Autumn Fun

pumpkin-23479_1280So it’s the last week of school this week before the October half term holidays and I thought it would be fun to do some Autumn themed activities.

Rhythm Games

For students who are working their way through Sing and Play I have some pumpkin and leaf stick notation rhythms. There are loads of games you can play with these rhythm cards.

  • matching pairs game
  • Here sits a Mousie – see my previous post
  • Poison rhythms where you select one rhythm to be the poison. Then echo clap a variety of rhythms and if the student echoes the poison one then they are out
  • Post Office Rhythms – you clap the rhythms and leave one out. Each time the student hears a rhythm then they “post” the rhythm into a box or envelope (or just make a pile). See if the one that’s left at the end matches the one you left out

Pumpkin RhythmsLeaf Rhythms

Pumpkin and Leaves Stick Rhythms as pdf

Letter Name Race

For those who have moved onto letter names with Crazy Steps I have a fun racing game on the keyboard. Even my more advanced students enjoyed this game and some weren’t as fast as I’d hoped they would be!

You and the student place a counter on the lowest key on the piano. One of you takes the pumpkins and one takes the leaves. Turn over each card and move up the the next key that matches that letter. It’s a race to the top. You will need to reuse the cards to get to the top. If they are new to letter names they can count up the alphabet. However if they are more confident you should try and persuade them to recognise the keys by pattern, not counting.

Pumpkin LettersLeaf Letters

Pumpkin and Leaves Letter Names as pdf

Three Time with the Three Little Pigs

PigI was working on three-time or triple time with two brothers this morning and I thought I’d share some of our activities. The boys, Dylan and Thomas, are nine and seven years old and have completed Dippy Skips. Thomas is working through June Armstrong’s Toy Box and is about to play Sail Boat. I want him to have a really good sense of three beats in a bar before I show him the piece.Sail Boat

Pulse First I sang a song familiar to them, Bells in the Steeple from Dippy Skips. I asked the boys to show me the pulse softly on their laps while I sang. Once I’d sung a few times they took it in turns to sing or tap the pulse. Both boys achieved this easily. Remember, they already know the song.

I offered them one of two pulse strips which I’d printed and laminated. One was hearts and one was pigs! They both chose the “three little pigs”! I didn’t mention the significance of the three, and they didn’t comment. They took it in turns to tap the pigs while they sang Bells In The Steeple. The first time Thomas tapped, he paused on the dotted minim. I didn’t comment but he did it again but this time correctly. I was just deciding whether to comment or leave it and he looked at me puzzled. “I ended up on different pigs the second time!”. “I know why!” exclaimed his brother. “Ok, I said, hold that thought while we see if Thomas can spot what happened.” I showed him two different ways of tapping, one was correct and one was incorrect. Thomas knew immediately which was correct and explained that he hadn’t kept the pulse going on the held note.

Rhythm They each took it in turns to sing another song, Lavender’s Blue, and clap the rhythm. This time Dylan, clearly determined to show that he can keep the pulse through the high notes, managed a lovely rhythm-pulse combo! It was clear from his face that he realised his mistake and insisted on getting another turn. By the time Thomas came to do it, he had seen his brother do it a couple of times. He confidently clapped it perfectly with a beaming smile.

Writing Rhythm Using a couple of “Three Little Pigs” strips each, they used building blocks to record the rhythm of the first two lines of the song. We then clapped and said the rhythm names. Dylan and I also clapped in canon, something Thomas was reluctant to do, but I did insist he watch and decide if we had performed it correctly.

Still no mention of three beats in a bar but both boys were proving they had the feel for the metre through their performances.Three Time Pigs and Blocks

Rhythm Memory I created a new three beat rhythm, ta titi ta, with blocks on my heart strip and we all clapped it. I gave it some fun words. I explained that the rhythm had the words “Three Little Pigs”. The boys closed their eyes and I changed one of the beats so it became titi titi taI challenged them to record both rhythms on their strips and they came up with their own words for the second line.

Creating Rhythm Each boy then altered their rhythms to create something of their own, with their own rather interesting words! We played around for a while with activities to nurture their creativity and memory. Dylan even asked if he could march the pulse, clap an ostinato and say his rhyme. I watched carefully to see if he created a three beat ostinato. He didn’t, and was quite puzzled. It was time to point out how many pigs we had!

The Big Reveal Dylan realised straight away that there were three beats in each bar or line. Thomas wasn’t so sure. He was confused by the question, he thought I meant how many sounds per pig. Not unreasonable since we’d been focussing on rhythm. My fault entirely! I explained more clearly, giving examples of songs in two time and four time. Then chanted his Three Little Pigs rhyme and tapped the pigs. That was it, he realised it was three.

Practise We then sang as many songs, rhymes and patterns as we could think of while clap-clicking in threes. Clap click click Clap click click. I asked them to clap and click while I played Sail Boat. We will repeat some of these activities next week. By the time we look at Sail Boat in our lesson, Thomas will not only have a really good grasp of the feeling of three-time, he will also have heard the piece several times.

Solfa This session was all about the rhythm but Sail Boat has many patterns that are ideal for singing in solfa. There are repeating s-m-s, m-s-m, f-r-f, r-f-r It does go down to low la, and ti, near the end but otherwise stays within the do pentachord. If we do some work on these motives over the next few weeks then Thomas will find Sail Boat familiar and achievable.

Click Three Time Hearts and Pigs to download the pig and heart pulse strips. They can be cut into two strips or left as a two line page.

Brand new manuscript book

A unique manuscript book designed with Kodály in mind. Suitable for instrumental and musicianship students, the 25 leaf book alternates blank pages with manuscript pages. This enables solfége students to write stick notation, pulse and pitch pictures and more on the left hand page and then transfer to the stave on the right.

Ideal for use with DoReMi Piano Book 2 and beyond as musicianship skills are developed alongside practical performance.

Wire bound, A5 portrait, 6 large staves per manuscript page.

Only £2.50 Buy it now!

DoReMi Manuscript Front Cover

Jolly Music

If you would like some further resources to help you use the Kodály Approach with your students then I can highly recommend Jolly Music Handbook for Beginners by Cyrilla Rowsell and David Vinden

This book is a comprehensive classroom scheme for Early Years and KS1 classes to teach singing and musicianship using the Kodály Approach. I’ve also used it to good effect with pre-schoolers and on a one to one basis with my piano students. It was an invaluable resource while I was developing DoReMi Piano.

Many of the songs in this book are also contained in “Songs for Singing & Musicianship Training” by David Vinden and Yuko Vinden. This is an excellent reference book for the Kodály Approach and solfa, and has lots of songs in it slowly increasing in complexity. However with Jolly Music the songs have been made into a full scheme of work with detailed lesson plans and audio CDs. You can also buy a Big Book to go with it. I love it and so do my children.

If you’re new to the Kodály Approach and want to learn yourself then it’s not the best resource since each book only covers a small amount of content. However it’s great for identifying creative ways to be repetitive with the skills and information. You could use it without a deeper understanding, or gain your personal understanding elsewhere and then use it to help your teaching.

Have you used Jolly Music? Or perhaps another Early Years scheme. Why not share thoughts below?

Understanding Pulse

For many years now I have sung songs with my students to help them learn various elements of musicianship. One of the first songs we sing helps them understand pulse. This song is the two pitch song Cobbler Cobbler. The children pretend to hold a shoe in one hand and a hammer in the other. They bang their fist in time with the pulse of the song. We then hold the hammer in the air; place the “shoe” on the ground; swap the hammer into the other hand; and pick up the shoe again. We can then repeat the song using the other hand.

They love it! We can use it to explore tempo as sometimes the cobbler is very tired and goes slowly, or he might be running late and need to go fast. Of course the children go so fast that their steady pulse goes out of the window! But they’re having fun and we can tone it down and discuss the different tempos still have a “steady beat”. We can also march around the room to this song or play a simple pat-a-cake game. All great ways of feeling the concept of the steady beat.

Sometimes I use the terms pulse and steady beat interchangeably. We talk about our own heartbeats and I make the children laugh by tapping out a random jazzy “heartbeat” and shout “Quick, call an ambulance!!” A healthy heartbeat is nice and steady and our songs need a healthy heartbeat too. Explaining that the doctors can feel your heartbeat by finding your pulse brings in the term pulse quite nicely. They can rarely find their own pulse so we often have to “call an ambulance” for them too! They find this hilarious!

We can tap the pulse all over the place! On the piano lid, on our knees, on our noses, nod our heads. Anything we can think of. Especially anything they can think of! The more ideas and repetition the better. One of my students wanted to tap his eye – not sure about that!! I suggested eyebrow and he seemed happy enough!

I had one student who found tapping a steady pulse almost impossible. We tried everything from marching around in my garden to nodding heads. One day, almost by chance, I asked her to try tapping fingertips on her chest but keeping the heel of her hand fixed to her body! Hooray! She still can’t clap or march but she can make that very small movement needed to understand the pulse.

The Kodály Approach

All of the activities in DoReMi Piano are beneficial to students of any instrument. They are based on the Kodály Approach, used internationally to teach musicianship to pre-instrumentalists. In the United Kingdom, where Kodály is not commonly used in primary schools, many instrumental teachers use the approach with their students.

If you would like to learn more about this approach to music education then I would advise contacting the British Kodály Academy. They run excellent courses for musicians and music teachers. See their website at