As children come to learn more and more about how music is put together, they will begin to have new ears to hear any music. They add critical thinking skills to their musical experiences and will enjoy many kinds of music. They also come to understand and love music as they have hands on experiences creating their own music. They can have that experience through private lessons or by just doing some of the fun lessons that I will share.

The lessons will center on the Elements of Music: Beat, Rhythm, Style, Melody, Expression, Form, Timbre, Harmony, and Texture. You can watch as children become confidant at discussing these elements and hearing them in the music they listen to each day. They will enjoy using these elements to create their own music.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Lesson 1 Melodies Move Up and Down

Early experiences with melodies moving upward and downward can be really fun for young children because you can introduce instruments and integrate movement into these types of activities.

Here is a favorite that just simply teaches that music can move upward and downward.  It is on old children's song called The Bear Went Over the Mountain.  If you don't know the song you can find a lot of versions on YouTube.  I like this one the best because the video shows the bear going up and then the bear going down.  That is exactly what we are teaching today.


Now that you know the song here is the arrangement I did with my kids.  We sang the song and then we walked up the mountain on our instruments and then sang the second part and walked down the mountain.  We used small xylophones and turned them sideways so as we played we were actually going upward and downward on the instrument.  If you use a piano you have to explain that upward moves from low to high and downward moves from high to low. With bar type of instruments it helps to remember that large is low and small is high.  So the kids can organize bells from low to high.  It you want to play around with the water glasses use glasses that are all the same and help the children to see that the amount of water changes the pitches from low to high.

See below for other ways to create melody instruments if you do not own one that the children can play.
Creating Melody Instruments:  Check out these sites:

WATER GLASSES: This site has instructions for creating a "xylophone" out of glasses filled with water.  This would be fun to do and I wouldn't worry at all about creating the perfect scale.  The point to the lesson would be that you are creating a set of pitches that go from low to high. 



Here is a easy way to put your bells together as a xylophone:

Lesson 2 Melodies Move Up and Down

Ebeneezer Sneezer, a Simple C Scale Song

Here is a simple scale song that can be used with Boomwhackers®.
  (C) Ebeneezer Sneezer
  (D) topsy turvy man
  (E) walks upon his elbows
  (F) anytime he can
  (G) dresses up in paper
  (A) everytime it pours
  (B) whistles Yankee Doodle
  (C') everytime he snores
  (C' B A G F E D C) Oh  Ebeneezer what a man! (fast descending scale)

Here is a video where you can learn to sing this very simple song. She is playing it on the piano at the same time so if you have a piano you will be able to quickly be able to both play and sing the song.


This is a good sing-a-long version that is much more fun for singing.

You will notice that it says it is color codes for boomwhackers.  Boomwhackers are incredibly fun instruments that are made of colorful tubes.  For $20 you can buy the basic set and play this song and lots of other songs.


Another option is an 8 note glockenspiel.  Here is one at Amazon for $13.99. 

The advantage of the glockenspiel is that a child can play the song easily by themselves whereas boomwhackers were more designed for a group to play, each one playing one note.

Lessons 3 Melodies Move Up and Down

If you purchased the glockenspiels or boomwhackers or if you have a piano, you can find lots of  additional songs to play on the 8 note scale.  Every melody moves upward and downward so playing any of these helps the children to see this concept.

Songs that you already know are easy to play because you know the rhythm and speed of the notes from singing the songs so you just need to know which notes to play.  You can adapt these for the xylophones, piano, boomwhackers, etc. Since the C scale has a low C and also a high C, the low C is written simply as C while the high C becomes C'.

To play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" do the following:
  1. Begin with your mallet on E.
  2. Play the following note progression: E-D-C-D-E-E-E, D-D-D, E-G-G, E-D-C-D-E-E-E-E-D-D-E-D-C.
To play "Three Blind Mice" do the following:
  1. Begin with your mallet on E.
  2. Play the following note progression: E-D-C, E-D-C, G-F-F-E, G-F-F-E, G-C'-C'-B-A-B-C'-G-G, G-C'-C'-C'-B-A-B-C'-G-G, G-G-C'-C'-B-A-B-'C-G-G-G, F-E-D-C
To play "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" do the following:

     1.  Begin with your mallet on low C.
     2.  Play the following note progression:  C-C-G-G-A-A-G, F-F-E-E-D-D-C, G-G-F-F-E-E-D, G-G-F-F-E-E-D, C-C-G-G-A-A-G, F-F-E-E-D-D-C

To play "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" do the following:

    1.  Begin with your mallet on low C.
    2.  Play the following note progression:  C-C-C-D-E, E-D-E-F-G, C'-C'-C'-G-G-G-E-E-E-C-C-C, G-F-E-D-C

To play "Hot Cross Buns" do the following:

    1.  Begin with your mallet on E.
    2.  Play the following note progression: E-D-C, E-D-C, C-C-C-C-D-D-D-D, E-D-C

To play "London Bridge" do the following:

    1.  Begin with your mallet on G.
    2.  Play the following note progression: G-A-G-F-E-F-G, D-E-F, E-F-G,G-A-G-F-E-F-G, D-G-E-C

FYI:  This website has some Christmas songs for 8 notes:

Lesson 4 Melodies Move Up and Down

The following worksheets are for the songs London Bridge, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Twinkle Twinkle, and Hot Cross Buns.

The children have learned how to play them but we want them to see and understand visually how the upward and downward music is written.  The worksheet will also reinforce the rhythms that they learned in the rhythm lesson.

It is their job to now write the names of the notes in the correct boxes and then

1.  Sing the song and point along with a finger to each note as you sing it.
2.  Play the songs on a melody instrument using the worksheet as a guide.

Lesson 5 Melodies Move Up and Down

Another really good exercise to do with the upward and downward movement of lessons is to begin a song with its rhythmic icons and then manually move those icons up and down to reflect what you hear as you sing the song.  This exercises forces your ear to start hearing what upward and downward movement sounds like.

So let's begin with one song and see what that looks like.  Here are the icons for Twinkle Twinkle:

Now you would cut the icons out and place them in order as they are above.  Then sing the song and move the icons upward and/or downward to reflect what you hear as you sing.  When you get done you should have the following:

Here are three more songs to try.  I will put the answer sheets on the next post so that you won't look at them until after you have given this a try.  FYI:  this is difficult for some people so don't get discouraged if it is not as easy as you think. 

Lesson 6 Answer Sheets for Lesson 5

Lesson 7 The Aquarium by Camille Saint-Saens Part 1

Now that we know how to listen to tell if music is moving upward and/or downward we will have some fun with swimming fish in an Aquarium!

Here is the link to the YouTube of the Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens.  This piece moves slowly and gives you a wonderful opportunity to be able to listen for the upward and downward movement of the notes.


The pictures below will  help the children to follow along.  Print them out and then show them how to touch each fish as the music plays.  As they do so they will begin to hear and feel the movement of the melody.  You will also visually see the long and short notes and the repeated phrases of the music.  You can reinforce the long and short notes by having the children count how many there are of each kind.  Ask if they see the patterns in the music.  What do they think the bubbles represent?

Have fun playing with the fish and the music and then look at Part 2 for a really fun follow-up activity.

 Here is the answer sheet that shows the correct order of the "fish pages".

Lesson 8 the Aquarium by Camille Saint-Saens Part 2

Now that you know the music, you can have some fun with it.  Music and movement just go together.  Music makes you want to move.  But the trick with this activity is to move upward and downward along with the music.  It will help the children to begin to listen critically to the music.

We went to the hardware store and got a bunch of sticks they give you to stir your paint.  You could use craft sticks but the bigger the better.  The larger sticks are easier to hold and they do not break.

Then we glued a fish to each of the sticks until we had a whole school of fish.  The children scattered around the room with their fish and when the music began they could walk around while the fish moved up and down with the music.  Initially you may find that it helps if you are quietly singing the music as it plays "Down, Up, Down, Up, Down and hold. . ." etc through-out the music.  It is one thing to do the ups and downs with visuals.  It is much more difficult to hear them.

To make the activity even more fun we decided not to do the downward music "of the bubbles" but instead we told the children that for today the bubble music would represent "dinner time" for the fish.  We put a chair in the center of the room and had a child stand on the chair with a jar of bubbles.  He would blow the bubbles into the air and the fish would all come and "eat" them.  With a large class it was necessary to have 3-4 people feeding the fish.

Here are some fish you could print out for this activity or the kids can draw their own.  These are the same fish used in Part 1 so the kids will associate these fish with this piece of music.

Now just have fun and do the "Fish Dance"!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

RHYTHM LESSON 1: Creating Icons to Teach Rhythm

Rhythm is such a simple concept to teach because we are just putting a name to something we know.  We have heard music all our lives and have heard long and short notes.  But now we get to have some fun with it.

When young children begin learning music it is much easier to teach this concept by seeing "icons" that represent music rather than by reading musical notation. Those icons will later transform themselves into notation with a real understanding of what the notation represents.  So we are going to have some fun with musical icons.

In this lesson I am teaching the "teacher".  You must understand how to create these icons and use them before you can teach them to your children or students.

Music is mathematical.  The length of notes are divisions of time.  So we are going to create icons that represent how short or long a note is played.  I went to a store that created magnetic signs - the kind you see on vehicles and asked them to donate scraps to our school.  Those scraps were then cut into specific sizes and color coded.  I used the magnets so that I could display these icons on my white board in front of the classroom.  If you have a magnetic board in your home or room this is the easiest way to use these icons.  However, if you don't,  you could use paper or preferably card stock.  You could just print my sample out on your computer and cut the icons out. 

Here are the measurements and colors I used:

Eighth note = 1/2" x 1" ORANGE
Quarter note = 1"x1" RED
Dotted quarter note = 1 1/2" x 1"  PURPLE
Half note = 2" x 1" BLUE
Dotted half note = 3" x 1" YELLOW
Whole note = 4" x 1"  GREEN

Musical Icons for teaching Rhythm

RHYTHM LESSON 2: The Math of Music

The next step in using musical icons to teach long and short notes is to discover the mathematical relationships of the icons.  They will then better understand musical notation later when they come to realize the relationships there because they could SEE it and UNDERSTAND it in the icons.

For example, a whole note = 4 quarter notes.  This means that the length of time that you hold a whole note would be the same length of time that 4 quarter notes would use.  When you look at a whole note and a quarter note in notation that relationship is not obvious.  But when you look at the same comparison using the icons it is so easy to understand.

So for this lesson you just want the children to SEE these relationships by playing the game "How Many?"  

How many reds do you need to make a green?
How many reds do you need to make a blue?
How many reds make a yellow?
How many oranges make a red?
etc, etc. until they get the idea that there is a definite relationship between these icons. They will probably need to actually manipulate the icons to find their answers at first.  They will quickly be able to make the relationships visually without having to actually line them up and count them.

I use these icons with preschoolers through first grade.  In second grade we made the transition to musical notation and then in third grade the children learned to read music by playing recorders.  But even then, if the children were not understanding notation we could refer back to icons to get understanding.

Just a note here:  Reading music always needs to be tied to playing an instrument.  In the next rhythm lesson we will learn how to read and play icons with young children.

RHYTHM LESSON 3 - Reading Readiness

Young children are prepared to read the musical icons when they can see and identify like patterns.  So this lesson is a simple matching game that helps them to see subtle differences.  The mother birds each have 4 babies.  The child must put the correct babies with the mothers.

The mother birds are different from each other in subtle ways but the babies are all the same.  The only way the child can discover which babies go with the mothers is to read the musical icons and match the "family songs".

The children will learn how to clap and say these rhythm patterns  so that after each family is together, they can clap the family "songs".

One of the many ways to teach rhythm is to use the words Ta and Ti.  Ta = quarter note or the red square icon.  Ti = an eighth note or the smaller orange icon.  With younger children you would always use 2 ti icons together.  So it becomes Ti-Ti.  We are using 5 rhythm patterns in this game today; each in a set of 4 beats.  They are as follows:

So how would I do this lesson?

Preparation for the game:  Make two copies of the icons in the chart above.  You can cut the words off  for this exercise.  Let the children find the matching rhythm patterns.  After you have found the matches, say and clap the rhythms for each. Make sure that each rhythm is clapped in a pattern of 4 beats.  A ta gets one beat and a ti-ti also gets one beat.  Always remember to do such exercises with the whole group first if you are teaching more than one child.  Then take the time to check each child's understanding individually. 

Mother Bird Rhythm Game:
1.  Cut out the mother birds and the babies. (No need to be fussy about cutting along the lines)
2.  Tape or pin the mother birds, scattering them about the room. (Or lay them on the floor or wherever you choose)
3.  Tell the children that if they look very closely they will be able to find the baby birds with the same music at the mothers.  The children take the baby birds and tape or pin them next to their mothers. (You could choose to give one of each of the five different babies to each child so that each child has to read every one of the patterns and find the mothers)
4.  Check each bird family to make sure the correct babies are there.
5.  Tell the children you are going to learn the "song" for each bird family.  Then help them to clap and say the rhythm patterns for each bird family.
6.  Celebrate success!  ALWAYS celebrate success!

(After my kids knew how to do an exercise like this we would add some challenges to it and repeat on successive days.  Challenge 1:  Time ourselves to see how fast we can do it without losing accuracy.  Challenge 2:  Can the children clap and say the rhythms with no help from the teacher?)

RHYTHM LESSON 4 Adding Rests to our Rhythms

The next step to our rhythm lessons is to add rests to the icons we know how to read.  We are only going to use quarter note rests that get one beat.  They will be named "rest" for the purpose of reading and clapping the rhythm.  Instead of clapping on the rest we will take our hands and give a beat into the air.  We do want the children to feel that beat and not to do nothing on the rest.  Even a rest gets a beat!

For example, if we were reading and clapping Ta Ta Ti-Ti Rest it would look like this with our hands:  

Here are a few of the icons we will be using with the Little Squirrel Game and Chant.  You should take the time to teach these before you play the game.  You can do a visual match game if you like by printing two copies or if you think the children are going to easily transition to adding rests you might just show them the new icons and explain what to do on the rest and then clap them and say them together.  As soon as they are comfortable with these icons you are ready for the Little Squirrel Chant and Game.


Little Squirrel Chant

Little Squirrel up in the tree,
Very soon you’ll hungry be,
Hide those acorns in the ground,
So your dinner can be found.

The four lines of the chant have been purposely written to follow the simple rhythm pattern of Ti-Ti Ti-Ti Ti-Ti Ta.  Start by teaching the chant and clapping the rhythm of those words with the children.  (It is also time to talk about squirrels and how they work all fall to gather food for the winter.  Talk about how they fill their nests with food but how they also go around yards burying nuts in the ground.  Scientists have proven that they do indeed remember where they bury their nuts but that they can also smell nuts that are buried.  The good news for us is that they do not find 100% of their nuts and then ones not found grow into new trees.) 

At this point it is really fun for the children to learn to say the chant and play it on a drum at the same time.  In the classroom I adapted this to the format listed below.  If you are doing this with just a couple of children or even a few, you may adjust it to your needs, of course.


6 children sit around the drums.
While the class chants the poem, those children play the drum part.

The rest of the class is on the circle.

While the poem is being chanted, four children, who are designated the  “hiding squirrels”, hide the acorns. (Hiding in this case means placing the acorns somewhere in the room where they are visible.) 

When the poem is done, one of the drummers will be chosen to keep a steady beat on the drum while all the children, even the other drummers, go find an acorn.  After they have found an acorn they must find the person with the same matching acorn and sit together on the circle.

The game is over when all the squirrels are home eating dinner with a friend.  We then go around the circle and see if the "friends" have the same music and let them clap and say their music for us.  

Here are the acorns I use for this game.  You could invent any number of rhythm patterns for this game and do it on different days.  The blank acorns can be used for the back of the acorns if you would like them printed on both sides.

FYI:  For personal use, I bought an inexpensive pouch laminator (for hot laminating)  and then I purchase laminating pouches from Oregon Laminations online.  http://www.oregonlam.com/Mini_Letter_Laminating_Pouches_3_mil_hot_8_75_x_11_25_Laminator_Pockets_222mm_x_288mm_75_mic_8_3_4_x_11_1_4.htmlTheir Their prices can't be beat.  Best prices for pouch laminators are on Amazon.  I use 3 mil. paper.  If there is anything that you are going to use multiple times, it is worth the effort to laminate your work to protect it. 

RHYTHM LESSON 5 - The Rhythm Band

Usually when we think "music" we think melodies, but percussion instruments have no melody.  Percussion pieces are made up of rhythms.  Now that the children know a bit about rhythm and
can read our rhythm icons, they are ready to be a Rhythm Band.

In order to be a Rhythm Band, you need a simple assortment of Rhythm Instruments.  If you are home schooling you probably don't have these on hand and probably there is no reason in the world to purchase them.

One of the really fun units I did with 3rd graders at my elementary school combined their science unit on sound with my rhythm unit in music.  As they studied how sound is made, they created their own instruments.  Then they brought their instruments to the music room and we became a rhythm band.  So let's look at creating some instruments.

Percussion instruments are basically in 3 categories:  Instruments you tap, shake, or scrape.  Within those 3 categories you can create different sounds by using different materials.  I suggest the following:


Drums can really be made from just about anything that has the shape of a drum. I like to make a drum from an empty oatmeal box. Cover your oatmeal drum with construction paper, or paint it if you prefer. Decorate with other craft materials by drawing or gluing things onto the drum. I have made these for my nursery kids at church and in my final step gave them a couple of layers of decoupage glue (Mod Podge).  This gives the drum a layer of protection and a little more resonance.  If you don't want to make the drums you can always use plastic Tupperware-type bowls. I know that some people think of pots and pans as drums but they make more of a bell or cymbal sound so I wouldn't categorize them as a drum. I would prefer you look for objects around the house that sound like a drum. Depending on your choice of materials you could either play your drums with your hands (like a bongo or conga drum) or use wooden spoons (like a snare drum).

Check this website for instructions for making your own bongo drums:  http://www.makingmusicmag.com/features/make-your-own-percussion.html
Rhythm Sticks
You can beat two wooden spoons together for this one. You can also buy wooden dowels very cheaply at home improvement stores or craft stores. Just beat them together in time with the beat of the music.  Here is another idea that looks really fun to do:   http://siayla.blogspot.com/2009/03/abiyoyo-story-and-rythum-sticks.html

Wood Blocks
Wood Blocks can be make of just a scrap of wood.  If you can get a piece of hardwood you will get more resonance.  Tap it with a dowel or wooden spoon

Cut a small rectangular piece of thick cardboard for each castanet. Then glue a small piece of wood (1 ½" or more in diameter) onto each end of the cardboard. Next, fold the piece of cardboard in half so there will be a piece of wood on each end. The child can then click the two sides together to make rhythmic music.  Or try this idea:  http://www.makingfriends.com/music/castanets.htm

Finger Cymbals
Use small jar lids to make these.  http://familycrafts.about.com/od/jarlidcrafts/a/jarlidmusic.htm

The best thing to use for cymbals is two metal pie pans. Simply have your child strike the two pans together when it seems to fit best in the music. These larger cymbals are


Egg Shakers
You know those bright-colored plastic eggs we use at Easter every year? Keep a few out of your stash and fill them with rice, dried beans, or elbow macaroni. Be sure to securely tape up the eggs so they won't pop open while your child is shaking away. You can fill other containers with rice or beans also. Try old spice containers or little jars with lids, like baby food jars or other small jars.  The sound will vary with the size and materials of the containers.  Have fun experimenting! 

You have probably made paper plate tambourines by filling putting bells or beans inside the plates and stapling them together.  Here are some instructions that I really like because there are no staples on this homemade version, nor anything loosely placed inside that can come out and make a mess.  The bells are tied to the paper plates.  I would suggest using chinet plates and decorating them before assembly and even coating with Mod Podge to make them last.   Check this website:  http://www.ehow.com/how_10022723_make-childrens-tambourines.html

Pick up a little bag of the jingle bells from your local craft store. Different size bells make different sounds so you might like to experiment with sizes.  String them with a strong string that will not break.  My preference for playing jingle bells is for the children to hold them in their hands and with a snap of the wrist play the bells to get a good sound that is "on the beat".


Sandpaper Blocks
Get some sandpaper and cut it to fit two wooden blocks. Glue the sandpaper to the blocks. The kind we use at school have the sandpaper wrapped around the blocks and stapled to the wood so that it can be replaced when it wears out.  I would also get a medium grit paper.  If the grit is too small you won't get much of a sound.  The child can scrape these together in rhythm to the music.

The guiro is a Latin instrument made of  wood with definite grooves in the wood.  It is played by scraping it with a stick.  You can make one with those plastic water bottles that have ridges along the sides.  A dowel or chopstick makes a good stick for scraping it. You can decorate the plastic bottle with permanent markers - but I wouldn't turn any young child loose with a permanent marker so this is a job for an adult.    Check this website:


Tomorrow I will add some great music links and rhythms so you can play your instruments and become a great rhythm band!!

RHYTHM LESSON 6 - March Music and the Rhythm Band



I would teach this: Play 2,3,4 Rest, 2,3,4, Play 2,3,4 Rest 2,3,4 etc. throughout the music.


I would teach this: Rest, 2,3,4, Play 2,3,4 Rest 2,3,4  Play 2,3,4 etc. throughout the music.


I would teach this: Play, Play, Rest, Rest, etc. throughout the music

Wood blocks and Rhythm Sticks:

I would teach this: Rest, Rest, Play, Play, etc. throughout the music

If you notice, the Drums and Shakers have opposite patterns so they form a duet and it would be good to practice those two together.  The same holds true with the Scrapers and Woods.  They should practice together and get a feel for those parts.  Kindergarten kids can do this.  Younger than that depends completely on the children.  

The children will learn to follow a musical pattern and to keep the beat while they play.  Listen to the music and clap the beat before you ever do the music.  You can have them march to the beat also.  Then play the patterns with your hands by clapping and resting before you add the instruments.  Have fun. 

This first music is a cute piece of music that is easy to follow.

#1  Soldier's March by Schumann - 55 seconds

Alte Kameraden  3 min 11 seconds  by Andre Rieu and The Johann Strauss Orchestra.  You can stop at the end of the first section which is at 38 seconds.  OR to have some real fun with this music play that first section and then get up and march until the timer gets to 1 min 55 seconds and then play again until 2 minutes 25 seconds and then march until the end.  It is such a fun piece of music.  If you play the piece and watch the timer, when it gets to 1 min 48 seconds, Andre plays a little bridge that tells you to get ready - it's time to play again.

Use same musical patterns for both pieces of music.   Always remember to get the children to "play" the rests in the air so that they feel those beats!


Before you can understand what this lesson is all about you have to know about the group "Stomp".
So please watch these videos and get a feel for the fun music you can make with objects that are around your house.




You got the idea?  You can make music with anything!

The fun part of creating a "Stomp" type of rhythm piece is that you don't have to read any music.  Each person gets to create their own musical idea and then you decide how you are going to put
it all together.  You know enough about music and rhythm now that if a younger child needs help
you can just give them an idea.

When I did this with my younger children at school, we always chose a theme.  For example, we did a "Kitchen Stomp".  The cooks let us use the kitchen at the school and did we have fun!  We played wooden spoons, frying pans, glass bowls and silverware, etc.   Or how about "Cleaning Up Stomp" with a broom, a mop, a scrub brush, and a bucket.  "School Stomp" might be done at the dining room table with a pencil, a pen, a ruler, a compass, a notebook, etc.

This is the lesson where you just go wild and have fun.  There is no right or wrong.  But here are some guidelines to help.

*There has to be a beat that everyone follows.  So it may help with young children to have someone keep the beat the whole time.

*Layering music creates an interesting sound.  So you can start with one person, add another, then another, etc until everyone is playing.  The exit the same way.

*Children (and adults) know a lot about music from just hearing it.  They can create a rhythm that is more complicated than what they are capable of reading.  It is just like speech.  Children know words that they could never spell and even ideas that are hard to put into words.  So as you begin creating "Stomp" type of creations, you might be surprised at the musical ideas that come forth.

Here are a couple of websites that might also give you some ideas:

1.  http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/03/lp303-02.shtml

2.  http://www.ehow.com/how_10071387_make-stomp-instruments.html