Montessori Music with Rhythm Instruments: "Ding, Tap, Tap, Click!"

RHYTHM BAND: INTRODUCING CHILDREN TO "ENSEMBLE PLAYING" IN MONTESSORI MUSIC CLASS! Our Preschool music classes have been filled with the delight of playing a variety of rhythm instruments together in a beginning "ensemble" activity that the children love! Playing in ensemble is a milestone for young children and a first step in formal music training.

All photos in this post are from the artists at Dollar Photo Club unless otherwise indicated.

If you haven't discovered Frank Leto's work with music and young children, then you are in for a big treat! His website, is a great exploration in itself, where you can find his many cds, dvds, and music learning materials that are all just excellent! And, if you have an opportunity to attend any of his workshops at the next Montessori conference, then you will really see his teaching methods in action. Frank has AMS credentials as well as Orff-Schulwerk certification and his music methods work wonderfully in just about any early childhood environment.
You can learn more about Frank Leto at my past posts by clicking here: Lady Bugs and Developing Singing Voices
and here:
Children Feeling at Home With Music!  

I use so many of Frank's songs and activities, that I highly recommend ALL of his albums! The favorite with my music classes right now is the one that introduces rhythm instruments to children: "Rhythm Band Jam." If you happen to purchase this album as a cd you will have the wonderful instructional insert that outlines the comprehensive music lessons that Frank has designed to go along with the cd. (well worth it!) His music is also available for download at iTunes, cdBaby, and Amazon. Here's the link for Amazon where you can buy the download or the cd: Rhythm Band Frank Leto Amazon

Frank uses the "Three-Period Lesson" to introduce the names and the sounds of the basic rhythm instruments of early childhood: 

  • rhythm sticks
  • triangle
  • maracas
  • tambourine
  • drum
  • cymbal
The first selection on the cd, (titled "Intro") introduces these instruments with their names and then their sounds. (First Period)

For the Second Period, Frank recommends playing little games with the various instruments (ex: ask a child to put the rhythm sticks under a table or the tambourine behind the plant..etc.)

You can also play the "What's Missing Game" with the 6 instruments laid out on a rug, cover them with a scarf, remove one of the instruments, and ask the child/ren: "What's missing?" or "What's missing...the tambourine or the rhythm sticks?"
The second song on the cd is a really fun game: "Listen, And Tell Me What You Hear..." This catchy melody is sung over and over as the various instruments are played for the children to hear and then tell which one they heard.(Third Period) 

This can be a little bit of a challenge for young children, but oh-so fun! The song gets progressively more difficult as two instruments are played at the same time and then three! Very fun and very good for developing focused listening skills. 

I play a variation of this game at music circle by lining up the instruments and then having the children all close their eyes (no peaking!) and then I play one of the instruments and sing the song...the children tell me which one they heard. You can learn more about the rhythm instruments I recommend for a Preschool classroom on my Blog post at this link: "Music, please!"

Throughout the school year, I have been introducing these instruments to the children and I always start with rhythm sticks because they are so, so versatile. We have lots of experiences with rhythm instruments as they are introduced one at a time and all the children play the same instrument. (that means 24 sets of rhythm sticks, 24 tambourines, 24 triangles...etc!) Since I am a music specialist, I have these classroom sets; however, in your classroom you can definitely begin with 24 sets of rhythm sticks and create many lessons just with these! 
You'll find some ideas for using rhythm sticks at this link: Preschool Music: Quarter Rest Means Don't Play!

Then, I would recommend that you have at least 2 of each of the other instruments mentioned above and the children can all have rhythm sticks while they take turns playing the triangle, maracas, tambourine, frame drum and child-size cymbals. My favorite place to buy quality rhythm instruments is at this link: West Music.

The idea is that the children have had experience with playing all these instruments and after several weeks/months then the "Listen & Tell Me What You Hear Game" can be played.

As children progress through the fun activities on Frank's cd, you can introduce ensemble playing with songs like "We Are Fine Musicians" in which the children have a variety of rhythm instruments and a certain one is played when mentioned in the song. 

Recently, the older groups in our music classes have been enjoying ensemble playing with the song on the "Rhythm Band cd" titled "Waltz". We call it "ding-tap-tap" because those are the first words of the song! In this song, the drum is played as a hand drum and the cymbal is played as a single cymbal with a little tapping stick.

I lay the rhythm instruments out on a rug, one of each, in this order from the children's left to right:

Triangle, Tambourine, Rhythm Sticks, Maracas, Drum, Cymbal

The song goes like this:
 "Ding, Tap, Tap. Ding, Tap, Tap. Click, Click, Click, Click."(repeat)

"Cha-cha-cha, Boom. Cha-cha-cha Boom. Cha, Boom, Boom Bong!"

"Ding" is played on the Triangle
"Tap" is played on the Tambourine
"Click" is played on the Rhythm Sticks
"Cha" is played on the Maracas
"Boom" is played on the Hand Drum
"Bong" is played on the Cymbal

Then, I invite 6 children to stand in a line next to the instruments I laid out and each child plays the indicated instrument when it comes up in the song. As the "Conductor" of our Rhythm Band, I help the children by pointing to that child when it is his/her turn to play during the song. The rest of the class sings the song and /or pretends they are  the "Audience."

It looks something like this!


"Tap, Tap"

"Click, Click, Click, Click"


For the younger classes ( 2 & 3 yr olds), I set out four baskets each filled with a different instrument, and each child is invited to choose which instrument s/he wants to play that day. Then, we all sing & play along to the "ding,tap,tap song" with all the instruments played at the same time. This song from the cd has a very nice melody with lyrics sung by children and the rhythm instruments are easily heard. I like to work with this song so that these younger children will be familiar with it when they get older and begin to perform it in an ensemble.

I had actually forgotten how much the children simply like singing this catchy little tune. When I was leaving music class last week, I heard a group on the playground singing the song together! These first "real" music experiences lay the foundation for a lifetime of music pleasure whether it be playing the trumpet in a jazz band or enjoying a performance at the symphony. Early music experiences are so fun and most important!

Thanks again for visiting my Blog and I hope you get a chance to try these activities out with your group. I would love to hear about your adventures with "ensemble playing" and introducing rhythm instruments to young children. You can just leave a comment in the section below!

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