8/100 Colouring-in

A while back – couple of years ago? Can’t remember – I started using colour, especially when teaching in the early stages.

I use colouring pencils to show the structure of pieces. Like this, perhaps: (from Kabalevsky Op 39)

Kabalevsky op 30 compressed

 The phrase structure leaps out once the “matching bars” are coloured in. The pupil can see at once which bars are repeated, and where the “danger” lies.

I might use coloured lines to, for example, show every leap of an octave. Or to show which parts of a piece are soft, or loud. It just depends on what we are focussing on at the moment. In the tutor books, I (or the pupil) will colour straight onto to page; for more advanced students I’ll take a copy of the section we are working on and mark it up, rather than write indelibly all over the original.

I should add that high-lighters are great for tracing out the parts of a fugue! leaves divider


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7/100 Rain on the Green Grass – Ukulele

Lesson three with a very well-organised Year 3 class in a Wider Opportunities programme centred around this old favourite.

Ukulele Rain on the Green Grass

 I’m a bit irritated that Sibelius has decided to notate G (Rain on the roof tops) as finger 3 on the E string but I don’t know enough about the inner secrets of Sibelius to over-rule it. I taught it using the open G string (the one nearest your nose). I do agree that finger 3 is technically the better solution, but this IS only the third lesson!

The class were focussed enough that we were able to divide into two, one half playing the melody – by rote, not from tab, and the other half strumming the C chord. Rhythm, melody,pulse, strumming singing and playing in two parts all in one go. I’d call that a result!

Sometime in the future I will go back to this, and maybe teach them the tab (that will check the notation box). We can also do my usual trick of changing the words, something along the lines of “Easter is coming, Easter is near, then lot’s of chocolate…inspiration fails me for a rhyming last line (hurrah – that deals with song-writing and composition.)

Chatting birds





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6/100 Interesting Piano Teaching Blog

I follow this blog:

http://www.teachpianotoday.com/more tea?

and receive emails a couple of times a week from them with ideas, tips, printables, and all sorts.

Here’s a link to the free printable from a day or so ago



I don’t follow all their ideas, but this is a real goodie. I’ve printed off some copies and started trying them out.


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5/100 Easy Peasy Composition (and evaluation)

I’m teaching composition to primary classes from Reception to Year 6 (and even a one-off inset session for Primary School Teachers) this term.

Here’s how I’m going about it.

First, I’ve explored dynamics (loud and soft, and changing between them) with the class. We’ve used various instruments, and, according to the age of the children, followed a conductor, learned to Italian words and symbols, and used written notation.

Then, I’ve added texture (one, several, many children playing at the same time). After spending some time explaining and conducting the class, I’ve split them into groups to organise a composition that has to have different dynamics and different textures. They’ve performed their compositions at the end of the lesson, and assessment is completely obvious – did they play loudly and softly? Did they vary the number of children playing at any one time?

Now for timbre (type/quality/description of sounds – eg scratchy, scary, magical, dingy, bell-like, tapping etc). The Cathy Berberian “Stripsody” piece is a fun way in. (Have a look on youtube). Once the children have stopped giggling, they can have a go at creating their own version.

sssssThe next composition phase is to create a piece using texture, dynamics and timbre. At this point it is a good idea to have some kind of a story in mind - eg “we went on an adventure, there was a dramatic dangerous incident, we were rescued by magic and arrived safely at our destination”. Oho – we’ve just added structure into the mix! And also notation and graphic scores.

To assess, check out – dynamics? texture? could you tell which part of the story you were in by the types of sounds (timbres)?. Just tick them off, noting how effective the children’s choices were.

What would make it clearer? Better? What went very well?


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4/100 Counting to Silence

(If you are wondering why this post is numbered 4/100, it is because I have challenged myself to post at least 100 posts in 2016!)

Noisy monkeyI’m a great believer in NOT adding any more energy into a situation which needs calming down. For example; trying to obtain silence in a noisy class.

The “noise” might be perfectly legit in the circumstances; 30 children all working in groups to compose a rondo using school percussion is going to have a serious decibel overload.  But  half a class fidgeting, tapping their djembes and chatting instead of listening quietly is not legit. Under any circumstances.

My current method is this;

I quietly, without saying anything, hold up both my hands with fingers down, and, starting with a little finger (to avoid any unfortunate gestures which would only cause more chaos instead of settling the class) silently start counting seconds. If it is taking more than ten seconds, I just close my fingers again and start again. Some children will copy me, with a mystified expression on their faces. I give them  a sweet smile of approval. Once quiet has happened, I say “Thank you. But fifteen (or whatever) seconds is rather a long time?” and continue the lesson.

The next time, I repeat the procedure. Soon enough, I hear children whispering “sh, look, she’s counting” and, for some reason they quickly stop talking. I just let them know how long it took, and congratulate them for being so much quicker (because, generally, they are!).

This has worked all week in a number of classes ranging from year 3 to year 6. I don’t know how long it will continue to be effective…

french/chinese tiger

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3/100 Teaching Syncopation in a samba class

I needed something to fill the last few minutes of a year 4 5 samba class this week…

Everybody play SYN——co-PAT—shun; feel the pulse on SYN and PA with your feet. Play that four times and STOP

Just play SYN and imagine the co-PA—shun;  now play that four times and STOP

Just play ——-co-  and imagine the other syllables; now play that four times and STOP (It helps if you feel the pulse in your feet)

To really challenge everyone, pick random syllables from the word and try them in combination.

Oh, is that the time? Quietly pack away please.

cracking the eggs


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2/100 Ding dong, I’ve got the rhythm in my head

I tripped across this singing game a few weeks ago:

Ding Dong I ve got the rhythm in my head

Here is a youtube clip (one of many).


I’ve been using this all week, with various classes; year 1 and 2, year 3 and 4 djembe, year 4 and 5 samba among others.

First, I sing them the song. I really don’t want them to join in until I’ve sung it through. Keenies will always start singing what they think it is. But then teaching the  song may well involve unpicking all their assumptions.

So, to distract them from joining in too soon, I sing it several times, asking them to count how many times I sing “Ding dong”, and then “Hot Dog”, and then “I’ve got the rhythm in my head”. Before we (at last!) sing the whole song through together, I teach the last bit, from the three “Ding dongs” to the end. I choose the tempo according to the age of the children I am teaching.

Action Song

Clap hands on Ding Dong, stamp feet (left right) on Hot Dog. I pre-empt “silly stamping” at this stage – the children may well want to leap about rather than stamping in time, which make the game harder to do. I know that sounds like I am spoiling their fun, but I reckon that doing something properly, all together, is fun!

Partner clapping game

Stand facing a partner. For the last three ding dongs, clap your own hands on Ding, clap left hands across on Dong, own hands again on Ding, right hands across on Dong, own hands one more on Ding, both hands with partner on Dong. Then, of course, stamp left-right on Hot Dog. Faster! Repeat several times without stopping!

Singing Game

Only sing the “Ding dongs”, or the “Hot Dogs”, or the “I’ve got the rhythm in my head” out loud. Divide into three groups, each singing just one of the bits.


Sing it softly, loudly, with a steady crescendo or diminuendo. Sing the “Ding dongs” loudly, the “Hot dogs” softly, or vice versa. Year 1 and 2 were hugely charmed by this.


As singing game, but playing ”Ding dong” and “I’ve got the rhythm in my head” as tones, “Hot Dog” as bass on djembe, or with different groups of instruments using samba or school percussion instruments

Pitched Percussion

I intend to combine glockenspiels and chime bars for “Ding Dong”, xylophones for “Hot Dog” and djembes for “I’ve got the rhythm in my head” with a djembe class. I suspect “I’ve got the rhythm in my head” will be a bit too brisk for most children to manage.


Oh yes! After an absence of a couple of years, I’m teaching ocarina to year 1 and 2 again. I reckon this song will prove a hit using F# and D in a week or so.

It’s been a whole lot of fun so far this week; two more classes to go! Judging by the you-tube clips, there are plenty more activities to wring out of this tune yet.



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1/100 Scaley Tunes

1st January 2016

1/100? That’s because I have challenged myself to write at least 100 posts for The Music Jungle this year. I’m getting off to a fine start…

Great Wall of Chimebars

I shall be teaching scales to a couple of keyboard ensembles, to various keyboard and piano beginners, and also to a young cellist this term (I’m covering for a colleague – I don’t normally teach cello but it was my “second study” so I’ll be within my zone of competence!). So I picked out these tunes and rounds as a way of making things more interesting and, maybe, melodious.

Just transpose them into any key you like for whatever instrument you are teaching. Or leave them as they are, and bong them out on glockenspiels and chime bars in class music lessons.

For a very basic version, try this.

Alaphabet song C major

Senwa dedende senwa C

A bit of keyboard/piano fingering has strayed into this Senwa Dedende. It’s a useful was of working on the “third finger over” moment. (Ignore the sudden sharp at the end; I’ve cropped this from another files)

I thought Ebeneezer Sneezer might be a useful way of approaching Detached Slurred bowing; Down-down Up-up etc. Or, as I started saying ”PULL-PULL, PUSH- PUSH” when trying to sort out  the horrible bowing of an exam candidate I was accompanying. “La Streghe”, as I recall, and the child constantly ending up at the one or other end of the bow.

Ebeneezer Sneezer

Finally, I thought this tune, for the cellist, in D or G major, would be a way of consolidating the “fourth finger stretch” for “ti-doh” at the end of lines 2 and 4. We could also experiment with different bowings and see which one was better (why?) easier (why?).

Early One Morning - scales

Well, I hope these will help everyone to find an new enthusiasm and excitement for teaching and learning scales!




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