Musical Body Percussion

Musical Body Percussion

Kids love body percussion. It's been a natural for them for years, from Patty-Cake to Double Double This That. Alone or with a partner, body percussion is great for rhythmic skills, coordination, and listening skills. Body percussion is also a natural segue to instrumental technique, like practicing bordun patterns on the knees.  And if you don't have instruments, you can still utilize the Orff philosophy. BUT....what if your students don't use body percussion musically?

Ugh. If nothing else, your students will transfer that playing attitude from the body to the instruments, and that's not good. So, what is musical body percussion?
  • GENTLE. If a student ends up with red marks on their legs or hands, they're not being gentle.
  • NOT SO HIGH OR FAR APART. A student should not lift their foot more than an inch for stamping. The hands can be maybe a couple of inches away from the thigh for patsching. The best clapping is done with one hand still or almost still, and the other hand maybe six inches away, patting on the palm of the steady hand. Snapping can be done with a little flourish, but no arm waving.
  • USE DYNAMICS. Using dynamics in conjunction with the levels of the body on which the student performs can be show-enhancing. A patsch pattern makes a great place for crescendo because it's easy to control. For diminuendo, just pat closer to the thighs. For crescendo, you can keep the two inch level and use a little more force with the fingers, not necessarily the whole hand.
  • RHYTHMIC. Your students must know that body percussion needs beat and correct rhythm just like instrument playing does. 
  • TECHNIQUE. The correct technique changes the timbre of the performance and makes it easier to control rhythmic patterns.
  • USE SPEECH. Using speech incorporated with the body percussion helps with rhythmic consistency.
Honestly, I wouldn't put students on drums or barred instruments until they could demonstrate the technique with body percussion. It is amazing how much quicker students learn instrumental parts when they have first practiced on their knees. For example:
Chord bordun-pat hands on partner legs simultaneously. 
Broken bordun-pat hands on legs back and forth
Cross over bordun-first hand pats, second hand pats while first hand goes OVER second hand, first hand pats imaginary third leg.
Levels bordun-pat simultaneously, move hands to the right and pat on pretend legs simultaneously.
Tall world drums: bass (or low in World Music Drumming)-bounce hand off of thigh. Tone (or high in WMD)-pat knee.


Like I mentioned earlier, adding some speech that fits the rhythm of the body percussion is ideal. Make sure, however, to use prosody, or the correct pattern and accents of the word. Otherwise, it won't make sense.
  1. Begin with the stamp pattern ONLY. Treat this like a one word ostinato if possible.
  2. Add the next easiest rhythm.
  3. If it works, combine the patstch and clap rhythms.
  4. Add stamp in.
  5. Add snap last.
    (This is not set in stone. If you need to change this order based on the music and what your kids can handle, that's fine. But the stamp is the low part beat part and should be introduced first.
Adding Audiation

I know you all know B-I-N-G-O, the song about the dog that progressively removes each letter from the word until the letters aren't sung. Do that with your body percussion. Gradually drop the stamp word, etc., until the students are doing the body percussion with no words. BUT, identify the term "audiation" or "inner hearing" to them. They must think the words, or their rhythm won't be correct.

Body Percussion Sources

Here are some great resources for body percussion:
The Body Rondo Book by Jim Solomon
Rhythmisch Ubung by Gunild Keetman (the Holy Grail of Orff body percussion)
And shameless self promotion:

I would LOVE to see your students in action! Please feel free to send me videos of your students performing body percussion or a link. I will not share them without your permission.

It's coming down to the wire.....have a great last term!


Musical Ideas for "I Am Every Good Thing"

I Am Every Good Thing

by Derrick Barnes and Gordon James

This beautiful little treasure was written to the memories of young Black men such as Tamir Rice and acknowledges the inner strength in young Black boys, or any child in particular. This book would be beautiful to use for Social Emotional Learning or any time a teacher wants to highlight positivity and self-esteem.

Musically, this book can also tell this story, with some enhancements. Positive words such as "energy", "go-getter", "leader." This words can be either used as ostinati,  as an expressive speech piece accompanying the reading of the book. Let me give you an example:

Adding a little melody with a book that intersperses with sections of the book re-emphasizes the tone and lesson of the book. The little melody I wrote is:

You can also add instruments to enhance certain words like ENERGY (with a drum roll or xylophone roll), "far-off places" (glissandi).....

The illustrations are beautiful. The lesson is fabulous. We need more of this in the worlds of our students. This book lends itself greatly to music and journaling. For instance, "What kind of music might go with 'I'm a cool breeze'"? This can lead to student participation and student led planning, with teacher guidance.

I've included the melody written out with simple chords for you to make it easier. You can use this melody to practice FA or tika-ti. Just click to download from my Google Drive. It will force you to make a copy. I notated this in the key of G.

I hope you enjoy this little gem. If you would like to share any lesson ideas you've used with this book, feel free to leave a comment.

Have a wonderful day!


Working with Wacky Holidays in Music Class, Part One

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We've all had them. We have our usual concepts that we teach year after year. But somehow, we tire of the same presentation. We might want to create a new theme. But, we've used the usual holidays, music themes, general sports themes, etc. 

Why not try crazy holidays?

There are various websites that list things like "National Ice Cream Day" or "National Save the Kumquat Day" (OK, I don't know about that one). Consider the fun it would be to introduce these to your kids! Here are some ideas for holidays January-April.


January 21 is "Squirrel Appreciation Day." I don't honestly appreciate squirrels when they're in my birdfeeder, but they're cute nonetheless. There are several squirrel folk songs, of course, but this one is probably the most famous:

This is an expanded version of "London Bridge". Select several pairs of students to be the "bridges". The other students form a line, weaving in and out of the "bridges". At the end of the song, the bridges drop and catch the "squirrels". Here's a video of my students doing this.

January also has (drum roll...........) National Kazoo Day (January 27). What fun! Use them in conjunction with instruments. (AFTER COVID) or to add a little spice to a song.

I LOVE this one. January 2 is Ancestor's Day. What a wonderful time to talk about folk songs, and how folk songs were passed down from generation to generation. Why not assign a family song activity? The Family Folk Song Project book breaks this activity down. Students can interview parents, grandparents....and if "Found a Peanut" was a family favorite, run with it! Whatever gets parents involved with making music with their children.


February 3 is Carrot Cake Day. (Bet you didn't know that.) Why not work with vegetables? There are several things you can do.

  • Use plastic vegetables  for rhythms. (when the world is safe). Students can work in groups and get cards with rhythm phrases. They must match the phrases to the names of the vegetables.
  • Use them to diagram form.
  • Use them for subsequent parts in a rondo to The Garden Song.
February also has National Almond Day, on February 16. Although many of you probably know this lullaby, I just discovered "Raisins and Almonds", which is a beautiful song about the "widow of Zion" singing a lullaby to her baby. There is a children's book and even a song kit from Plank Road publishing that can enhance your teaching. The song is in harmonic minor, which can add a little challenge for your older kids. 


There's a Marching Band Day, March 4! Great time to use "The Stars and Stripes Forever" for the beat, or do a webquest about John Philip Sousa. Kids LOVE seeing the formations of the Ohio State Marching Band. (Check out the band playlist on the Ohio State News YouTube channel.)

March also has Mario Day, March 10 (My daughter's birthday!). You could.....

  • Use video game music for creative movement, like The Legend of Zelda main theme, a great theme for quiet, reflective movement. Of course, there's also one of the Mario theme songs.
  • Use them as listening examples. "Zelda's Lullaby" is gorgeous and can lend itself well to emotional/feelings listening journals. A little bonus: it can be transcribed for recorder for your older students!
  • Have groups of students notate the rhythms of characters of various video games and then create body percussion to perform.

There is actually a National Film Score Day on April 3. So, if you do a unit on John Williams, this might be a perfect time! Maybe a webquest. You could also do listening lessons, like comparing the music of John Williams to the music of Hans Zimmer or Danny Elfman.

April 13 is National Scrabble Day. You can get a little creative and, using Scrabble tiles, write rhythmic notation on the back. Students can create various patterns that they either have to clap in order to earn that turn OR avoid certain patterns that you can predesignate (or a certain number of beats).


Some products from Dr. Stafford's Musical Cures Store that go with a few holidays:


When I looked at all the silly, unusual holidays, I thought, "This is a treasure-trove for music teachers!" I'd like to share part of that treasure-trove with you. 
I have a newsletter! It shares new blog posts, music updates, new products from my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and more. 
ISign up for the newsletter and receive a Wacky Holidays condensed list for January-April, with ideas and links! I will be sending out May-August soon.

I hope these holidays can put a little inspiration in your planning!