Category Archives: Recorder

Recorder Mad Minutes

MAD MINUTES – A Great Way to Help Students Develop Note Reading Abilities!

Mad Minutes help students develop their note reading ability. Mad minutes were invented by math teachers to help children develop instant recall of math facts.  In music, Mad Minutes are timed drills to practice letter names. As the students enter the classroom give a mad minute and a pencil to each student.  Usually I hand out the papers, and the first student in line gives out the pencils.

If students are learning BAG songs on the recorder, they should be completing a BAG Mad Minute.  As they learn to play more notes, add the notes to the Mad Minute.

Start the timer, and tell the students to “GO!”   Tell the students to call out “Done!” and raise their hands when they are finished. Then, you tell them how many seconds or minutes and seconds it took them to complete. I like to do a mad minute at the start of every recorder class. In the Recorder Resource Kit there are two BAG mad minutes, then the mad minutes add a note. When you are working on BAG songs, use the BAG mad minute. When you start on the low E, use the BAG E mad minute. Use each mad minute more than once – lots of repetition is needed for students to develop instant recall of note names.

Students try to improve their best time. It’s not competing against others in the class – they are competing against themselves. This has been really engaging for my students – a great way to start off the class.

Watch the video to see the level of engagement!

If you have students taking private lessons, make them harder mad minutes. If they take piano, I give them a mad minute with treble and bass clef – and the piano teachers love me for it.

Where can you get Mad Minutes?  Mad Minutes are included in the Recorder Resource Kit. We’ve just lowered the price of the Recorder Resource Kit with Projectables (PDF and videos!) to $40!   The Recorder Resource Kit include 38 songs in regular AND Kids Notes notation. The songs are sequenced as follows: BAG E D C’ D’ F C. The kit includes many extras: practice bugs, composition template, quiz, rubrics, theory worksheets, and note name flash cards. It’s available as print and/or download.  The Kit includes instruction on how to do a Recorder Karate program with selected songs from the kit.  But there are far more than test pieces in the kit – this is a carefully sequenced collection, so your students will learn to read music – they won’t just learn to play a test piece by rote.  

Order the Recorder Resource Kit from your favorite music store or from Themes & Variations:



All the songs that are in the Recorder Resource Kit are given twice – regular notation and kids notes. With Kids Notes, the letter name is imprinted right on the note.  You can make kids notes booklets for your students who struggle – helping them to keep up with the class.  Kids notes are a huge help to students who still struggle – even after completing many mad minutes.  The projectable PowerPoints, PDFs and movies in the Kit project both regular notation AND kids notes.  Kids notes are much better for the kids than writing letters under the song.  When kids pencil in notes, all they look at is the pencil.  With Kids Notes, they see the placement on the staff and they read the rhythms – and easily transition to note reading when they are developmentally ready.

  • The Recorder Resource Kit includes 38 songs in regular AND Kids notes notation.  It also includes:
  • mad minutes
  • theory worksheets
  • assessment tools:  theory quiz and playing rubrics
  • Recorder Karate test pieces, and helpful hints (in the Teacher’s guide)
  • Projectables in 3 formats:  PDF, PowerPoints, Movies



Student Book Recorder / Book / CD Packages
Students practice more and practice better when they have the accompaniment CD. We make these affordable packages available to Canadian schools. For $10 you get either a quality Handel recorder or a Yamaha recorder, the Recorder Resource Student Book and a CD. (If students don’t have a disk drive on their computer, they can email for a download version) . Order Packages for Canadian Schools

Outdoor Music Classes

We’re down to the last 2 weeks of school for Canadian teachers, and this can be a tough 2 weeks to get through. Taking your classes outside can give you some welcome sunshine and fresh air, and give you an opportunity to do some activities that don’t work as well inside.
I’d suggest that outside to save your voice from vocal strain, you use a portable microphone. You can order a Chattervox online – (Themes doesn’t sell them any longer) .  If you don’t wear a microphone, consider taking a coach’s whistle with you and develop some hand signals with your class.

Singing Games, especially the chase games, are more fun outside than indoors. If you use you’ll notice that some of the kids demos were done outside.

These are some of the chase games I’ve played very successfully outside.
Lucy Locket – Musicplay1

Lucy Locket Chase Game

 Other favorite Chase Singing Games includes:
Cut the Cake – Musicplay 4
Ickle Ockle – Musicplay 5

Our Old Sow – Musicplay 5
Let Us Chase the Squirrel – Musicplay 2, 4
Hill Hill – Musicplay 2
Directions, music and kids demo movies for all the games is found at
OR – purchase the Singing Games Children Love collections:
Canada –

Recorder Composition .  30 recorder players composing at the same time could drive you crazy in the classroom. But outside, students can improvise and compose melodies in their own space and using the template in the Recorder Resource Kit, they will create compositions that are playable and musical.

Recorder Composition Template

Boomwhacker Composition    Divide your students into groups, give them pentatonic Boomwhackers and invite them to create a rhythmic composition with movement. (Melodic composition is possible, but takes longer) My students really enjoyed this and all groups were on-task, engaged, and successful. We did this for 2 periods, then groups performed for each other.

Boomwhacker Composition

Drumming or Bucket Drumming .  I’ve been teaching bucket drumming in several elementary classes this month. It’s tons of fun, but would be fun to teach outside. You wouldn’t have the ability to project music to teach, so you’d have to plan to teach everything by rote.

Summer Workshops 2017

Artie and Denise #8 in Las Vegas – workshop to be held at University Methodist Church.  There’s still space in this workshop, and flights are still cheap!   Our hotel rooms at Treasure Island are just $59 (+25 resort fee).  We’ve got great sessions planned, and you’ll get a certificate with 16 hours of PD

Edmonton – August 24, 2017
Calgary – August 28, 2017
Toronto – August 30-31, , 2017
Langley, BC – Oct. 20th, 2017
Register online at

Ready for Recorder?

Ready for Recorders?    For many teachers, January is when the students in Grade 3, 4, or 5 start learning to play the recorder. While the recorder may seem like a simple instrument, there are many skills needed to be successful. Students must be able to:

* tell which is their left and right hands
* hold the recorder with the left hand at the top, right hand at the bottom
* cover tiny holes with finger pads – not finger tips
* start the note with the tongue
* continue the air stream between notes to create a legato sound
* breathe in appropriate places
* demonstrate correct fingerings for notes
* read the names of the notes
* read and perform rhythms
* understand meter
* follow a conductor
* demonstrate appropriate rehearsal skills
* articulate: slur in some places, tongue in others
* develop good intonation
* develop a beautiful sound

This list is daunting for an adult!  Breaking the skills down, islolating and teaching one skill at a time will help all of your students become successful recorder players. In this newsletter, I’ve got some tips for teaching students to read the names of the notes.

Tip #1.  Start teaching note names well before you order or hand out the recorders! Your students in K-2 should learn about the staff as part of their music classes. They should learn how to number the lines and spaces from the bottom to the top, and you can teach them that the treble clef circles the note G.  If you review this when you are showing them a piece of music, the note G will be learned long before starting recorder.  I like to use the floor staff and the hand staff to teach letter names.  A post on Floor staff games can be found on my new blog   In this newsletter, I’ll discuss the hand staff.

Hand Staff for K-2: If you hold your left hand in front of you with your thumb up, palm facing you and your fingers spread out, it’s easy to imagine that your hand is a staff. You have five fingers, just like there are five lines on the music staff.. In K-2 have the students point to each finger starting with the finger that is closest to the floor. Number the “lines”of the hand staff.

Pointing Game:  Call out “line one” or “line five” and have the students point to the correct “line.” Have a student be the leader and call out the line number.  Then, point to the space between the fingers. This is the “space.” Call out “first space”or “third space” and have the students point to the correct “space.”  Students like to be the leaders of the pointing game. When they are successful at just lines or just spaces, include both lines and spaces inthe game.  Transfer the Pointing Game to an actual staff.  The cookie sheet staff is fun for the students to use!

Cookie Sheet staff

Letter Names Gr. 3-5: Starting in third or fourth grade, teach the letter names of the notes. I use these poems to introduce the line and space notes.
The notes on the line spell Every Good Boy Does Fine.   (E G B D F)
The notes in the space, Spell your FACE!   (F A C E)
Lines:  Name the first line E, second line G, third line B, fourth line D and fifth line F.  Play the pointing game having the leader call out E, G, B, D or F
Spaces:   Name the first space F, second space A, third space C and fourth space E.  Play the pointing game having the leader call out F A C E.
When students are successful at just lines or just spaces, include both lines and spaces in the game.  No worksheets are needed to teach or review the note names – just the students hands. (and/or the cookie sheet)  You can play the pointing games when ever you have a few minutes at the end of a class.

When the students can name the notes successfully, review some of the simple reading songs from previous grade levels by having students sing the letter names that you point to on the staff. (hand staff or a staff drawn on the board)   When doing this, introduce some of the easy recorder songs that they’ll be learning to play later in the year.  If you are using the Complete Recorder Resource Kit, some of the simple songs that you could have the students sing include Hot Cross Buns or Doggie Doggie.  Each of these simple songs are singing games, so after singing the letter names, sing the song and play the game.  When you give out recorders later in the year, the students will be able to sight-read the pieces on recorder much more easily after having learned them in the fall.