Help the puppet to sing in tune!



Hello!  I just wanted to share a game I often play with 4 – 7 year olds in particular to help them to sing in tune or pitch-match as we often call it.

With my children we never talk about pitch in terms of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but we do talk about ‘the same’ and ‘different’. I will sing at one pitch and see if the children can sing back to me at the same pitch.  This is all fine and easy of course when they can.

When a child sings back to me at a different pitch I will encourage the children to recognise that it is different but then instead of encouraging the child to make it ‘right’ I will see if I can sing back to the child at their pitch  In this way, we, as a group, learn to recognise pitches that are the same and different and practice matching them without any feeling of judgement.


In this video is one particular game I use where I hold a puppet, sing hello to it and ask it to sing back to me. I then ask the children to indicate if the pitch was the same or different. If it was different I ask if a child can help the puppet to sing back ‘the same’. The child takes the puppet and responds as if the puppet is singing. The puppet helps children who have less confidence. What is not shown on this video is what happens when the child pitch matches differently.  I would then ask the child to sing (as if from the puppet) at their pitch and see if I can sing back the same.  I can choose whether to sing back the same or different. At this stage the learning objective is all about listening closely and recognising whether sounds match or not.

This is just the early stage of pitch-matching. Throughout Active Music Digital we teach pitch through the use of solfa with handsigns.  If you would like to see more DVD tracks like this one, we have over 600 more for you to watch, along with 168 lesson plans from Reception to Year 6. Just visit Active Music Digital and request a FREE TRIAL


Excellent counting and clapping game


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn this game the children are counting continually in their heads.

It is great for internal thinking and as we know, much of music is about inner thinking!

Try this yourself first and see how easily it comes to you!

The routine is as follows:

Tap 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Tap 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Tap 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Tap 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Tap 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Tap 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Tap 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Tap 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

There are many ways this game can be played – two different actions are needed. For instance:

Thinking the italic numbers/clapping the bold numbers

Tapping knees on the italic numbers/clapping on the bold numbers

Clapping own hands on the italic numbers/ clapping partner’s hands. on the bold numbers

Playing one type of instrument on the italic numbers/ playing a different one on the bold numbers

Doing one chosen action on the italic numbers/ doing a different chosen action on the bold numbers

One child or group playing on the italic numbers/ a different child or group playing on the bold numbers

Extentsion: Can you play the game in reverse?

This idea is so simple but it can last a whole lesson!! Children can outwork this changing number pattern in groups, in pairs and on their own. You can set all different types of challenges.

I hope this game has been helpful to learn. If you would like to see videos of hundreds more of these ideas – with singing games and progressive musical skill-developing activities too, please visit

Please watch the video below to see how simple and easy it is to use Active Music Digital!


FREE TRIAL: If you sign up for the FREE TRIAL you can download 40 lesson plans or games and can watch children playing these games on our website for 10 whole days!  Enjoy!



Pulse + Rhythm + Ostinato = Simple classroom compositions!

Studio shoot for the Interactive Music Club taken on 28/06/09


Hello again.  I  wanted to share with you a simple yet effective way of composing or creating arrangements in your classroom.



  1. Take a simple chant or song the children know well.
  2. Ask half the class to tap the pulse and half to clap the rhythm of the chant or song.
  3. Make sure they are all clear on the difference between the Pulse and the Rhythm.
  4. When this is solid, create more texture by adding an OSTINATO!
  5. Create a composition by building and reducing the layers of sound. Start with the pulse, add the ostinato then the rhythm of the chant. When the rhythm of the chant has finished, let the ostinato play for 4 beats longer and end with just the pulse for 4 beats. Da-da!!

WHAT IS AN OSTINATO?  It’s a continually repeated musical phrase or rhythm.

An ostinato creates a new layer of sound on top of the pulse and the rhythm that you are already playing. Immediately it turns simple chants and rhythm patterns into whole arrangements or compositions and it is fantastic for the children’s listening skills! For the purpose of this short article I am focusing on rhythmic ostinatos (but tuned ostinatos are just as much fun – specially when using the pentatonic scale!)

PPL PHOTO AGENCY - COPYRIGHT RESERVED *** Local Caption *** Studio shoot for the Interactive Music Club taken on 28/06/09 *** Local Caption *** Studio shoot for the Interactive Music Club taken on 28/06/09


Ostinatos provide an extra dimension of skill-level to whole class work where individual children can be given (or can compose) more complex ostinatos to play as part of the whole group piece. Immediately the sounds become more complex and clever but the concepts behind them are very very simple!

Children who find it hard to read long rhythms can usually sustain a short repeated rhythmic ostinato and those who find ostinatos hard can keep the pulse with the help of a conductor. This is a good way to differentiate in a music lesson. There is something for everyone!


You know how when singing rounds, children are encouraged to listen to the other groups and not block them out, as this encourages their ability to hold their part while still listening to all the sounds of the other singers? Well, the same skill applies when using ostinatos. It can be a bit like patting your head and rubbing your tummy!


Brilliant ways to create totally new compositions are to ask children to compose their own rhythm pattern instead of using a chant as a starting point – maybe 4 lines of 4 beats per line.  Then ask them to compose a 4 beat ostinato to be repeated throughout the piece. Then create 3 groups.

  1. Pulse
  2. Rhythm
  3. Ostinato

From the Inter-related dimensions of music in the National Curriculum, we can cover:

Studio shoot for the Interactive Music Club taken on 28/06/09


RHYTHM (duration), TEXTURE (layers of sound) TIMBRE (different types of instrument sounds) DYNAMICS (louder of softer) and TEMPO (faster or slower) really easily!



Another great thing about ostinatos is the fun you can have using them to develop your own skills!

Try chanting a chant you know well and making up a 4-beat complex rhythm pattern to clap while you are chanting. There’s a lot of multi-tasking going on!  It gets confusing – but it’s a great skill to practice -and one you can pull out of the bag with any song or chant with your children at any time! These are all great exercises too, if you are asked to train the teachers in your school.

OSTINATOS definitely have my vote when it comes to primary music!

Want to see more?


If you’d like to watch some children creating compositions using ostinatos or indeed heaps of other musical games or activities, please visit and have a FREE TRIAL. You are welcome to download 40 lesson plans for free and have access to over 600 video tracks for 10 whole days! Enjoy!

Children love solfa hand signs and their characters!

Solfa is the visualisation in space of tonal relationships and it WORKS with children!

Solfa gives a half-way house between symbols on a piece of paper and the sound that comes out of your mouth.  What’s more, you can give the hand signs characters!

If you have stayed away from solfa and hand signs thinking it’s too complicated, it’s actually really EASY and a great way in for teaching in-tune singing with children! It’s great to start with the first five notes of the pentatonic scale. You can watch the children learning these hand signs with the characters in our videos right now if you would like to and see how it helps them with learning about singing in tune and intervals.

Studio shoot for the Interactive Music Club taken on 28/06/09
SOPHIE is the first one we teach and we describe her like this! Sophie is a pretty little girl who likes looking at herself in the mirror! (This indicates to hold your hand in such a way that you could see yourself if looking in a mirror).

Sophie like to be called ‘So’ for short.



Studio shoot for the Interactive Music Club taken on 28/06/09


MIKHAIL is the next. We tell the story that Mikhail is best friends with Sophie (always both on lines or in spaces when written – knowledge for later) but that Mikhail doesn’t care what he looks like and puts the mirror flat on the table (indicating the hand being flat as if on a surface and lower than eye level) and goes running off to play in the woods!

Mikhail likes to be called ‘Mi’ for short.


Studio shoot for the Interactive Music Club taken on 28/06/09


LARA is the third. Lara is friends with Sophie and Mikhail though not as close. Lara is very way out, likes hanging around in trees (hence the overhanging hand sign), wearing purple and going to discos.

Lara likes to be called ‘La’ for short.



Studio shoot for the Interactive Music Club taken on 28/06/09

Fourth, there is DODI – Dodi is a very solid, dependable and kind lady (hence the hand sign depicting a solid base) who works in a local café. She always gives children free cups of tea and pieces of cake on their way home from school and listens to all their problems. She is really really kind and always there.

Dodi likes to be called ‘Do’ for short.



Studio shoot for the Interactive Music Club taken on 28/06/09

Lastly there is RAYMOND. Raymond works with Dodi in the café and they are close. The only thing we know for sure about Raymond is that he lives on a hill (hence the gradient of the hand sign). Some people think that he is in a relationship with Dodi but no-one is completely sure!!

Raymond likes to be called ‘Re’ for short.

It’s a great idea to teach songs on So and Mi first, then introduce the children to the hand signs and the characters. Next it’s a good idea to teach La, So, Mi songs and introduce Lara, then So, Mi, Do to introduce Dodi and Mi, Re, Do to introduce Raymond! Everyone probably does this slightly differently but this process has always worked for me!  The characters have always been key, too, for the children remembering the notes and their signs and their relationships to each other. None of these characters are set in stone and can be re-written or interpreted in different ways.

Once the children know these notes they can sight sing them when written under stick notation (rhythms) and can compose with both rhythms and melody. It opens up a whole world of musical knowledge which can be expanded to compositions and improvisations. It’s a great way for children to own what they are learning musically and to enjoy the process.

In Active Music Digital the hand signs are all demonstrated on DVD as part of a set of over 600 DVD tracks all available instantly online so you can learn this process, amongst others, and implement it immediately with your children! Your children in the classroom can watch the DVDs too via the interactive whiteboards, which can help teachers who struggle with confidence!

We would love to hear from you here at Please feel free to sign up for a FREE TRIAL and access all 600 DVD tracks instantly. You can also download 40 lesson plans to get an idea of how it all works.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Happy Music Teaching!

PS To access the free trial take the following steps:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on start a free trial
  3. Submit your details
  4. Find the email in your inbox with the activation link
  5. Click on the link and you will be re-directed to a page where you will find your username and password in the left top.


Let’s get the xylophones out of the cupboard!

Do you want to know how EASY it can be to use xylophones in the classroom?

3335292In order to know the secret of making xylophones easy for children we first need to grasp the pentatonic scale as this is the KEY!

The pentatonic scale is the first five notes of a scale that don’t contain any semitones. E.g.   C D E G A

  • Take any xylophone/glockenspiel/chime bar set with notes from C-C (no black notes at this stage). Take out all the F’s and all the B’s. You now have only the notes of the pentatonic scale. ANYTHING your children play will be harmonious.
  • Then learn a simple song using these notes. Eg. Bow wow wow

Bow wow wow  (C C C Z)

Who’s dog art thou? (E ee E Z)

Little Tommy Tucker’s Dog (gg gl ge C)

Bow wow wow (E D C Z)

FYI: Upper case is Ta (crotchet) Lower case is Te-Te (2 quavers) and Z is a rest!

  • When the children know the song well, they can easily learn to play it.
  • The children can sing this song while accompanying themselves on their xylophones. Ideal notes for accompanying this song are C E G.
  • The children can make up compositions including a drone (repeated notes on the pulse) the melody and an ostinato. It all harmonises beautifully.
  • These notes are sometimes called Do Re Mi So and La (Pentatonic solfa)
  • Solfa notes can have characters which make them easier for the children to learn!

1490481Xylophones do not have to be complicated and even if you have a whole class of 30 six year-olds, each with their own xylophone, glockenspiel or set of chime bars, you can STILL impress the head teacher, before the children even know what they are doing! The notes sound beautiful together.


The key is using only the notes of the pentatonic scale to start with.

Let’s lose the Fs and the Bs and learn loads of songs using the pentatonic scale. Then nothing can go wrong!!! (yes, well……..) It’s also great to teach rhythms within the safety of the pentatonic scale and most importantly, in-tune singing.

Studio shoot for the Interactive Music Club taken on 28/06/09There are heaps of songs using the notes of the pentatonic scale in Active Music Digital. There are also 42 progressive lesson plans from Reception up to year 6 all based around singing, playing, composing and improvising using the notes of the pentatonic scale. It’s fun! The other 126 lesson plans are all based around rhythm and pulse, singing games and instrumental activities.

Studio shoot for the Interactive Music Club taken on 28/06/09

TRY ACTIVE MUSIC FOR FREE!   If you would like to see more of these ideas, as well as all the other games and activities, please sign up to our FREE TRIAL at where you can access over 600 DVD TRACKS of these games and activities being played and can download 40 lesson plans. It would be great to see you there.

As this is a digital process and often lacks the human touch, you can also email me at any time at and I am more than happy to discuss musical issues or answer your questions. All the best,  Sally………

Happy Music Teaching!