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.