• Clever Echo???

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    Clever Echo in the Secondary School Music Classroom

    The Oxford English dictionary gives the definition of the word echo as “a sound or sounds caused by the reflection of sound waves from a surface back to the listener”. [1]

    In the classroom, echoing is an activity in which something is performed firstly by the teacher and is then repeated by the students.

    For example, in the music classroom, a teacher could play or sing a melody for the students to sing back. Or a rhythm is played on a drum for the students to clap it back. Or a series of chords (a chord progression) is played on the piano and the students sing back the bassline or the chords vertically and so on.

    The problem with these activities is their limitations as far as what it tells us about what our students know. They only tell us that their students can reproduce the sound(s) that they are hearing and not much more.

    Turning these activities into clever echoes adds a whole new level. The students must repeat what was performed for them labeling the names of the pitches or rhythms etc that were given to them.

    You could think of clever echo as an instant dictation or transcription exercise.

    Think of it in the same way as we think of learning a language.

    Students learning a language are asked to “Write down what I say”. The teacher then reads a short phrase or sentence, using only words the student knows, then the students write that sentence, using their knowledge of how to spell the words they heard.

    This is exactly what we are asking our music students to do when we give them any form of transcription exercise – they must know the “spelling” of the music before they can possibly know how to write it down. Using movable do or tonic solfa is the pitch “alphabet” and rhythm or time names are the rhythmic “alphabet” we use to “spell” the rhythms, melodies, harmonies we are given.

    Clever echo activities should form a part of every music lesson, regardless of what stage of learning a class is at. They are also a great way to prepare for a transcription or dictation activity or other activities that use the elements found in the clever echo activity.

    The basic rhythmic clever echo steps are:

    Step 1: Teacher claps two, four or more beats using ONLY rhythms known by the students.

    Step 2: Students clap this rhythm.

    Step 3: Students clap and say the rhythm names of this rhythm.

    Here is an example from the Musicianship & Aural Training for the Secondary School Level 3 (Upper Secondary) books:

    and a higher level example from Jenn Gillan’s wesbite:

    The basic melodic clever echo steps are:

    Step 1: Teacher sings a melody, two, four or more beats long, using ONLY pitches known by the students, on a neutral syllable (such as “loo”).

    Step 2: Students sing this melody (also using the neutral syllable).

    Step 3: Students sing this melody in solfa with handsigns.

    Optional Step 4:  Students sing this melody in letter names in various keys.

    Here is an example from the Musicianship & Aural Training for the Secondary School Level 3 (Upper Secondary) books:

    The basic interval clever echo steps are:

    Step 1: Teacher sings two notes, using pitches and creating intervals known by the students, on a neutral syllable (such as “loo”).

    Step 2: Students sing these notes (also using the neutral syllable).

    Step 3: Students sing these notes in solfa with handsigns (using either a particular key – in context – or from a given first note – in abstract) and label the interval between the two notes (e.g. Major 3rd, Perfect octave etc).

    Here is an example from the Musicianship & Aural Training for the Secondary School Level 3 (Upper Secondary) books:

    The basic harmony (chord) clever echo steps are:

    Step 1: Teacher plays a chord – harmonically and then melodically (as an arpeggio – the notes played ascending then descending).

    Step 2: Students sing this chord melodically (using the neutral syllable such as “loo”).

    Step 3: Students sing this chord melodically in solfa with handsigns.

    Optional Step 4: Students label the chord type of this chord (e.g. Major, minor etc.

    Here is an example from the Musicianship & Aural Training for the Secondary School Level 3 (Upper Secondary) books:

    The basic harmony (bassline) clever echo steps are:

    Step 1: Teacher plays a chord progression (beginning with only two).

    Step 2: Students sing the bassline of the chord progression (using the neutral syllable such as “loo”).

    Step 3: Students sing the bassline of the chord progression in solfa with handsigns.

    Optional Step 4: Students sing back each chord of the chord progression melodically in solfa with handsigns, labelling each chord with its position within the key (I, IV etc) and its chord type.

    Here is an example from the Musicianship & Aural Training for the Secondary School Level 3 (Upper Secondary) books:

    There are LOTS of other fun things you can add to these basic clever echo activities – but I will save these for another post!

    Would love to hear your comments, ideas, suggestions for clever echo activities so please feel free

    Happy teaching!



  • Lean Forward!

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    Just a quick post from me today (am in the middle of writing the 2nd Edition of the Level 3 books, CDs etc ready for 2017!)

    I came across this action song when my daughter sang it ALL the way home in the car (it's an hour drive!!!)

    I can't find the source or where it originates from but I did find videos of kids singing and doing the actions and I even found one of Rugby fans doing it to relieve a numb posterior!

    Anyway - just thought I'd share because its a LOT of fun!




    Lean Forwards

     As you can see the actions pretty much follow the
    words all the way through.

    Begin sitting down (preferably on chairs).
    It will help if you have numbered all the
    children either "A" or "B".

    Follow the words until
    "now do it backwards and see if it sticks".
    On these words you do the last four actions
    in reverse: "click, clap, slap (your knees) stamp".

    Spin and twirl can be the same actions and can just be
    a turn in the chair to the left and to the right.

    On the words "turn to your partner" you ask the
    "A" students to turn to their left and the
    "B" students to turn to their right to find their partners.
    On the word "clap"
    they clap both their partners hands.

    Extension actions -
    do EVERYTHING in reverse to what the words say.
    It is hilarious!

  • Practicing Transcriptions

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    It’s not as easy as you think!

    When we do a transcription exercise with our students in class that is exactly what we are practicing – the process of TRANSCRIPTION!

    Yes of course we do have to learn and practice that process but it is learning and practicing the content of the transcription exercise that will actually help us get better.

    If a language teacher only ever asked their students to “write down what I am saying” and did not spend time teaching content – vocabulary, spelling, grammar, sentence structure etc and then practicing and revising this content, then her students would not improve.

    In our music classes we need to do the same and spend time teaching and then PRACTICING the content before we ask our students to recognise and transcribe it.


    Let’s look at what our students need to KNOW in order to undertake the complex task of Melodic Transcription.

    In order to be able to write down the notes from a melody we hear, onto the staff, we need to know the content of this melody very well.

    1. We need to KNOW the scale the melody is based on (preferably using tonic solfa - so we are conscious of what notes we are singing and aware of their function and place within the scale we are singing). This means we can sing the scale (in solfa AND in letter names belonging to various keys but most importantly the key of the transcription exercise), we can write the scale in solfa and on the staff, we can use the scale in compositions and improvisations etc. For example:
    2. We need to have sung (in solfa and in letter names) and analysed as many melodies as possible in the same tonality as the one we are transcribing. By analyzing I mean discussing the common “spellings” used in these melodies, important tonal notes (e.g. tonic, dominant)commons phrases, leaps, scalic passages, cadence points, underlying chords structures etc. For example:
    3. We also need to be able to compose in a similar style to these transcription exercises and then sing these compositions through in solfa etc.

    The more singing and analysing our students do the better they will understand melodies and therefore be able to recognise most (if not all) of what they are expected to transcribe.

    Rhythmic Transcription.

    The same approach applies here but rhythmically instead of melodically.

    1. Rhythms need to be read (in rhythm names with conducting) as much as possible and For example:
    2. Rhythms need to be analysed so that the content, format, structure etc is understood and therefore can be recognised within a rhythmic transcription;
    3. As with melody, we also need to be able to compose in a similar style to these transcription exercises and then read these compositions through in rhythm names with conducting etc.


    Harmonic Transcription (Chord Progressions).

    This is probably the area we find the most difficult to “practice” as individually we cannot sing harmony…..or can we?

    Activities such as:

    1. Singing basslines as chord progressions are played (in solfa of course). For example:
    2. Singing chord within a chord progression vertically. For example:
    3. Analysing chords found on each scale degree and then singing them accordingly – in context AND in abstract;
    4. Learning, and understanding the function of, cadences. For example:
    5. And, of course, our students need to be able to compose chord progressions - on the staff and in solfa/Roman Numerals etc - and then sing them through in all possible ways. For example:

    These are the activities that will learn and most importantly PRACTICE chord progressions.

    All other types of music transcriptions can be learned, studied and practiced in the same manner – by SINGING everything related to that element and by analyzing everything about that element. In this way we find we really KNOW the content we are being asked to transcribe so well it’s like writing down notes as someone speaks English to us!

    Hope this helps your students to see real improvement!


  • My Tasmanian Adventure

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    A couple of weeks ago I was one of the key note presenters at the ASME (Tasmanian branch or “TASME” as it’s affectionately known) conference, held at Scotch College Oakburn in Launceston.

    Having never been a key note speaker before and having never visited Launceston either I was VERY excited (and just a tad nervous).

    I need not have worried – I was made to feel most welcome by the wonderful committee and all conference attendees and fell in love with the little I managed to see of Launceston.

    My key note presentation at the start of the second day was based on a previous blog post “Why Teach Music”. In it I used my reasons for teaching music as a springboard to show teachers some my most successful and favourite teaching activities.

    We began by singing the beautiful Russian folksong “The Birch Tree”:

    The Birch Tree 2

    which lead us to listening, analyzing and then watching performances of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 Mvt :

    Link 1 - Audio only recording of the fourth movement, performed by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with Andrew Litton, conductor

    Link 2 - Video performed by the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas


     I shared my experiences of dealing with students who “don’t like” classical music and who then react positively upon hearing the folksong in Tchaikovsky’s great symphony. Coming from what our students DO know to what they DON’T is a great way of introducing them to new listening experiences. (BTW – it doesn’t matter if they don’t like it – we are there as TEACHERS – to TEACH them and give them new experiences so don’t be put off by these sorts of responses and most certainly DO NOT give up. Also – don’t ask if they like it. It does not matter!)


    We had a brief overview of how the study of all things musical teaches perseverance and the ability to work at something for a LONG time before achieving success. This was followed by a highly academic example of perseverance in the form of a video with a dog and a sausage:


    Of course I had to show the obligatory (but wonderful all the same) research about how GREAT the study of music as a language is for building and improving other skills in the classroom. Click on the photo below to go to the video.



    We finished up the session with everyone learning a new game I created the week before the conference and if the laughter was anything to go by the teachers all had a lot of fun. Those of you who were there – you will notice I have changed the word at the start of the third bar from “sit” to “stop” for reasons some of you discovered last Saturday!


    Game directions





































    If you would like to have a look at the handout from the key note presentation please click here and ENJOY!


  • A Few of my Favourite ….. Interval Activities

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    A Few of my Favourite ….. Interval Activities

    I was recently struck by how many activities we need to keep our students interested and engaged in our music classes.

    If we teach something to our 4 year old students (e.g. “beat”) then we need to have sufficient practice activities to challenge our students enough to keep them practicing “beat” for as long as we continue to teach them – in some cases up to Year 12.




    So I’ve decided to share some of my favourite activities (suitable for all levels – just adjust the content to suit) which I hope you will find useful. 

    This blogpost deals with Interval activities. Keep a look out for the next “A Few of my Favourite…..”

    Interval Bingo

    Teacher hands out laminated bingo cards (like the ones on the image above) with 9 interval names (if fewer interval names are known then intervals can be repeated on the card) on it and a whiteboard marker or 9 tokens to each student.

    Teacher sings an interval (on a neutral syllable) from the master sheet (which is then crossed off).

    Students sing it back (on a neutral syllable).

    Students mark (with whiteboard marker or playing token) the interval off if on their sheet.

    Class sings the interval again in solfa as teacher or student writes on the board to check.

    To win BINGO a student must have any three across, down, or diagonally or for the longer version – all the rhythms - like regular BINGO.

    Flashcard Knockout (Interval Musical Chairs)

    Requirements: Interval flashcards - one per student. There can be more than one card with the same interval name. Click on the image below for free printable interval flashcards.

    Teacher puts one flashcard per number of students with the names of known intervals on the floor. Interval Knockout Cards

    Students walk around as the teacher plays some music (I use this chance to play the work we are studying in the “Listening” part of the course).

    When the music stops they stand on a flashcard.

    The teacher then sings or plays an interval from one of the flashcards. If a student is standing on the flashcard with the interval sung or played they sit down. If they are correct they stand to continue the game. If they are wrong then they are “out”.

     Interval knockout.

    Students stand with their eyes closed.

    Teacher sings a known interval on a neutral syllable.

    For example, if the teacher sings a Major 2nd, students would hold up two fingers. They would hold three fingers pointing down for a minor 3rd and three fingers pointing up for a Major 3rd and so on.

    To correct, the class sing the interval on the neutral syllable and then label it i.e. “Maj-or 3rd".

    Students showing the correct interval remain standing, those with the incorrect interval sit down.

    Interval Lines

    Read this interval line from the board by beginning on the given solfa note then singing the note suggested by interval quality and arrow.

    Interval line



    If sung correctly an interval line will end on the starting note. 

    Here is the above interval line written out on the staff:

    Interval exercise








    Asking students to create their own interval lines is a great way to ensure they understand the intervals that can be found in a particular scale.

    How do you practice intervals with your classes?

  • Tone Ladders (What are they & how do I use them?)

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    What are Tone Ladders?

    Tone Ladders are a great way of
    visually representing pitch in an
    intervallically accurate way –
    that is so long as the intervals
    between the notes are represented
    accurately on the tone ladder.








    For example, if a tone ladder looks like this: TOne ladder - wrong Deb or this: TOne ladder - wrong Deb 2

    it is NOT representative  of the different intervals between the notes e.g. of a Major 2nd or a minor 2nd.

    This type of tone ladder 1. Major Scale no seconds shows the exact intervallic relationship between the notes.

    For example, do to re is a Major 2nd while mi to fa is a minor 2nd
    as you can see by the distance between the notes on the ladder: 1. Major Scale - with 2nds

    In fact for our “pitch challenged” students, a tone ladder can be clearer than the actual music staff itself for showing which intervals come where.

    Blog tone ladders



    There are many types of tone ladders.

    The ones you see above using solfa note names in

    circles created for the Musicianship & Aural Training

    series of books - have the advantage of being able to

    be imposed on top of a keyboard thereby adding to

    the visually clarity: 


    Other formats of tone ladders such as: tone ladder correct 1

    are great, particularly for younger students, as long as they are intervalically accurate.


    Some tone ladders that I absolutely love are these: Jeri tone ladders
    (click on the photo for more details) created by Musical Magic and available for download from the Teachers Pay
    Teachers online store. In this particular set there are 12 downloadable and printable pages of visually (intervallically) correct tone ladders WITH HANDSIGNS and in great vibrant colours that would be great on your classroom wall! (Photo used with permission from the “Musical Magic TpT Shop”: Click on the photo to be taken directly to this product).

    How do I use a Tone Ladder?

    1. Basic visual representation of notes:
      • Students can visualise scale degrees and pitch direction;
      • Can help with in tune singing;
      • Help’s students understand pitch placement;
      • Visual discovery of new melodic elements;
      • As a visual guide for learning a new song.
    1. Visual representation of intervals:Colourful ladder 2
      • Makes interval patterns come alive;
      • Visual support for when singing intervals in tone sets, trichords, scales, chords etc.
    1. Visual representation of scale patterns:Shows relationships between scales;
      • Visual aid to practicing and memorising intervals between notes in various scales;
      • Visual support for inner hearing activities within scales.
    1. Visual representation of chords:
      • Gives a visual point of reference when constructing triads and chords etc.
    1. Sight reading tool:
      • Teacher points to known and abstract melodic patterns for students to sightsing;
      • Teacher points to known and abstract melodic patterns, students sing back in letter names in chosen do;
      • Teacher points to melodic patterns for students to memorise then sing from memory in solfa or letter names;
      • Canon – teacher points to a melody and students sing two beats later;
      • Use different colours for different notes and allocate groups of students to only sing their particular colour.
    1. Composing and Improvising:
      • Students create melodies that the class sing by pointing to notes on the tone ladder.
    1. Other uses:
      • Visual support for aurally deriving the tone set of a song;
      • Inner hearing activities;
      • Use personal tone ladders during melodic transcription exercises for them to use/point to as the melody is being played. The melody is written only from memory;
      • Use tone ladders to teach new songs;
      • Assessment – students can point to tone ladders instead of singing out loud for melodic clever echo.

    If you like the tone ladders created for the Musicianship & Aural Training series email Deb at for any you’d like and she'll email them to you.

    How do YOU use tone ladders?

  • The Three “Ps” (Preparation, Present, Practice) Kodály Fundamentals

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    What ARE the Three “Ps”

    One of the first things an aspiring Kodály teacher is taught when embarking upon any Kodály course are the Three Ps - Prepare, Present and Practice. These three things form the basis of the process we use to teach ANY and EVERY element of music. Our belief is that students should KNOW everything about a new musical concept BEFORE they learn the actual name and that, once named, that concept is then practiced in as many ways as possible FOREVER!




    Be-Prepared-257x300Preparation - teaching everything there is to know about a particular musical element without actually naming it!

    • Students learn repertoire that includes the new element appropriately placed;
    • Students discover a new sound and how it relates to what they already know about melody/rhythm;
    • Must happen slowly and in very small steps and must include constant reinforcement;
    • Makes use of visual/physical and aural activities to ensure that all types of students have a chance to “get it”;
    • Don’t move onto the next step until MOST of your class understands;
    • Traditional teaching usually puts this in the reverse order.

    Present / Make Conscious - naming the already known element

    • A very minor step in the whole process – simply naming the note.


    practicePractice - self explanatory!

    • Set up in three phases – early, middle and late;
    • Goes on forever in as many different possible ways as you can find/ create;
    • Covering performing, reading, writing and creating (improvisation and composition).



    How to prepare a rhythmic element:

    Aurally – can you hear it?

    • Students discover a new rhythm in known songs;
    • Students identify on which word(s) the new rhythm is found;
    • Students discover the characteristics of the new rhythm (e.g. semiquavers
      would be discovered as more than two sounds on a beat then as four
      equal sounds on a beat).

    Visual – can you see it?

    • Students will recognise and express the visual symbol for the new rhythm;
    • Students may compare the new rhythm to known rhythms visually (use of ostinato using known rhythms);
    • Students write and recognise the written version of the new rhythm.

    Physical – can you feel it?

    • Using body percussion;
    • Clapping ONLY the new rhythm;
    • Clapping on everything EXCEPT the new rhythm.

    How to prepare a melodic element:

    Aurally – can you hear it?get smart

    • Students discover a new note in known songs;
    • Students identify on which word(s) the new note is found;
    • Students discover the characteristics of the new note in relation to the notes they know e.g. so would be discovered firstly as higher than mi then as a skip higher than mi.

    Visual – can you see it?

    • Students will use pitch patterning to show the melodic contour including the new note;
    • Students will learn the handsign for the new note;
    • Students will recognise and express the visual symbol for the new note using stick notation;
    • Students will learn the placement of the new note on the staff in relation to known notes: “If mi is in the second space and so is a skip above mi then so will belong in the third space etc”.

    Physical – can you feel it?stone music note and ladder on white background - 3d illustration

    • Showing melodic contour in the air;
    • Pitch patterning - showing the pitch of notes on the body e.g. shoulders are so and waist is mi;
    • Hand staff – five fingers are the lines of the staff;
    • Use of handsigns;
    • Use of tone ladders.

    Make the knowledge conscious – name it!

    autumn melody. abstract musical background. 10 EPS

    Rhythm: Students learn the rhythm/time name of the new note:

    “When we hear four equal sounds on a beat we say “ti-ka-ti-ka. This is its rhythm name”.

    Students learn the English AND American names:

    “Musicians call this rhythm “semiquavers” or “sixteenth notes”.

    Melody: Students learn the solfa name of the new note: so and associate it with the handsign:

    “When we hear the note a skip above mi it is called so.

    Students learn the letter names of the new note when written on the staff.


    Early Practice Activities:

    • Re-do present lesson with other repertoire;
    • Clever echo activities;
    • Solfa knockout.

    Middle Practice Activities:

    • Recognise song from rhythm/ staff notation/ stick notation;
    • Song scramble;
    • Reading flashcards;
    • Bingo type games;
    • Sight reading;
    • Write known songs as stick notation/on the staff;
    • Transcribe stick to staff notation and vice versa;
    • Dictation activities.

    Late Practice Activities:

    • Transpose from one do to another;
    • Compose short rhythms;
    • Compose melody to add to rhythm given;
    • Rhythm snake games;
    • Improvise short rhythms/melodies.






    Often, when asked to speak at various conferences or workshops on a particular topic, I like to find a quote that reinforces what I am talking about.  

    Over the years I have put together quite a list which I thought I would share with you.

    Of course there are many more great quotes out there that I haven't yet discovered so PLEASE email me your favorites on


    statue of confucius in chinatowns wat traimet bangkok thailand

    “If you cannot teach me to fly – teach me to sing” James Barrie (author of “Peter Pan”)

    “Tell me & I forget. Teach me & I remember. Involve me & I learn.” Benjamin Franklin

    “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Confucius

    “Music education opens doors that help children pass from school into the world around them – a world of work, culture, intellectual activity, and human involvement. The future of our nation depends on providing our children with a complete education that includes music.” Gerald Ford

    “Some people think music education is a privilege, but I think it’s essential to being human.” Jewel

    “I always loved music; whoso has skill in this art is of good temperament, fitted for all things. We must teach music in schools; a schoolmaster ought to have skill in music, or I would not regard him.” Martin Luther

    “Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.” Shinichi Suzuki

    "Music education can help spark a child's imagination or ignite a lifetime of passion. Music education should not be a privilege for a lucky few, it should be a part of every child's world of possiblity."  Hillary Rodham Clinton

    “Instrumentalists can best interpret a work if they sing it to themselves first.” Toscanini

    “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” Victor Hugo

    “Music is a discipline, and a mistress of order and good manners, she makes the people milder and gentler, more moral and more reasonable.” Martin Luther

    “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or to bend a knotted oak.” William Congreve

    “Music isThe statue of the Greek ancient philosopher Plato at the facade of the Academy of Athens in Greece a more potent instrument than any other for education, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul.” Plato

    "If you can walk you can dance. If you can talk you can sing."  Zimbabwe Proverb

    “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Berthold Auerbach

    “Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them!” Oliver Wendell Holmes

    “He who sings scares away his woes.” Cervantes

    “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” Confucius

    “Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.” Kahlil Gibran

    “Music isn’t just learning notes and playing them, you learn notes to play to the music of your soul.” Katie Greenwood

    “Without music, life would be a mistake.” Friedrich Nietzsche

    “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” Plato

    "Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time." George Bernard Shaw

    Live a life

    "Why do we teach music? Not because we expect you to major in music. Not because we expect you to play and sing all your life. Not so you can relax. But so you will be human. So you will recognise beauty. So you will be sensitive. So you will have something to cling to. So you will have more love, compassion, more gentleness, more good, in short, more life. Of what value will it be to make a prosperous living unless you know how to live? That is why we teach music." Unknown


    As we (in Australia at least) are drawing near to end of another school year, this will be my last post for 2015.

    I wish you all a wonderful holiday celebration wherever and whoever you are and I look forward to working with you again to create a wonderful world full of music in February 2016. Warmest regards



  • Videos Galore!

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    Since the beginning of this year I have been VERY busy creating teaching videos based on lessons and concepts taught in my Musicianship & Aural Training for the Secondary School series of books and CDs. 

    Music educators know that being a Kodály /music literacy teacher can be a tough gig - all the planning, preparation, thinking, learning that goes into every single lesson not to mention all the study you need to have done in order to be able to do all this planning, preparation etc. In the quarter of a century that I have teaching this way I have seen the music teachers around me get busier and busier with more and more expected of them every year. Where does that leave them the time to do everything that as conscientious music teachers we know we need to do in order to make the most of the (ever diminishing) time we spend with our students?

    THAT is where I come in. Since I am no longer in the classroom full time I have the time to create resources for you to help you teach at your best every time you walk into a class. And that's where these new videos come in.

    If you own any of my teacher books then hopefully you know about all the teacher lesson plans (which have the "how to prepare, present and practice" details you need) found in the books themselves:

    Level 1 lesson plan














    These are supported by all of the online resources that are available on the website: assignments (with everything you could need to teach the concepts assessed in these):

    Level 1 Assigment
















    aural and written tests:

    Level 1 Written Test


    curriculum documents:

    Level 1 Curr Doc
















    song, game and canon materials:

    Level 1 game















    the list goes on and on.

    These new videos complete these resources by helping you with the actual teaching/practicing of the concepts and skills taught in your classrooms. 

    As an experienced teacher with Kodály training these videos support what you already do so well. Use them to revise a new concept or skill, for students who were absent in the "present" lesson' or to teach the concept or skill on a day where you and/or your voice are not 100%.

    For more senior students these videos can be set as homework to teach or revise a concept.

    The 100s of practice videos can be used by your students, ensuring they are practicing correctly every time.

    As a beginning teacher, these videos can be viewed prior to teaching a new concept to your class to help clarify the process in the teacher's mind before passing it on the the students. Of course they can be used to actually teach the concept itself and/or practice it once learned.

    These videos are great teaching tools when you are absent but wish your students to continue learning, or for those days when you "volunteered" to take two classes together so your ill colleague's class doesn't miss out. 

    The options are endless.

    Hopefully whichever way you choose to use them makes your life easier and lifts some of the planning stress from your shoulders.



    For further ideas and resources or to purchase the books go to

    See Deb's YouTube channel for more videos - subscribe so you don't miss out on the new ones uploaded every week!

    To request resources not on the DSMusic website, please email Deb at


  • It’s no big deal – Improvising & Composing in the Everyday Music Lesson

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    Improvising and Composing are NOT Scary!

    As a teacher I often avoid the things that I think I am not good at e.g. improvising and composing. Of course I CAN improvise and compose but I am not comfortable improvising and composing.

    Does this mean I shouldn't teach my students how to improvise and compose? Of course not!

    The best way to think of these two, closely linked but still unique, activities is as another teaching tool like all the others we use in our classrooms (solfege, rhythm names, tone ladders, instruments etc). The only thing to consider before attempting any of these tasks is that they are both LATE practice activities for any concept i.e. students must know the elements they are improvising or composing with extremely well or the activity may be a disaster for all!

    So here are some things to think about when creating improvising and composing activities for your students.

    Improvising and Composing are:

    • are more practice more tools to use (like solfa, rhythm names, reading, writing etc)
    • should be fun (for the teacher as well)
    • area great to use for late practice of anything and everything
    • are a great way to include technology (such as Sibelius etc) in your lessons without the actual technology being the focus
    • are great for formative assessment
    • can (occasionally) be used as formal (and of course informal) assessment if required

    To create successful improvising and composing activities in your classroom:

    • give VERY clear guidance or set parameters
    • use scaffolding – both in the teaching of the task and the task itself
    • consider having some choices or options on the board for the less confident students to use if necessary
    • if doing rhythmic improvisation or composition consider having the rhythm set (all rhythms they know or can use) on the board
    • if doing melodic improvisation or composition consider having the tone set (as a tone ladder or on the staff) on the boardDepositphotos_4397068_original

    Easy ideas to begin with:

    • Repeat welcome as class starts e.g. Teacher sings “How is Jason?” using only so and mi. Student replies “Very well thank you” using only so and mi.
    • Creating/altering text/lyrics.
    • Students point to notes on a tone ladder or a staff to create a melody
    • Use given fragments (such as flashcards) to create a rhythm/melody. Once comfortable, create own fragment to add in (then more as confidence grows).
    • Create only a few beats of rhythm e.g. rhythmic snake games and rondo rhythms
    • Create a short rhythmic ostinato (based on the song itself).

    Ramping up the difficulty a little:

    • Create only a few beats of melody e.g. melodic snake games and rondo melodies
    • Create a short melodic ostinato (based on the song itself).
    • Alter a known song – e.g. change the rhythm and/or melody of the ending, change only one aspect and keep the rest, e.g. change the melody but use the same rhythm, words, tone set etc
    • Rhythmic augmentation and diminution
    • Question and answer/ call and response /Rondo form
    • Create examples for class to echo clap/sing
    • Add a rhythmic accompaniment

    Advanced activities:

    • Create sequences for singing and practicing scales
    • Adding a bassline
    • Adding chromaticism to known songs
    • Compose an interval line – great way to reinforce various tonalities and their interval patterns
    • Major/minor transformation (or even modal)
    • Improvise over a given set of chords
    • Create canons by improvising using chord notes, passing and auxillary notes only

    One task for many students:

    Improvising and composing tasks are very easy to set for students at various different levels of ability. A task can be made easier by asking for a shorter improvisation or composition, giving some of the task already completed for them to finish or by limiting the elements allowed to be included.

    In the same way a task can be made more difficult by extending the length of the task, adding more elements, adding a second part etc.

    As usual there are heaps of ideas in my Level 1 and Level 2 Teacher books.

    Other ideas:

    My Songfile Newsletter

    Choksy, L The Kodaly Method. Published by Prentice Hall, New Jersey.

    Johnson, J Practise Makes Perfect. Published by Clayfield School of Music, Brisbane.