A great way to engage in group music making is with a set of simple hand instruments. Some music practitioners swear by having all of the same instruments so there is no fighting over who has what – if that’s how you would like to approach things then I would suggest a class set of egg shakers and a class set of claves. Personally I love a mix of different instruments for the group, I think it makes a greater cacophony of sound (or a whole load of raucous noise!) It also helps to introduce and cement the idea of sharing and importance of difference between instruments, sounds and each other.
Whichever approach you take, here are a few tips to get your sessions started:
- An easy way in is to shake your instruments to the syllables in the children’s names “Olly” would be 2 shakes: O-leee. “Samantha” would be three: Sa-man-tha etc.
- A lovely chant with a pulse that I use is ” I went for a walk in the park today, guess who I met along the way? I met a ______ and what did he/she say? ……..” This is all said along to a tapped out “1/2/3/4”,”1/2/3/4”…..
- Get the children to start by counting in fours. Go back to one after each four, then shake your instruments on each number, making a kind of marching beat ” ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch, tap tap tap tap, etc”, then come in with the park rhyme, adding animal noises or voices at the end of the rhyme.
Another favourite chant in my sessions is a counting game in which you use your shaker to make circles rather than shake:
One, two, shake on your shoe
Three, four, shake on the floor
Five, six, stir and mix (I get them to make an action as if they are stirring a cake)
Seven, eight, arms up straight (this is the staff’s favourite, make your arm straight above your head and make lasso movements like a cowboy/girl!)
Nine, ten, start again (on the final two numbers we make a slow shrinking circle from above our heads back down to our shoes).
Sadly I go to a lot of settings where I find instruments that have been bought, then put away in boxes or cupboards and not used.
The most repeated reason I hear is that the staff think they are not musical (which isn’t true, we are all musical) and that using the instruments makes too much noise (which is kind of true, but just set time boundaries and accept that for that set time the room will be noisy, chaotic and wild!)
My final ‘tip’ is for those who think they are not musical: get all the instruments out, clear a space, put some of your favourite songs on a CD player or YouTube (nice and loud), then dance and play along, encouraging the children to do the same, get them to bring their own favourite songs in too. Simple but effective!
Oliver Armstrong, or Olly, as we know him (or indeed, Miss Olly or Sir Olly as the children often decide to call him) is based in the Midlands and is one of the leading freelance practitioners in the UK. He travels the country running fun and inspiring workshops for Early Years and Primary Schools. He’s full of energy and enthusiasm and loves engaging with children, staff and parents to deliver fantastic sessions that develop language, communication and numeracy skills and above all a passion for music. Find out more at http://www.oliverarmstrongmusicworkshops.co.uk/