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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