New online teacher guide

DoReMi Piano Book 1 Teacher Guide CoverThe teacher guide for DoReMi Piano Book 1 is now available online. So wherever you are you can access the games and activities for each unit.

Perhaps you are not yet a DoReMi Piano teacher and are interested in learning more about the method. Reading through the online teacher guide will give you a valuable insight into the benefits for your students.

Hard copies of the Book 1 Teacher Guide are still available in the shop for just £4.99.

Recital Video – Sing and Play – Matthew

On Saturday some of my students performed their favourite pieces from Sing and Play. I would like to share a couple of clips with you.

Matthew is in Year 1 (age 6) and has been learning music with me since he was a toddler. He started with general music classes based on the wonderful Kodály resource Jolly Music by Cyrilla Rowsell and David Vinden. When he started reception in 2013 we started more formal piano lessons with My First Piano Adventures and continued the Kodály work alongside. However he was struggling a little with notation reading and started to get frustrated. When I launched DoReMi Piano in the Autumn of 2014 he asked if he could start using those books. I agreed and he has made excellent progress since then. He is now confidently playing pieces from Crazy Steps, however for his recital he decided to play his favourite black key pieces from Sing and Play.

The speed of his success with DoReMi Piano is down to the excellent foundations that were created using the activities from Jolly Music and it would be a dream come true if all young children had the opportunity to study music in this way prior to starting formal instrumental lessons.

The pieces he is playing in the clip are:

Woof Woof – my own composition and a favourite with all my students, regardless of their age! Unlike most of the pieces in the book, it starts on the lower of the two pitches and also introduces the student to the idea that two pitches can be played at the same time, creating a chord.

See Saw – a highly popular song with Kodály practitioners and is included in Jolly Music. In DoReMi Piano we use it over and over to not only introduce the singing names “so” and “mi” but also work on steady pulse and the introduction of rhythm and rhythm names.

Here Sits A Mousie – my favourite of all of the songs in Book 1 and so versatile. We revisit it in Book 2 and there are so many different ways we can play with this song, both on and off the piano. Here is another article I wrote about this wonderful song.

Cloud of Starlings Teaching Tips

The approach behind DoReMi Piano is one of sound before sight. Before students are introduced to the score of a piece they have already completed a number of aural activities and games. In Going Wild there is a piece called Cloud of Starlings that introduces simple hands together work. It is the first piece, apart from sight reading exercises, that has no lyrics. Since there is no “song” to pin the activities to, how do you approach this with a student?

Some of my confident students can take this piece and, with a bit of help, sight sing it from the score. This can be quite challenging for other students and it’s important that we don’t frustrate them. Here are some activities for those students. These can be spread over a number of lessons depending on the ability of the student, so make sure you plan ahead and start working on them in good time.


I have created a set of flashcards of melodic patterns, broken into single bars. Included in these six patterns are those that will be found in the piece. I print two sets of the cards and we can play a number of different games with them. The only limit is your imagination, or that of your students since some of the games I play have been suggested by the students themselves!

Prepare the patterns

  • As always, start by singing some solfa echoes. Build them up from so-mi to do-re-mi-so-la and always include the patterns from the piece.
  • Next take out one set of flashcards and help the student to sing them. Start with the easiest.

Play the Game

Lay one set of cards face up and hold the other set in your hand (easiest first). Show the student the first card, and sing it. The student must echo, and then find the correct card from the set laid out. The student is using their aural and visual skills to find the matching card.

  • Extension 1 – if the student is confident reading solfa, they can sing straight from the card without help
  • Extension 2 – just sing without showing them the card so they have to rely on their aural and reading skills and not just matching the visual patterns
  • Extension 3 – the student becomes the teacher, they select the card and sing it and you can find the match

Other Games

You could lay the cards face down and play a Memory Game, either visually with two sets of cards, or aurally where you just sing the pattern. Alternatively Kim’s Game where you take away one of the patterns and they have to identify which is missing.

Do let me know if you think of any other games you or your students think of. The most important thing is that the student sings the patterns, whatever the game. Our aim is to prepare the patterns in the aural memory of the student so that when they come across them in the piece, they are familiar and comforting.


The student can create their own sequence using the two sets of flashcards. Ask them to place their favourite patterns in a line across the floor. They have composed their own melody! Ask them or help them to sing it. Do they like it? Would they like to change anything? Do they need to create a “final note” such as do to finish? A quick snap with an camera, tablet or smartphone can record their work to be sent home. If you have time you could get some manuscript paper and either write it out or use circle stickers.

Single Line Score

Cloud of Starlings WashiThe single line score removes the Bass Clef and any hands together work and just looks at the melody. Once the student has composed their own piece, you can tell them that someone else has composed a piece using the same patterns. It’s called Cloud of Starlings.

At this point we’re still trying to get the melody of the piece into the students inner ear, and not trying to play it on the piano.

  • Sing the patterns in solfa and, using the flashcards if necessary, ask the students to find the patterns on the score
  • Using colouring pencils, post its or washi tape show how the patterns make up the piece.

In this picture my student has used coloured washi tape. When we move onto the full score in Going Wild they used the same colours to mark out the piano score. Once the melody was confidently learnt, we removed them to show all the notes and the bass clef notes were added.

And that’s how to prepare a piece with no lyrics. The only limit to the activities is your imagination so get creating and share your ideas with us!

Very Effective – Review of DoReMi Piano Book 1

Thank you so much Lindsay for this lovely review of DoReMi Piano

“This is a good, thorough grounding in basic music skills, that will lend itself both to individual, and to group teaching. I particularly liked the Improvisation section (Unit 2.9) as a simple but really effective introduction to the joys of improvisation and composition in a sociable way, and also Unit 3.2 on using the thinking voice to understand pulse and rhythm.

The way that homework is used is also potentially very effective, and perfect for the young child – getting them to teach new songs to someone at home is inspired!

Music as a social activity really comes through.”


Teacher Support

Another great review for DoReMi Piano. This time from one of my Amazon customers. All of my customers can rely on excellent post-purchase support if they have any questions or comments about the book. I also look forward to hearing how they are getting on with their students.

“This book has opened up an entire new world of teaching for me. Superb support and back-up from Helen as well – her service has been 100%.”

DoReMi Piano Book 1 Review

Thanks for the great review Rebecca Langley

“I love teaching piano but needed some more ideas to help me really engage my youngest beginners. DoReMi Piano has inspired both my students and me. I didn’t know anything about Kodály beforehand but the teacher guide explains everything extremely clearly and carefully. The activities are great fun and show a sound understanding of young piano students. I would wholeheartedly recommend it!”

Here Sits A Mousie

One of my students asked me the other day which of the songs from DoReMi Piano is my favourite. I didn’t have to think very long. My favourite song is the one that can come out time and time again. My students never get bored of playing it and it can cover a number of learning objectives.

The song is Here Sits A Mousie.

First found in Sing and Play, on the surface it is a simple “la“, “so“, “mi” song. It is the first one that is printed with the stems already in place, as by now most of my students are confident enough with the rhythm not to need the extra task of drawing them on each piece. It is also the first song that changes pitch within a quaver pair and the first song since Balance Balance that has the same pitch for more than one beat. So plenty to challenge a student and plenty of reason to encourage good preparation with a great game.

My idea for this game came from a sadness about this poor little mousie. I must have been having an emotional day! The lyrics are: Here sits a mousie, in his little housie. No-one comes to see him. Poor little mousie. Poor little mousie indeed. No-one comes to see him? That’s just too sad. I can’t leave it at that! So I devised an extension to the song where lots of his friends do come to see him.

Here Sits A Mousie

I have a soft mouse toy to play the part of the mousie. I select two or more other toys as the mouse’s friends and give them each a rhythm flash card. I use at least the two rhythms from the song. I bounce each toy to the rhythm on their card and ask the student to do the same until they are confident they know the rhythms. Then we sing the Mousie song, the mouse bounces in time with the pulse, and at the end of the song I knock or clap one of the rhythms. This is the toy knocking on Mousie’s door. The student then chooses the correct visitor. You could leave the rhythm flash cards visible, or put them away. An alternative start to this game is to demonstrate each rhythm without the cards and the student must select the correct card.

As always, next we swap roles. The student sings the song and knocks the rhythm and I have to select the correct friend. You can expand this game by using more and more friends. You can use known rhythms or use those from a new song you want to prepare. You could even create a doorbell melody to cover pitch as well as rhythm.

The students will play this all lesson if you let them!

Puzzle Erasers

PuzzleErasersI just have to say a massive thank you to the pianist, teacher and composer Diane Hidy for introducing me to Japanese Puzzle Erasers!!  She has been advocating them for years but I had never seen them in the UK until the wonderful day when Paperchase opened a branch in Worcester! I was browsing for a gift for my son’s clarinet teacher and suddenly saw them hanging temptingly on the wall. My fellow customers probably gave me funny looks behind my back as I squealed with delight. Yes, I know! I’m clearly crackers.

Why was I so excited? Well I just knew they would work wonderfully with my DoReMi Piano students.

DoReMi Piano starts by introducing students, via the concept of high and low, to the pitches, solfa or singing names of “so” and “mi”. These two pitches are the easiest for beginner musicians to sing since they commonly occur in many playground songs and of course the irritating “ner ner” taunt! The students learn to sing these pitches through songs and games. Then they learn where to find them on the keyboard.

Once students are confident with these two pitches they are ready to add a third pitch “la” which also commonly occurs in playground songs and taunts.

Some students apply these pitches to the keyboard with ease. Others have more trouble. Any key on the keyboard can be “so“, which means there are many correct locations. We start with the black keys to limit the options and eventually we move to the white keys. This is where the puzzle erasers come in!

Puzzle Erasers on Black KeysFor students struggling with the locations of “la”, “so” and “mi” we can use the cute animals to find our keys. We build them up by starting with “so”, then “mi”, then “la”. They love choosing from my bag of “friends”. This student has placed the tiger on “so”, the piggy on “mi” and the cow on “la”.

You can see how the animals sit nicely on the keys and if they’re played gently they don’t fall off. Plus they are kinder to the keys than the Lego mini-figures I had been using!

Puzzle Erasers on White KeysBut that’s not all they can do! When the student is ready to move to the white keys, they make it really easy to show how “la”, “so” and “mi” can move. One animal can’t move on its own though, if one moves they all have to move. Getting the students to move the animals themselves gives them an understanding of the nature of transposition. Not that we use that term just yet! If they make a mistake, all they need to do is play the keys and they soon hear the problem.

So thanks Diane, on behalf of my students and myself. Our lessons are not only full of joy, they are also more effective.