Crazy Steps Lesson 4

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with Emma – aged 7

Lesson 4 Objectives

  • Present term Tonic
  • Explore new tonalities by transforming Hot Cross Buns into new modes
  • Practise reading and writing steps on the stave
  • Practise alphabet strings

Jumping the Repeated Notes

When Emma played for me today I noticed that she wasn’t releasing the keys quickly enough for the repeated notes in Hot Cross Buns. We started the lesson with a fun jumping game. We jumped the rhythm of Hot Cross Buns. It was clear that we had to do something different for the quavers. Emma decided our ta’s were kangaroo jumps and our titi’s were mouse jumps.

Emma used my mouse puppet to demonstrate kangaroo jumps and mouse jumps on the table. Then she played the Hot Cross Buns on the piano using a jumping 3rd finger. She tried it using kangaroo jumps and agreed it didn’t sound right. She tried it with mouse jumps on the titi’s and it was much better.

Then she played with fingers 2, 3 and 4 and the rhythm was much more accurate.

Presenting The Tonic

gin-2126375_1920I’ve got a new musical word for you. That word is tonic. Can you say tonic? Emma says “Tonic”.

The tonic is like the boss note of a piece. Who is the boss of the school? Emma knows it’s the headteacher. “He’s the do!” she exclaims.

“So if the tonic is do, which letter name is the tonic of this piece?” “B?”
“Why B?”“I don’t know.”
“Where do you find the do in a piece?” “At the end.”
“So what letter name is that note at the end?” do.”
“The singing name is do, what is its letter name?”

Emma is not sure so I bring out the landmark note flash cards and ask her which one matches the note we’re trying to find? She spots the right one straight away and recognises it as G.

“So G is the…. what was our new word?” “G is the tonic!”
I turn to the F-do version. “What is the tonic of this piece?” “F!”
I turn to the C-do version. “What is the tonic of this piece?” “C!”
“Can you play it when the tonic is C?” Emma plays it.
“What about when the tonic is F?” Emma isn’t sure she can remember where her fingers go. I prompt her to find the F on the keyboard. She finds it easily, places her fingers in the correct position and plays.
“Finally our tonic is…” “G!”

In trying to play the G-do version Emma starts confusing things that a few minutes ago she played confidently with no prompting. It’s time to move on. I’m confident that she understands the concepts and we will be revising this work later anyway.

Exploring Tonalities

It’s time to explore some sounds by transforming the melody into new tonalities.

“So we’ve played this piece with tonics of C, F and G. Let’s change our tonic to something we haven’t tried.”
Emma suggests D and plays the Hot Cross Buns pattern on DEF. She likes it!

toad-779279_1920“Does it sound like Hot Cross Buns?” “A bit but it’s weird.”

She tries with the tonic as E.

“Which do you like best, the D version or the E version?” She likes the D version best. Since it doesn’t sound like Hot Cross Buns anymore we need to give it a new name. I turn the page to show her the empty stave entitled Hot Cross Toads. Her face lights up and she exclaims “Yes!!” She looks at the page and notices there are no notes. I tell her we need to write them in.

Writing on the Stave

“So our tonic….” “Is D.”
“So where is a D on the stave?”

I get out my blank stave whiteboard and ask Emily to use the flashcards to help her draw a Middle C at one side and a Treble G at the other side and label them.

“What are the notes in between?” “I don’t know!”

Drawing the D above Middle C as a space note isn’t very intuitive. It’s not a clear space note because it actually sits under the line. So instead of going up from Middle C I suggest coming down from G. I find it helps to draw all the notes in first and then label them. The two challenges, remembering that steps are notated as space line space line and also remembering the alphabet, backwards or forwards, don’t need to be combined. We can address each challenge individually.

EA C to G“Can you draw the note that is one lower than G.” Emma incorrectly draws an E. I remind Emma that when we’re moving in steps it goes line – space – line – space… We play some notes on the piano and say “line space line space…”

We look again at the whiteboard.
“G is a line note and you have drawn the line note below G.” “I need the space note!”.
She rubs out the E and draws an F. Remember, no labels yet.

“Can you draw the note one lower than that?” She correctly draws the E and then the D.

It’s easy for Emma to name the notes now. She just works her way up the alphabet.

Notating Hot Cross Toads

“So which notes are we using for Hot Cross Toads?” “D, E and F!”
“Which is the tonic?” “D.”
“And where do we find the tonic?” “At the end.”

“Let’s draw in a D at the end then.” Emma draws a D over the final “Toads”.

“Which note starts?” “F.”
“Can we draw an F at the beginning?”
She incorrectly draws an A.
“Well F IS a space note, but which space note.” Emma’s hands rush to her face and she exclaims “Silly me!”.
She rubs out the A and, double checking the whiteboard, draws an F.

Gradually Emma works out the rest of the song. Her Ds are a little too low, so we refer back to the whiteboard to remember that the D must touch the line but not cross it.

As Emma works out each new note her voice gets louder and higher. I have never heard Emma sound more excited!

I prompt her to add the stems by working out if the notes are ta or titi. She adds the stems but not the beams.
“Are they all ta?”
she gasps! “I know what I need to do! They need joining up.”

Playing from the Notation

I ask Emma if she would like to play her new piece.

“Ok. Where’s the E again?” I don’t answer and wait to see if she really needs help.
“I can’t find the D, E or F!”
“Do you remember how we find the notes if we can’t remember?” Emma goes to the bottom of the piano, counts up from A to D. Remembers where the Ds are and jumps to the correct place on the piano. She plays Hot Cross Toads confidently and all signs of hesitation are gone. Emma really knows this piece now, and understands how it is notated.


While I write up Emma’s homework tasks on Evernote I ask her to copy the CDEFG from the whiteboard into her manuscript book. At home I ask her to play Hot Cross Toads, with strong fingers and mouse bounces. I also ask her to copy out the CDEFG on each line of the page in her manuscript book.

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