54/100 “So-Mi” songs, Bee Bee

Another So-mi song which I use all the time with classes up to the age of about 7

Bee Bee

It’s well worth indicating the pitch movement in the melody, with Kodaly hand movements or just by moving your hand up, down, or even higher. (“which words are we singing when I point up in the air”). Otherwise the children will all be individually creative and compose their own version of the melody. Which might be an interesting way of starting pentatonic composition, but isn’t in the scope of this post.

There still are loads of things you can do with this little song; once the children know it well. My two favourites are having one class clap (or play on percussion) the pulse (“I say you’re out”) all the way through, while the others clap or play the rhythm. This moves into simple two-part or three-part samba or djembe piece, when the group can play the three different rhythms “Bee Bee Bumble Be”; “Stung a man upon his knee, which is the same as “stung a pig upon his snout”; and “I say you’re out” at the same time.

Or, stand the children in a circle, and choose one child to stand in the middle and be the “Bee”. As everyone sings the song together, the “Bee” points to each child in turn, keeping the pulse. Whoever they are pointing to on the word “out” is the next bee, and they swap places and off we go again. Trickier than you would think. If it is a bigger class, once they’ve got the hang of it, choose two or more bees to go round at the same time. If you are feeling adventurous, bored, or think the children need a challenge, get the bees to go round in different directions. Younger children will probably have attempted this by accident already.

The Queen Bee

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53/100 “So-mi” songs – Leo the Lion

I have updated the ukulele page with some more simple songs, using Am7 (open strings), C chord, and F chord, but, looking back, I haven’t published the notation for these songs before.

So here are a few posts to get the notation up.

I use a small soft toy for this game (my colleague used a stuffed lion). So, it can be Dilly the Dog, Larry the Lamb, Billy the badger, and once, but never again, Dilly the Duck.

Here’s the song:

Leo the Lion


And here’s how you play the game:

feeding the lions

It starts with one person/child holding the hungry animal.

The class sings “Leo the Lion, what do you say, who would you like to eat today?”

Whoever has got the animal sings the name of the person they choose “I’d like Lucy”

The class then sings “How would you like to eat her?”

And the person with the animal replies “On a pizza”

And the class sings “Yum yum yum” while the animal gets passed (thrown!) to Lucy. Off we go again.

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52/100 Brushing up on Sight Reading

'4′33″ (In Proportional Notation)' (1952/53) by Cage. (©2013 John Cage Trust/The Museum of Modern Art)

4′33″ (In Proportional Notation)’ (1952/53) by Cage. (©2013 John Cage Trust/The Museum of Modern Art)
Image from http://observer.com/2014/01/there-will-never-be-silence-scoring-john-cages-433-at-the-museum-of-modern-art/


I’ve just bought some of the new syllabus ABRSM piano teaching books to have a look at what’s coming up for next term. So I open them up, and start playing through – and


where have my sight-reading skills gone? I used to just blast through the books, not really working up any kind of “brain-heat” until about Grade 5.

That just goes to show what happens when I’m not practising enough. My fingers felt all disconnected and uncooperative. So, I have set myself the task of checking through a whole grade every day – going through the complete scales and arpeggios list, and then analysing ALL the pieces, making proper notes about techniques, trappy rhythms, suitability for the students I have in mind for the grade. I haven’t done this for a while, but it is proving an interesting experience, especially in the light of the Paul Harris “Simultaneous Learning” ideas that I have picked up.

I haven’t bought his book (yet!)

but I had the chance to explore some of the ideas in a study session on a staff training day. Initially I thought – yeah, another “new thing” . Actually, having used the Practice Starter cards in many of my piano lessons this term, and had a good look at the practice map

Product Details

I’m changing my mind. I’m up to grade 3 now, my fingers are re-discovering how the piano works, and my sight-reading is less rusty.

I’ve also bought “A piece a week” book 1 and 2 (the only grades so far) for a couple of pupils who are approaching grade 1 (a quick learner and good note reader) and grade 3 (needs a lot of experience in reading rhythm)

Product Details

and a sight-reading duet book

for a young lad who has a totally closed mind about his ability to read music in spite of being grade 4 violin. He does everything by ear – what a talent! – but has zero confidence in note reading.

Let’s see where this gets us next term…

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51/100 Recycling – listen and copy percussion game

I make no apologies for recycling an old post here – this site has been up and running for about 5 years and I’ve reached the point where I have forgotten more ideas than I realised.

I was tracking back to another post which someone reminded me of, and along the way I re-discovered this body percussion game from 2013.

Aha! So that’s what I will do with year 5 and 6 for their final lesson of term. They will have performed their show, and as it is the last week music games seems the way to go. I might follow it up with watching “A short ride in a fast machine” from the BBC Ten Pieces (primary schools) DVD to spot the “woodblock man” in action.

short ride in a fast machine


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50/100 Paul Harris Simultaneous Learning

When this card came up in my pack of Paul Harris Practice Card, I though “What a Great Idea”

simaltaneous map 25


So much so, I copied it out and put it where I can see it on my piano. Later, a quick google of

paul harris simultaneous learning map

brought up this link:


which took me to these two pages:

Simutaneous Practice 1


Simultaneous practice 2

The page of text is an explanation of the “map”, and an encouragement to use it. The the second paragraph   states that “you may copy this map or make up your own…” which presumably means that he is happy for me to share it.

I have come across this before, several times. To begin with I thought “here comes yet another New Thing”. Like Brain Gym, Thinking Hats, VAK learners, Growth Mindset, blah, blah, blah… yet another “magic method”. But the more I’ve used the starter cards in my lessons, the more useful they are turning out to be. And also a lot of fun.

Practice starters

Take today; I’ve had interesting explorations of rhythm, dynamics, and improvising in my piano lessons with my young beginners, They all look forward to the ritual of “pick a card” at the beginning of their lessons. I should say that I’m not receiving Anything from Anyone for expressing my enthusiasm for these cards!

Next term, I plan to explore the idea of practice maps and incorporate them into my lesson planning.

fanfare for the common ant

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49/100 “Listen and Copy”

Just about all class music lessons involve “listen and copy”. It is such a basic process for teaching pitch, rhythm, indeed, any kind of music that I am going to blog about it.

Why? It sounds so simple – the children listen, and then they copy. What could be more straightforward?

So, you play a short, four-count rhythm on my instrument, and a chaos of loud, unregulated, noise ensues. Once order has been restored, you start again.

“I’m going to play a pattern, and then you are gong to copy it.” I start to play a simple rhythm, and they’re off again.

Noisy monkey

Sigh. It can take several lessons, with you pointing to yourself, or holding your ear when they are meant to listen, and then pointing to them when it is their turn, for them to eventually get the idea.

I’ve run into this problem every time I have started teaching a new class in a new school for a new Wider Opportunities programme.

There has to be a more efficient, easier way –  there is – and here’s what works for me;

It all goes back to “say, clap, play” – in this case combining “say” and “clap” to begin with, before moving on to “say” and “play” (doesn’t work so well for woodwind lessons, unfortunately).

So, I say and clap at the same time a short phrase like “can you copy this?” to which they hopefully reply, saying and clapping “can you copy this”.

I work my way through a repertoire of phrases  for them to say-and-clap back;

  • “you are very clever”
  • “Give me more bananas”
  • “I like sugar on potatoes”
  • “Now it’s time to stop” (give an unambiguous “STOP” signal at the end of their “copy” and tell them to put their instruments DOWN quietly)

I tend to pick random and absurd things to say once the listen-and-copy is beginning to flow – it keeps everyone’s attention, as they wait to hear what I’m going to say next.

Once this is going well, then, and only then, do we move on to instruments. I’m still supporting the rhythm patterns with words, or maybe lines from a rap or chant that we have learned.

Eventually, I’ll speak more softly, and finally not say the words at all. By this time, they have got into the habit of listening, and everything sounds so much more organised.

synchronised penguins working together




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48/100 Prior Learning – It makes a difference!

I’ve just had a bit of a wake-up call about the importance of regular music lessons.

At the primary school where I teach music all the way through from Reception to Year 6, I thought it would be a fair assumption that if I get my year 3s together, issue them with samba instruments, do a quick warm-up and explanation, they should be able to play a decent, if simplified, version of samba reggae from the Beatlife Book by the end of a 45 minute lesson.


Indeed, that is exactly what happened when I tried it. They all had nailed their grooves and could hold them when playing all together, watch for section breaks and stop signals, and even do a pretty good stop.

The I went to do one-off samba workshops with classes in schools where I don’t normally teach. Revelation. What I took to be perfectly achievable, reasonably straightforward lessons plans for years 3, 4 5 and 6 turned out to be much harder to achieve. In the end, each year group did manage to play their sambas, in simplified versions. I had the sections playing similar/identical rhythms, combined the separate surdo parts into everyone playing the same thing. Year 6 were the most proficient; but they had done some samba several years ago and therefore had more experience of playing rhythmically, watching for signals, keeping a pulse.

I’m going to have to rethink my plans for future workshops in the light of this experience.

It has also been a very encouraging experience – what I take for granted with the children I teach “in my own schools” is actually a reflection on the fact that they have benefited from all the music that they have experienced over the years. It really does make a huge difference to their ability to learn, play, control, perform.

birds on a branch divider

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47/100 Learning to Play Slurring Patterns

The Paul Harris Practice Starter Cards I mentioned a while back are proving a great way to begin lessons.

Today I was teaching a piano lesson to a beginner, and she pulled a card which suggested you try playing a phrase in different ways. For example, alternating bars of piano and forte, or of legato and staccato, playing it as slowly as you can (that’s what she chose to do; a bit of emergency practice going on there, I suspect!) and so forth.

One of the ideas was to try different slurring patterns. Aha! A chance to re-visit what slurs are, and how to interpret them!

There was a little exercise along these lines her her tutor book. I copied these few bars into her practice notebook

slurs removed


and added these slurs, and the fingering. And also the words: by grouping the fingering patterns into numbers, she very quickly understood how to group the notes into the different slurring patterns, joining the notes over the slurs, and detaching the other notes.



When I put £ signs before the numbers like this: £24  £24:    £242 £2:     £2 £42 £2:     £2  £424:   it made even more sense to her!

When tackling the next piece on the page, her attention was immediately caught by the slurs; two three-note phrases (£531 each), a five note phrase (£54323), and then, joy of joys, an eleven note phrase (£53153154321) I left her to work out how that one would be worth for next week.

Snake keyboard divider

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