Ideas for Advanced Recorder Players

The last few weeks at Musicplay we have been focusing on teaching tips for recorder. We posted many videos on our Facebook, Instagram and YouTube accounts on how to teach hand placement, make a legato sound, and a recorder warm-up.  This week we will share some strategies for your students who need the added challenge. See below for some ideas, tips and resources from Musicplay for your advanced recorder students: 

Add a “Soprano 2” Option:

Have a second melody line available for students to play. This option is available in the Recorder Kit Level Two.  Those students who are ready and can read the second line can give it a try.  The students also enjoy hearing the different harmony this creates.


Recorder Duets:

Did you know there are duet parts available for the Recorder Kit Level One resource?  If you already own this resource, send the Musicplay Team an email at and we will send you a copy!

Alto Recorder:

The Recorder Kit Level 2 has a transposed alto recorder option. Students can use the same fingering as the soprano recorder, but play on the Alto.  Again – this creates some fun harmony for the students.  Themes and Variations also has a NEW Alto Recorder Resource and Alto Recorders available to order (alto recorders only available in Canada).


Ensemble Groups:

Give students an opportunity to play as a group with others. Students can be assigned parts at their level, giving those students who need more challenge an opportunity to try something new.  This can be in class, or do a recorder group/club over a lunch hour.  Below are some ensemble resources available from Themes and Variations. Click on each cover to learn more about these great products! 


Valentine's Day Unit on MusicplayOnline

Valentine's Day Unit on MusicplayOnline

With less than two weeks until Valentine’s Day, the Musicplay Online team has been busy preparing some NEW activities available on the site. The great thing about these activities – they are so versatile. This week we will share with you some ways to integrate these activities with a variety of songs and how they can be used in different grade levels. 

Valentine’s Song Database 

Here you will find all the songs related to love, friendship, and Valentine’s Day available in Musicplay.

Valentine’s Word Composition

This is an activity that can be used in many different ways and for a variety of grade levels. Only use the rhythms that are appropriate for your students.  It never hurts for your students to see some more challenging rhythms. 

Some different ways to use this activity include:

  1. WARM-UP - Practice known rhythm patterns. Students can then transfer the patterns to body percussion or non-pitched percussion instruments.
  2. CREATE A "B" SECTION - Use this activity to create a B section or Rondo with other songs from Musicplay – Some songs that would work well for this include “I Like You” (Song #68 from Musicplay Grade 1) and “Love Somebody” (Song #60 from Musicplay 3).
  3. CREATE AN OSTINATO - Create a 4 or 8 beat ostinato to play with the songs “I Like You” (Song #68 from Musicplay Grade 1) or “Love Somebody” (Song #60 from Musicplay 3).  Transfer the ostinato to body percussion or non-pitched percussion instruments and try it while you sing the song at the same time.
  4. ASSESSMENT TOOL – Use the worksheets below (available on MUSICPLAY ONLINE) to assess reading, writing, and creating rhythm patterns.

Valentine's Day Matching Game - INCLUDES FLASHCARDS!


Recorder Mad Minutes:


For more information and a tour of the new Valentine's Unit check out the video link below:


All this and MORE available with your subscription to:

Black History Month: Lesson Ideas on Musicplay Online

Black History Month: Lesson Ideas on Musicplay Online

The Musicplay Online team has been busy compiling resources for Black History Month. This is a great opportunity to use these resources as a basis for discussions about culture and history with your students.  Below are some activities, including a cup passing game, available on MUSICPLAY ONLINE to share in your classroom:

Fig Leaf Rag 

#3 from The Listening Kit Grade 4

Grade Level:

Grade 3 - 5


  • Read and play simple rhythm patterns. I can read and play simple rhythm patterns.
  • Review and discuss the form in music. I can identify the form or organization of a piece of music. 
Materials Needed:
  • Class set of cups. (I purchased some great, more durable cups from IKEA)
  • Projectables and recording from MusicplayOnline Subscription or Listening Kit Level 4
  • Form Tool from MusicplayOnline
1. Present the history of Scott Joplin. There is a short video available on MusicplayOnline. 
2. Listen to the piece of music. There are listening logs available for various learning levels in the online unit. Select the most appropriate one for your students and go through the questions. 
Listening Log Easy
Listening Log Advanced
3. Say and clap the rhythms for each section (A, B, and C) used in the cup game. 
4. In seated circle with the cups, practice each of the patterns. Continue practicing until students are successful in passing the cups with the patterns. 
5. Try with the music. 
6. This is a great opportunity to review FORM or how this piece of music is organized. Use the FORM TOOL on MusicplayOnline to review the form of this song. Check out the video for a quick lesson on how to use the FORM TOOL on MusicplayOnline. 

MORE Resources for Black History Month: 

1. A database of related songs and activities from Musicplay:


2. Two music listening activities featuring Scott Joplin:

3. Links and additional information/resources:

Plus so much more available with your subscription to MusicplayOnline.

The activity featured above is from the Listening Resource Kit 4. View the link below for more information on our Listening Kits: 
Valentine's Day Lesson on Musicplay Online

Valentine's Day Lesson on Musicplay Online

As February approaches the Musicplay Team has been busy working on some Valentines and Friendship themed activities to share with your students. This week on the blog and newsletter, we will be sharing a lesson from Musicplay Grade 3 and some fun extension and assessment activities to use with this song.

Love Somebody 

Song 60 from Musicplay 3

Grade Level:

Grade 2 - 4


  • Read rhythm patterns including sixteenth notes. I can read sixteenth note (tika-tika) rhythm patterns.
Materials Needed:
  • Projectables of lyrics from Musicplay Digital Resource or Musicplay Online Subscription (Optional)
  • 1-3 Valentines (depending on version of the game you play, either cut out hearts with red paper, use paper valentines, or use felt hearts) 
Teach the Game:
Game Directions One – Use this version if your classroom has lots of space to move.
One child holds a valentine and walks around the outside of the circle.  At the end of the song he puts the valentine behind a child. The child picks it up, leaves the circle and tries to tag the person who is it, before that person gets to the hole in the circle.  I often use an imaginary valentine instead of a real one, because picking up the valentine slows down the chaser and gives the runner too much of a head start. 
Game Directions Two – Use this version for smaller spaces.
Students sit in rows or on risers.  Select 3 students to be the guessers.  These students go to the front of the class, turn around and cover their eyes.  Select one student to pass out 3 valentines (either cut out hearts with red paper, use paper valentines, or use felt hearts). While students sing the song, the student with valentines passes them out to three other students sitting down. When the song is over, all the students sitting down put their hands behind their backs and “pretend” they have a valentine.  The guessers at the front each get one chance to guess who they think has a valentine. If they get it right they get to stay at the front, if not they sit down.  Replace guessers at the front until you have 3 students again.  Continue playing until all students have had a chance to be a guesser or pass out the valentines.
Extension Activities:
This is an excellent song for reviewing 16thnote rhythm patterns.  Musicplay Online has some great activities and NEW worksheets to help with the process.  Alternatively, you could set up these worksheets as centers after teaching the song:
1. Beat Assessment - Sing "Love Somebody" in your head and tap the beats on the chart.  Answer the questions below.
2. Write the Rhythm - In the hearts, draw the symbol for one sound, two sounds, or four sounds.
3. Rhythm Sort - Read and clap the words.  Choose the rhythm that matches and write it above the words.
4. Rhythm Sort - Which rhythm matches the phrase?  Write the rhythm in the box.
Recorder Resources on  MusicplayOnline

Recorder Resources on MusicplayOnline

Did you know Musicplay Online has recorder resources?  Both songs from the Recorder Resource Kit 1 and 2 are available.  The online resources also has some great additional features! 

At the top of the recorder section, there are different tabs to show what is available:

Kit 1 Movies: 

Here you will find movies from Recorder Kit One to project in your classroom. Click the play button on the bottom for a recorder with an accompaniment track to play along.  

Kit 1 Highlights: 

Here you will find movies from Recorder Kit One to project in your classroom.  When you click the play button on the bottom, it plays an accompaniment track, and the movie HIGHLIGHTS the notes as students play.

Kit 1 Kids: 

Here you will find movies from Recorder Kit One to project in your classroom - and the note names are visible.  This can be very helpful for students when they are just starting to learn the song, or if students struggle with note names.

Kit 1 Accompaniment Kids:

Here you will find movies from Recorder Kit One to project in your classroom - and the note names are visible.  On the track below there is no recorder playing along, just an accompaniment. 

Kit 2 Movies: 

Here you will find movies from Recorder Kit Two to project in your classroom. Click the play button on the bottom for a recorder and an accompaniment track to play along.

Kit 2 Kids:

Here you will find movies from Recorder Kit Two to project in your classroom - and the note names are visible.

Kit 2 Accompaniment Kids:

Here you will find movies from Recorder Kit Two to project in your classroom - and the note names are visible.  On the track below there is no recorder playing along, just an accompaniment.

Additional Resources:  

Scroll down to the bottom of the recorder section to view movies about the recorder, how notes are named, and counting music. 


Want a tour of the recorder section on the website?  View the video below to see more!


Print Resources are also available: 


Recorder Resource Kit: Includes 38 songs, sequenced for success!  BAG ED C'D' F  Includes mad minutes, theory, duet parts (for differentiation or split classes).  Reproducibles are given using regular and kids notes notation. Includes projectables!






Beginning Recorder: Tips on Avoiding the "Squeaks" and Achieving a Pleasant Sound

The first few weeks of teaching recorder can be a challenge – especially for a music teacher’s ears! By starting off your students with good habits and effective modeling, you will be setting your class up for success.  The tips below are some great ideas to help achieve a beautiful tone and sound with your students.  

Consistent Rules and Procedures:  

During the first class, teach and practice the three positions for the recorders.  This will help prevent students from blowing into their instruments by accident. Also, when students first come to class, tell them to use the “Practice Position” with their books while you set up. 

  1. Rest Position – On your lap. You are not playing, just listening to the teacher.
  2. Practice Position – Students rest the recorder on their chin and can practice making the fingers for the notes.
  3. Playing Position – This is when they play their instrument.

Hand Position:  

In the “Recorder Kit Level 1” the method starts with the notes B, A, and G.  However, I teach my students how to hold and attempt to play all the notes the first class. Review every class that the left-hand goes above, the right-hand is below.  I turn my back to the class, ask them to do a “thumbs up” with their left hand and then turn and place it on the back of the recorder.  We then practice covering all the holes, adding the right hand the first class.  We try playing it – and it’s not pleasant - but over the weeks the students enjoy the challenge!

Cover the Holes Completely: 

Ask students to look at their fingers and find the pads of their fingers.  Tell students if they are covering the holes completely, they will see “recorder prints” on the pads of their fingers.  Go over the hand position activity above and see if they get “recorder prints” on their finger pads.

Model and Teach Not to “Overblow”: 

It is surprising for your students how gently they have to blow into their instrument.  A few ideas to share with your students include:

  1. Blow warm air into your hand – that’s how soft you have to blow.
  2. Pretend you are blowing on a bubble and you don’t want it to pop.
  3. Think “doo” not “woo” when blowing into your instrument.  This also helps to separate the notes with their tongue.
  4. Model often what the recorder should sound like.  It can also be helpful to share a few fun YouTube videos.  Here are some of our favourites: 

All this and more available in the Recorder Resource Kit Level 1 and 2.  Order yours today! 


Recorder Resource Kit 1:  Includes 38 songs, sequenced for success!  BAG ED C'D' F  Includes mad minutes, theory, duet parts (for differentiation or split classes).  Reproducibles are given using regular and kids notes notation.  Includes projectables!
Recorder Resource Kit 2: This sequential resource is intended for second year recorder students, but reviews the notes in the event that you have students in your class that have never played recorder. There are 24 songs for two-part soprano recorders. Your students will enjoy playing recorder duets. There is an optional alto recorder part, giving your students the option of playing easy three part ensembles. Digital resources included. 
Alto Recorder Resource Teacher's Guide
Alto Recorder Resource Teacher’s Guide: This is a beginning recorder method for Alto Recorder with 60+ unison and duets in the book, carefully sequenced so that children will have success in the very first lesson. The Teacher’s Guide includes projectables, performance movies, optional soprano recorder parts, fingering posters, piano accompaniments, and ukulele/guitar chords.


    What's Next? After the Concert Lesson Ideas

    What's Next? After the Concert Lesson Ideas

    December music classes can be challenging, especially in the days following your holiday concert.  Below are some ideas, lessons, and products available from Themes and Variations to keep your students busy up until the Holiday break.

    Holiday Unit on Musicplay Online:

    Musicplay Online is filled with resources, interactive activities, games, and worksheets including the following:




    All this and more available on MUSICPLAY ONLINE.


    Christmas Music Lessons Resource:

    This is a collection of lessons and activities based on nine familiar Christmas carols. Each song is notated for vocals, soprano recorder in two parts, Boomwhackers in two parts, a variety of percussion instruments, and with chords provided for ukulele (or guitar).

    All parts can be used together and also work in any combination.  

    Each song comes with a vocal track and an orchestrated accompaniment track. A slower accompaniment track is given for Boomwhacker play alongs. Reproducible and Projectable lyrics are included so the songs could be used in a performance or a school holiday sing along.

    The activities include naming notes, writing notes, recognizing rhythms, creating new melodies, as well as fun games and word puzzles based on the lyrics of the carols and the song information.



    Watch the Concert and Complete a Self-Evaluation Worksheet:

    Give students an opportunity to see the show.  Video the performance and students can complete a self-evaluation of their performance.   


    Ho Ho Ho - Winter Favourites from Musicplay

    Ho Ho Ho - Winter Favourites from Musicplay

    Today we wanted to share one of our favourite HOLIDAY lessons from Musicplay Online.  There are so many concepts and activities with this one simple song, it will keep your little ones engaged and learning right up until the holidays. This song can also be used to reinforce simple Grade 1 rhythms, and provides an opportunity to introduce a quarter rest.

    Ho Ho Ho 

    Song 50 from Musicplay 1

    Grade Level:

    Grade K - 2


    • Students will read the rhythm of a song, including 'quarter rest'. I can read the rhythm of a song including a 'quarter rest'. 
    • Students will create word rhythms. I can create word rhythms.
    Materials Needed:
    • Projectables of lyrics from Musicplay Digital Resource or Musicplay Online Subscription (Optional)
    • Non-pitched percussion instruments


    Song Activities:

    Below are a variety of activities you can use with this song:


    The game, “Ho Ho Ho” is played in a single circle.  Each child faces a partner.  On the first measure they point fingers at their partner.  On the second measure they point a finger with the other hand.  On the third measure join hands and change places with their partner.  On the last measure they each jump half a turn to face a new partner and the game repeats.

    Game Video:

    Playing Instruments:

    Explore playing beat and rhythm on non-pitched percussion instruments or body percussion.  Play the words (rhythm) of the song on unpitched instruments.  With student input, decide what instruments might sound best on various parts of the song.  Remind the students that when they play the words of the song, they are playing the rhythm of the song.  Other students can keep the beat of the song using body percussion or a contrasting instrument.

    Keep the Beat on a Beat Chart:

    Use the chart below (you can find this on MusicplayOnline) to have students point to the beat and clap the rhythm.  This is an opportunity to ask the students why there are no words or sounds on beats 4, 8, and 16.  You can explain to them when there is no sound on a beat, it is called rest or quarter rest.  Try notating the song as a class to reinforce this concept.


    Teach the Orff Arrangement:

    Once students are singing the words and playing the game successfully, teach the Orff arrangement.  For Grade one, try teaching the bass line first. 

     Use the following speech ostinato with body percussion to assist in teaching the bass line:  


    Interactive Activities:

    MusicplayOnline has many MORE activities to use with this song including: 


    Find this and MORE at

      Make Practicing FUN!

      “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”  
      ~ Vince Lombardi

      The quote above not only applies to athletes – but musicians too! During the holiday season, music teachers have to teach a lot of repertoire very quickly and efficiently to young learners.  Keeping our young students engaged and interested in the process can be a challenge.  Below are some ideas and strategies on how to keep practicing FUN for upcoming performances:

      Play Watching and Listening Games: 

      Start a rehearsal off with some of these fun activities to get their brains and bodies engaged:

      • Follow my hands – wait for the clap!
      • Brain Gym:
        • Arms rotate in opposite directions
        • One arm up and down, other arm reaches up, then side, then down
      • Follow my fingers.
      • Tap hand for different consonant sounds. Hold for sustained sounds.
      • Consonant echoes with movement in hands and fingers.

      Share a Video or Recording of the Song: 

      Listening to the song first can be helpful in getting students engaged and excited right at the start.  Also, listening to it again later on can help keep students motivated.  Use the listening opportunity to discuss some listening elements like form, tempo, dynamics, etc. in the music. 

      Movement and Actions:  

      Adding actions or movement to your song is a great way to help students remember the words quickly.  You can create the movements yourself, as a class, or use choreography suggestions from the song if provided.  Another fun way to practice the song is to do the movements and whisper or mouth the words.  Denise calls this “Magic Lips”.  You can also use the sing/audiate paddle (see image below) to switch between singing the words and thinking the words.



      Beat and Rhythm Activities: 

      Tell your students beat is the steady pulse, and rhythm is the way the words go.  With your concert songs, try doing these two musical elements in a variety of ways to keep it interesting:

      • Keep the beat or play the rhythm using different levels of body percussion (snapping, clapping, patting, or stomping)
      • Keep the beat or play the rhythm on non-pitched percussion instruments. Set up hula-hoops with instruments inside and rotate students to the various instruments.
      • Switch between beat and rhythm while you sing the song – this can be a FUN challenge! Below is an image of a beat/rhythm paddle you can make and use for this activity:


      Body Percussion Echoes: 

      When reviewing the song by rote – add a little twist with some body percussion.  You sing a phrase - student sing and clap/snap/pat/stomp the words back.  For an added challenge, you sing a phrase and students freeze – they sing it back and walk to the rhythm of the words. 

      Pull Concepts: 

      Use your concert songs to review and teach other concepts in your curriculum.  Try starting off a rehearsal by writing a phrase from the song on the board to practice the rhythm or read the melody. 

      Finish the Phrase: 

      Sing the beginning of a phrase and ask if anyone can finish it.  Use this to go through a section of the song, or a part the students are finding challenging to remember.

       Break Time: 

      The students (especially little ones) will get bored if you practice the songs the entire class.  Try alternating practicing concert songs with some of your favourite singing games, listening activities, or centers. 

      Use a Variety of Accompaniments: 

      Try singing the song acapella, with the piano or other instrument, and with a recording track if available.  As you get closer to performance time, practice with the accompaniment you intend on using for the concert. 

      Pretend Performance: 

      Ask the students to stand up to sing the song and “LOOK PROFESSIONAL”.  Take the time to discuss what real performers do on stage – watching the conductor, not playing with their hair, not touching other kids, etc.  Praise the students who are doing a great job. 

      Riser Practice and Entrance/Exit Routine: 

      Take the time to teach students how to stand and move properly on the risers.  Go through how to move on and off the risers.  Try this and practice the song too, reminding students of your expectations throughout.

      Video Self-Evaluation: 

      If you have time, record the students singing their concert songs.  Watch it together and discuss what they can work on and how they can improve before the show.  The students can use the following method to quickly self-reflect or use the worksheet below:

      • Show me 1 finger if you didn’t sing.
      • Show me 2 fingers if you sang, but you didn’t try your best.
      • Show me 3 fingers if you tried your very best, and sang with your best singing voice.


      REMEMBER - It's not too late to plan a holiday concert!

      View the links below to see some easy and quick programs to put together in your school from Themes and Variations. 

      Holiday Concert Survival Guide

      Holiday Concert Survival Guide

      Music teachers are the ultimate event planners.  Who else can coordinate and organize 500 students, 50 teachers and school staff, and nearly 1000 parents for multiple shows. It’s an extremely busy time for music teachers.  Below are some tips and a planning guide for getting through this exciting time of year!

      Read more →