singing, open the lid and play one of the instruments inside without showing it to the children. Ask them to tell you what the sound is and once correctly identified bring it out of the box and place it to one side. Repeat with remaining instruments. You can sing the song in between each sound if you wish but if time doesn’t allow just play each instrument in turn.

If you wish to develop the activity further you could introduce Kodaly handsigns (mi, re and do) and use these while singing.

Tap Upon the Box vocal line plus chords – pdf file

Tune: traditional  Words: Rowena Howey


Song for the Weekend – Tidy Up Song

I wrote this song a while ago to help the youngsters in music groups tidy away instruments and props at the end of our percussion section.  It’s very simple and repetitive using just 4 notes – I generally sing it with no backing although I sometimes pick up the uke and strum along.  I found it most effective to just start singing and usually by the time I’ve got to the two claps at the end of the second line I have everyone’s attention and so the tidying up commences.

Tidy up time

Tidy Up Song
Tidy up <clap, clap>, Tidy up <clap, clap>
Tidy up <clap, clap>, Tidy up <clap, clap>
If we all join in with you
It will be more fun to do
Tidy up <clap, clap>, Tidy up <clap. clap>

For a bit of variety try changing the actions to stamp, stamp; wiggle, wiggle or pat, pat, or if you’re still using instruments when you start singing, then shake, shake or tap, tap.

Tidy Up Song – pdf file

This song is added into a new category called Transition Songs where I’ll be posting some simple sung instructions for moving between activities in a lesson.

Song for the Weekend – Horsey Horsey

How much fun is this one!  Use it as a knee bouncer or a circle song with optional props such as hoops, a parachute or the giant scrunchie.

My version has 4 repetitions, each one increasing in tempo.  I describe them as walking, trotting, cantering and galloping and we talk about the differences before beginning the song.  When working with pre-schoolers I’ve found it’s really helpful to have a run through of the actions before playing the song.

For babies try it as a knee bouncer with very young babies lying facing you on your lap and moving very gently, and older babies/toddlers sitting on your knee facing away with head supported against your chest, like riding a pony.  Another option is to use it as a circle song, carrying the baby round and changing your gait to match the tempo increases.  The adults find this quite a good workout too – baby music classes can also require a bit of physical exertion!

For mobile toddlers and pre-schoolers I often use it as an active circle song.  It can be helpful to have a prop such hoops or the giant scrunchie to hold on to and guide the children round.  When I use hoops  in nursery groups I have the children work in pairs – one is the horse (inside the hoop) and one the rider (holding on to the outside).  The children then swap around and we do it all again.

Children playing woodblockAn extension exercise for older children is to use untuned percussion, tapping the pulse and feeling the tempo changes as the song progresses.  Wooden instruments such as castanets or woodblocks are my usual choice as they are easy for youngsters to play but you could try two halves of a coconut shell tapped together to make a really authentic clip-clop sound.

Horsey Horsey
Horsey, horsey, don’t you stop
Just let your feet go clippety-clop
Let your tail go swish and your wheels go round
Giddy-up! We’re homeward bound

Horsey Horsey – melody line plus chords – pdf file

Source:  Traditional
recorded version (c) Rhythm Express 2012

Song for the Weekend – When Cows Get Up in the Morning

oldmacdonaldI’ve had a broad topic of animals running since the beginning of the year and the last week or so I’ve focused on typical farm animals – pigs, chickens, horses, sheep and, of course, cows.  Most children know and love Old MacDonald but if you’d like an alternative you could try When Cows Get up in the Morning.  This is a traditional song sung with a variety of melodies.  To be honest, I’m not sure which is the ‘proper’ tune as there are so many variations so I’m posting my version which sits comfortably within a limited vocal range between B below middle C and G a sixth above.

When Cows Get Up in the Morning

When Cows Get Up in the Morning
When cows get up in the morning
They say “Good day, good day”
When cows get up in the morning
They say “Good day, good day”
They say “Moo! Moo! Moo!”
And that is what they say “Moo! Moo! Moo!”
That’s how they say good day.

When Cows Get Up in the Morning pdf file

As well as using the song for animals and the sounds they make (not just restricted to farm animals in my sessions – we’ve also sung about crocodiles, lions, bees and snails!), I also use it for playing instruments. When I get up in the morning I like to tap my drum… or I like to tap my claves… or I like to shake my bells… or I like to play so softly, or loudly, or quickly, or slowly. So many possibilities!  What actions can your pre-schoolers think of?

Words: traditional.
Tune: Rowena Howey (c) 2011.

A Song for Hoops

I like to have children using large motor movements when exploring pitch and so I wrote a song called “Merry-Go-Round” which I use with hoops.  You can also use this tune with the parachute or a scrunchie if you’re looking at group activities or use scarves or flags if you want the children to work independently.

To use this song with hoops, I have the children work in pairs although you could group in 3s or 4s if you have large enough hoops.  The children stand on the outside of the hoop facing each other and then lift the hoop up/down or move around in a circle depending on the lyrics and the pitch of the notes.

Up, down, up, down  <lift hoop up and down>
In the middle and round and round   <hold in the middle and turn in a circle>
Up, down, up, down
In the middle and round and round

Horses and ponies are galloping by   <gallop in a circle>
Down to the ground   < hold low>
And up to the sky  <hold high>

Up, down, up, down
In the middle and round and round
Up, down, up, down
Let’s all ride on a Merry-Go-Round

Below is a pdf of the melody line along with lyrics.

Merry-Go-Round (Hoop Song)

It’s Been a While…

Yep, it’s been a while – something of an understatement really!  Due to some personal issues I’ve had to take some time out but I’m now back and raring to go again.  During my absence it seems that some of the SoundCloud files weren’t working, but this has now been remedied so hopefully you will have access to all the music, both recorded and as pdf files.

Whilst I’ve been away I’ve put together some lesson plans for parent/carer and child groups which I’ll publish over the next couple of months.  My focus is now mostly on working in nursery, pre-school or kindergarten setttings so I thought I’d share some of my lessons plans for the adult/child groups as otherwise they won’t see the light of day again!  I’m hoping they will be helpful for others to share the fun of music making.

I’m also going to be reorganising the blog so that it’s easier to navigate and find older posts.  It might take a while as I’m kind of busy with my instrumental teaching practice as well as the early years teaching but it’s on my “To Do” list.

Magnetic Whiteboard Grand Stave

Magnetic Grand StaveSometimes students have difficulty in working out how the musical stave applies to the piano. After all you travel from low to high on the piano by moving left to right but read it on the stave from bottom to top.  It’s not immediately apparent how the two link to each other.

I wanted to create a teaching aid that would connect the grand stave with the keys on the keyboard so I made this using a magnetic whiteboard and 3mm grid tape.  The clefs are laminated and have a strip of magnetic tape on the back so they can be removed and repositioned.

As you can see from the picture below the stave lines match up with the keys on the piano – using magnets the student can play a key then place the magnet on the corresponding line.  Return the stave to its upright position and this gives visual learners a real connection between what they hear and what they see.

Magnetic Grand StaveAway from the piano, I use the stave with beginners to establish an awareness of pitch – there’s no knowledge of note reading required at this stage as the student just places the magnets higher or lower on the stave depending on the pitches they hear.

The stave is also helpful for developing a sense of melodic outline and for working on intervallic reading.  Once the landmark notes of G (treble clef) and F (bass clef) and middle C are understood we work out melodic outlines.  From a given starting note I’ll play a series of notes – the student places the magnets accordingly.  I just use steps initially, then progressing onto skips (thirds) and then a mixture of steps and skips.  Often I’ll use excerpts from their current pieces.

For more advanced students we  play interval games where I will play a starting note and then an interval above or below – the student has to place the magnets on the correct intervals.  I do this using both melodic and harmonic intervals.

Finally I use the stave for composition exercises as it’s quick and easy to place the magnets on the correct pitches before transcribing the piece onto manuscript paper.

Looking for a piano or flute teacher near Tunbridge Wells or Crowborough?  I offer lessons for all ages and abilities – look under the Instrumental Lessons tab for more details.