Pulse and rhythm – finding the groove with Bangers & Smash!

We’ve had an excellent end to the Summer term at Bangers & Smash this June and July with six sessions on finding the groove!

Children have looked at a picture of a nautilus and used their hands and bodies to create tentacles and big eyes staring out of a shell

Children have looked at a picture of a nautilus and used their hands and bodies to create tentacles and big eyes staring out of a shell

Thinking about our work on keeping the pulse and feeling the rhythm in April and May, we’ve brought the two together to try out simple repeating rhythms over a steady pulse.

We’ve started each session by naming children one by one around the circle as part of our regular hello song. Cathy has asked each child to break the sound of their name into separate syllables and to clap once for each syllable (Kay-lee, Jon-a-than, A-bu-ba-kar etc). This task is all about physicalising sound and is complex because it involves matching action to speech.

As the children have become more familiar with the task, Cathy has extended it by asking them to add in an extra phrase ­– ‘cha, cha, cha’ – after their names (‘Meg-an cha cha cha’ etc). This grounds the task in 4/4 time and leads – with lots of practice – to the children being able to say their names and the 'cha cha cha' phrase one after the other without gaps. This is an important development because it creates a piece of simple percussive music – word rhythms spoken and clapped over a shared pulse that is ‘felt’ rather than played.

Moving on, Cathy has introduced an ocean drum and invited individual children to the front to play it. We’ve looked at the back of the drum, which has a picture of sea creatures on it, and Cathy has taught the children a song about a little crab.

Using a piece of blue cloth to represent the sea, we’ve then sung a number of sea-based songs including:

  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat

  • A Sailor Went To Sea, Sea, Sea

  • Bobby Shaftoe

  • Down There Under The Sea

In this last song, the children have bounced different sea creatures on the cloth and Cathy has asked them to find short phrases to describe the creatures and to play these phrases on claves (‘scary shark’, ‘tiny octopus’ etc). Cathy has introduced a slow, steady pulse by repeating the word, ‘whale’, and the children have practised playing their phrases over this pulse. With some groups, it’s been possible to take this one step further by splitting the children into two sections with one half playing the phrases and the other half playing the pulse.

The children have also learned Baby Beluga by Canadian children’s songwriter, Raffi, and this has proved to be immensely popular – with teachers reporting hearing children singing it around the nursery and in the garden.

Other activities have included:

  • singing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 while counting laminated fish

  • making a (pretend) fish stew and eating it while singing and swaying to You Shall Have A Fishy On A Little Dishy

  • creating a circle dance to The Big Ship Sailed On The Alley, Alley Oh

We’ve finished each session with some dancing and Cathy has chosen two very different songs, both with distinctive grooves:

  • Nautilus by B Bumble and the Stingers

  • Dancing With The Captain by Paul Nicholas

In the first, children have looked at a picture of a nautilus and used their hands and bodies to create tentacles and big eyes staring out of a shell as they move along the ocean bed. In the second, children and staff have performed jaunty nautical actions and had fun disco-dancing! 

New nursery for Bangers & Smash

In other news, Bangers & Smash was delighted to run a taster session for Under the Willow Nursery in Dulwich in May. Following this, Cathy was asked to provide musical support for the nursery's upcoming performance for parents in June, rehearsing a selection of songs about Australia, including:

  • I’m A Kangaroo

  • El Senor Koala

  • Dig Like A Wombat

  • Once There Was A Lizard

  • I Had A Little Turtle

  • Baby Shark

The performance was a great success with Head of Nursery, Mandy, commenting, 'We have lots of happy parents and the children are still singing this morning! Your input was so much appreciated and we are looking forward to building this relationship.'

We are delighted to welcome Under the Willow to our roster and looking forward to starting regular music sessions at the nursery next term.

Summer break

Bangers & Smash is now taking a break and music sessions will start again in September. We hope you have a wonderful Summer and wish all the children moving on to ‘big school’ the best of luck – we’ll miss you very much!

Feeling the rhythm with Bangers & Smash!

Following on from April's sessions on keeping the pulse, we've been feeling the rhythm this May at Bangers & Smash!


Continuing our mouse theme, we've sung and played to songs and nursery rhymes about mice, including:

  • Hickory Dickory Dock

  • I Want To Be A Little Mouse

  • Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat

  • Three Blind Mice

Building on last month's work of tapping a steady pulse on claves while singing, we've practised tapping in time with the words of each song, using our listening and fine motor skills to match the sounds we make with our voices to the rhythms we make with our claves.

In Three Blind Mice, we've used an updated version of the words:

Three blind mice, three blind mice
See how they run, see how they run
They all were chased by the farmer's cat
They ran and hid in an old straw hat
Did you ever see such a thing as that
As three blind mice?

Younger children have enjoyed hiding three different mice in a straw hat: a finger puppet, a mouse shaker and a mouse toy that wobbles from side to side.

Moving on to our Tick Tock Clock song, we've isolated three repeating rhythms and played them on junk drums made out of recycled plastic containers:

  • Tick tock tick tock (crotchets – four to a bar)

  • Ticka tocka ticka tocka (quavers – eight to a bar)

  • Ticka tocka ticka tocka ticka tocka ticka tocka (semiquavers – sixteen to a bar)

Older children have split into two groups with one group playing the first rhythm and the other the second. Once established, Cathy has asked a member of staff to add in a slow, steady pulse:

  • Tick – tock – (minims – two to a bar)

We've finished each session by listening and moving to a children's song from 1965: A Windmill In Old Amsterdam by Ronnie Hilton.

The children have had fun pretending to be little mice clog-dancing while chanting a repeating rhythm: 'Clip clippity clop on the stair'.

Next month, we'll be bringing pulse and rhythm together as we work on finding the groove while singing songs about the sea!

Visiting China with Bangers & Smash!

With this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations slap-bang in the middle of February, Bangers & Smash has dedicated the whole month's music sessions to the theme of China!


Cathy has started each session by passing a Chinese artefact around the circle. Children have been able to look at and handle a rattle drum (below), a fan, a set of windchimes and a miniature warhorse. We've talked about each artefact and the children have observed that the fan is 'to cool us down’ and the warhorse has ‘armour and a spike on his saddle’. They've blown on the windchimes and discussed what sound they make ('quiet', 'gentle') and what they're made of ('metal', 'gold'). We've also looked at pictures of children dressed up for Chinese New Year and discussed what colours they are wearing ('red and gold').

A Chinese rattle drum

Next, we've rolled a miniature globe towards individual children and practised singing their names. With practice, some children have been able to find China on the globe and show it to their friends. We've gone on to look at a map and discuss where China is in relation to the UK. How would we get there? How long might it take?

Moving on, we've sung the nursery rhyme, Horsey, Horsey, while passing a soft toy horse around the circle so everyone can have a cuddle. We've listened to a piece of Chinese music called Training The Horses and joined in on claves; first, playing a steady pulse then varying the speed to show the horse walking, trotting and galloping. We've also danced with red and yellow scarves.

To celebrate Chinese New Year, we've learned a new song, Chinese New Year Is Here Again, and practised eating (pretend) Chinese food with (real) bowls, spoons and chopsticks. The children have enjoyed choosing different kinds of food – rice, chicken, noodles – and singing, ‘This is the way we eat our rice, eat our rice, eat our rice' etc. We've followed this with another new song, Plant Rice, in which the children have taken it in turns to dress up in Chinese hats and come to the front to demonstrate planting, growing, picking, cooking and eating rice.


In our final session, we've listened and danced to a piece of Chinese music called Birdsong while pretending to be little birds looking for worms in the snow. The children have loved flapping their wings, shaking their tails and pecking at the ground while tweeting like birds to the sound of the dizi (Chinese flute).

All in all, this month's celebration of China and Chinese culture has brought a much-needed injection of colour and vibrancy to a cold and wintry February. Roll on next year!

People who help us

This March, we've been thinking about people who help us at Bangers & Smash.

Image   ©  Emergency Times

Image © Emergency Times

This popular theme allows us to develop our knowledge and understanding of the world through singing, moving, playing and listening to songs about people and communities.

We've started each session with an action song, Tall Shops, which has helped us develop our gross motor skills with lots of stretching, swinging and bending. We've followed this with another action song – this time developing our fine motor skills by joining in with hand and finger actions to Raffi's Corner Grocery Store. It's been lovely watching the children get to know these songs so well that they request them at the start of each session and join in with all the actions and words.

Thinking about people who help us in shops, we've acted out the work of a supermarket checkout assistant, scanning the shopping (beep, beep) as it comes along the conveyor belt (zhuuuuzh), packing it in bags (rustle, rustle) and pressing the buttons on the till (beep, beep, beep!).

We've popped next door to the cobbler's to get our shoes mended and to the baker's to buy muffins and buns:

  • In the cobbler's, we've used single claves to tap our shoes while singing Cobbler, Cobbler, Mend My Shoe.

  • In the baker's, we've used two claves to tap a pulse as we sing and march to The Muffin Man.

  • We've also acted out Five Currant Buns In The Baker's Shop as five children (currant buns) line up beside the baker while others take it in turns to buy a bun and take it away. The children are able to visualise the act of subtraction as the line of buns gradually reduces from five to one; they also pay the baker a penny a bun, allowing them to role-play using money.

All the above activities, including tapping a pulse, link to the Mathematics area of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum.

Thinking about people who help us in an emergency, we've enjoyed making the sounds of ambulance, fire engine and police sirens in Call, Call The Ambulance by Bangers & Smash co-founder, Cathy Clethero. With older children, we've been able to take this concept further by splitting into groups and choosing one sound per group. Children have taken it in turns to act as conductor, signalling to each group when to start, when to stop and when to make their sounds all together.

Finally, thinking about people who help us at nursery, we've used percussion to perform the song, I Am The Music Teacher. Children have again split into groups (bells, shakers, claves) and taken it in turns to play their instruments, coming together at the end to 'play in the band':

I am the music teacher, I come from far away and I can play
What can you play? I play in the band!
All together-gether now, together now, together now
All together-gether now, all together now!