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!

The Land of Ice and Snow

Happy New Year from Bangers & Smash and what better way to celebrate than with a magical journey to the Land of Ice and Snow?

ice and snow.jpg

Cathy has hit the ground running this January with a series of sessions at Bangers & Smash regular nurseries on the subject of all things cold and frosty!

Starting off by warming up our fingers and hands, we've sung the finger rhyme, Tommy Thumb, with babies and toddlers, who have enjoyed putting their hands behind their backs and bringing them out to wave first 'Tommy Thumb', then 'Peter Pointer', 'Toby Tall', 'Ruby Ring', 'Baby Small' and 'Fingers All' in the air.

Older children have enjoyed clapping, tapping and stamping their way through This Is The Way We Clap Our Hands to the tune of Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush and more confident children have been able to suggest their own actions such as pointing toes, tapping heads etc.

Once warmed up, children and staff have mimed putting on coats, scarves, boots, gloves and hats ready to begin their journey.

Cathy has set the scene with a series of lycra games, during which we've listened to Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky and Winter by Vivaldi (many thanks to Jesus at Mother Goose – Greendale for this suggestion!) while bouncing various snow-themed items on a cloth, including a giant snowflake and a number of soft toy animals (Arctic hare, polar bear, reindeer, snowy owl etc). All the children have loved this activity which combines listening and appreciation with working together to make sure the bounced items don't fall off. There's also the opportunity to bounce in time with the music and to respond to dynamics (so that, for example, when the music is loud we bounce the items higher/more vigorously and when it is quiet, we bounce them lower/more softly).

Next, we've learned a simple call and response song about reindeer in preparation for travelling by sleigh to the Land of Ice and Snow. In the song, Cathy sings a line and children and staff sing it back to her. Each line has its own action as the reindeer get ready to pull the sleigh. In the final line, everyone picks up a set of bells and sets off in a circle, jingling and riding along to Sleigh Ride by Aretha Franklin.

On arrival, it's time to meet Jack Frost with his icy fingers, spiky hair and long nose. Cathy has created an igloo out of a cloth draped over two chairs and chosen individual children to dress up in a white smock and hide inside with a bell. Other children listen out for the bell while singing Bangers & Smash original, Jack Frost. On the last line, Here I am in my igloo!, Jack Frost jumps out to great applause. It's been fabulous watching the children gain the confidence to have a go at hiding in the igloo and lovely to see them wait the length of the song, quietly ringing their bell to let us know they're still inside.


Our final activity has involved working with tuned percussion (handbells, chime bars etc). We've played along to another Bangers & Smash song, It's Snowing Outside, and practised a simple rhythm over the words, Snow falls plip plop, plip plop, plip plop. Even quite young children have been able to play in time, once they've become familiar with the rhythm. As well as making a pretty, delicate sound, the bells and chime bars are an introduction to the worlds of pitch and timbre. Playing them freely has allowed the children to experiment with contributing to an overall soundscape and to experience the pleasure that comes from improvising in a group.

'Bata Mi A Dun Ko Ko Ka': singing songs from Africa and the Caribbean

What a fabulous October we've had at Bangers & Smash singing songs from Africa and the Caribbean in celebration of Black History Month!

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

We've started our sessions with a song we learned last month: Fingers Like To Wiggle Waggle. This month, we've chosen a different body part to wiggle waggle each week and the children have had fun wiggling their toes, bottoms and noses.

We've also continued singing the Dipidu song, concentrating on the second line in which the children insert their own names in place of 'dipidu'. As part of this activity, Cathy has passed an African shaker around the circle and encouraged the children to shake it and say their names. Older children have been able to shake once for each syllable of their name (for example, Femi would shake twice [Fe-mi] and Annabel three times [Ann-a-bel]) while younger children have practised playing the shaker freestyle while saying their names at the same time. This allows the children to work on their fine motor skills while linking movement to sound and, in the case of the older children, rhythm – a great introduction to the art of multi-tasking!

Cathy has gone on to introduce the theme of Black History Month by asking the children to stroke their skin:

'What does it feel like?'

  • 'My skin feels soft'

  • 'I like to stroke my hand'

What colour is it?'

  • 'My skin is brown like chocolate ice cream'

  • 'My skin is pink and white like strawberry milkshake'

Cathy has talked about how people with brown and black skin come from the continent of Africa and now live all over the world. She has asked the children to tap word rhythms based on the names of vegetables and fruit from Africa and the Caribbean (plantain, cassava, butternut squash / ackee, banana, pomegranate). With the help of Drums for Schools' fantastic Nursery Rhythm Kit (read Cathy's review on the Music Education UK website here), the children have been able to tap, bang, shake and scrape their way through a variety of world music instruments, including hand drums, agogo bells, tiktoks, frog scrapers and more!

Cathy has gone on to ask if black staff members would like to share songs from their childhoods and heritages and, as always, they have come up trumps with a wonderful selection of songs from Africa and the Caribbean.

Special thanks to the following:

  • Vinette for Evenin' Time, a song by Jamaican poet, folklorist, writer and educator, Louise Bennett

  • Israel for Mango Time, a Jamaican folk song about making the best of the mango crop

  • Sharon for two popular Jamaican songs, Banana Boat Song and Jamaican Farewell

  • Tolu and Taiwo for Bata Mi A Dun Ko Ko Ka, a Nigerian song in Yoruba about the benefits of study ('If I study hard, I will wear high heels')

  • Juliet for O Kereke, a Nigerian song in Igbo in which the children sit in a line with their legs outstretched and bounce a rolled-up cloth from one end to the other

  • Jane for Kedu Onye Ga Abu Ojim, a Nigerian song and circle dance in Igbo about finding a friend

  • Nkechi for Onye Ga Agba Agwu, a Nigerian song and circle dance in Igbo about dancing

  • Ann-Marie for A Te Wa, a Sierra Leonean song and circle dance in Creole about dancing

In addition, both children and staff have enjoyed dancing to two more Jamaican songs in the Mento tradition:

  • Peanut Vendor by the Kew Park Mento Band

  • Slide Mongoose by the Blue Glaze Mento Band

And finally, since we're dancing, we hope you enjoy this video of Oliver Mobeli from Central African Republic!