A while ago I was sent a copy of Body Beats: An Easy and Fun Guide to the Art of Body Percussion with Video Access Included by Beat Goes On founder Ollie Tunmer (Hal Leonard 2020). I was excited to dip into this book because I have used body percussion in my teaching for many years. My approach has been amalgamated from various workshops, videos and my own ideas, usually to complement an existing activity or as a one-off warm up activity. I was interested to find ways to be more structured in planning for how I use body percussion to support progression and deeper musical learning, especially as I had become reliant on it as a tool for surviving long periods of online learning with students at home without access to a musical instrument.
- is immediate. There is no setup of instruments or equipment needed, so it’s a great way to get students involved in activities from the very start of a lesson
- can be done while music is playing – a useful way for students to hear music, whilst engaging with it and different aspects of the music you’d like them to respond to can be teased out
- can be done without music playing, but be built on a groove or pattern that may exist in music children will hear later – working towards a ‘reveal’ which sounds familiar when they hear it in its full musical context
- can be expanded to include vocal percussion so is great for singing warm ups too
- is part of the essential skill of hearing and embodying the pulse which helps with issues of timing
- can be made into a game for ice breakers or to break up other activities
- can promote listen and copy helping students to understand when to listen and when to join in and to practice taking turns
- is physical and gets students up and moving
However, one of many downsides of online learning and subsequent Covid guidelines and restrictions has been an over-reliance on videos in music lessons. Whilst it is great that there are now so many videos available, including play alongs that come in all shapes and sizes (and are of varying quality too), it is easy to lose sight of progression and how each activity might build from and to something. It’s also a shame to just press play on a video and let the children follow, rather than learn and adapt an activity in ways which suit the particular age or experience of each class that you teach.
I have found that on their return from online learning, many children have become totally reliant on watching and following videos, far more than actually learning through listening and hearing sounds. So the activities in the book have been a great way to take a step away from video play alongs and refocus on supporting children with hearing, listening and responding to music whilst participating in whole class music making.
It is useful to have access to everything in one place, which means that you can plan for progression and also reflect on wider learning and how to add depth around the patterns that you choose. Many are inspired by different grooves from a wide range of different musical styles and from all around the world. There are also examples of activities linked to the excellent BBC Ten Pieces resources which is a great practical introduction to its featured pieces of music.
The ideas in the book for body percussion to support literacy have been useful for my EAL students and as part of a recent songwriting project with year 6 where we have been exploring how to make lyrics fit with music they have composed.
Finally, the video examples are invaluable to help to interpret the visual representations of the beats and these make it easy to teach yourself so that you can then use them to lead activities with your students.
Anna will be delivering a series of face to face workshops for Musical Futures International in Australia and New Zealand in July 2022 Click to read more…