Monthly Archives: December 2013

Peter Taps With One Hammer

Here is a traditional song for children, which I have adapted for piano. The aim of this piece is to improve the co-ordination of the two hands where the left hand marks the pulse. The left hand starts slowly at first, marking just the first beat of each bar with a semibreve (whole note). Then as the piece continues the left hand changes to minims (half notes) and finally crotchets (quarter notes).

I arranged this piece as a preparatory step for my students before tackling Driving Force by Fiona Macardle from Piano Time Jazz Book 1. This piece is currently set for the Trinity College London’s Initial Grade.

The original song is sung with five verses. Verse one starts with one hammer and the children bang one fist. Two hammers are two fists, three include a stamping foot, by four hammers we’re stamping both feet (you probably need to do this sat down unless you’re happy jumping) and finally five hammers includes a bobbing head! The children love it. I discovered it in Jolly Music Level 1.

Peter Taps With One Hammer

Winter Show Success

Here’s a review of the Express Yourself Choirs’ toe tapping show stopping Winter Show! See what Pop Choir, Show Tunes Choir and Glee Club have been getting up to in Worcester this winter!

Express Yourself Choir in Worcester

What a great show!

Last Saturday all three Express Yourself singing groups gathered in front of family and friends to put on a fabulous winter show. I know I always say our concerts are the best yet, but this time I really mean it. All three choirs were word perfect, pitch perfect and even dance move perfect!! I know!

Show Tunes Choir opened the show with “Comedy Tonight” from Something Happened on the Way to the Forum. An ideal song to open with! This was followed by a classic Burt Bacharach number from Promises, Promises called “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”. We sang two songs from the amazing Tim Minchin musical Matilda; “Naughty” and “When I Grow Up”. Quite a challenging couple of songs for the timing but totally worth the effort. I think these were my favourites of the Show Tunes set. Without puppets we sang a heart…

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It Takes Two Generations…

A wonderfully helpful article for non-musical parents of piano students from the composer and piano teacher Elissa Milne

Elissa Milne

This year I have had a handful of gorgeous beginners taking lessons with me. I’m trialling new material for beginners and I need a cohort of children of different ages, genders, interests and learning styles so I can really test a range of approaches I believe will be more effective than the approaches I’ve used in the past. I haven’t auditioned these new students prior to accepting them into my studio –  inviting a diverse group of children to explore the piano and learn musicianship and performance skills with me gives me my best chance of testing my material (as well as keeping me on my toes!).

Of all the diversities amongst these beginners the greatest is probably this: some children come from families of professional musicians while some come from families where no one has ever learned an instrument.

What does this mean? On the surface it means that…

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Pop Choir

Helen’s successful Express Yourself Pop Choir is performing in their Winter Show in Worcester this Saturday along with Express Yourself Show Tunes Choir and Glee Club.

Why not pop along and see if you want to join us!!

Express Yourself Choir in Worcester


Come and sing popular songs with simple harmonies. There are no auditions and everyone is welcome regardless of ability.  It’s an excellent way to meet new people in a relaxed, friendly environment.

We rehearse on Mondays every week in term time at Lyppard Grange Community Centre, Warndon Villages, Worcester WR4 0DZ on Mondays from 7:30pm until 9:00pm.


All sessions are £4.50 if you pay per week but we have discounts for paying termly or monthly

How to Join
Just call Helen Russell on 01905 747827


What sort of songs do you sing?

All sorts of things. We all make suggestions and then vote for our favourites. We choose new songs at the start of every term so we don’t get bored of singing the same things all the time! In Pop Choir this year we have sung The Foundations, Amy Winehouse, The Righteous…

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Free Christmas Singing Game

I am doing some Christmas singing with the 20th Worcester Beaver Scout group on Friday. I wanted to do some Kodaly-based songs and needed them to be Xmas themed! So here are my alternative lyrics to Doggie Doggie Where’s Your Bone (a favourite with my own sons!) entitled Santa Santa Where’s Your Sleigh!

It uses a small toneset of so mi and la so makes it ideal for young primary aged children, especially those learning musicianship using the Kodaly approach.

To play the game you need at least three singers! Although I’ve done it before with two and a sock puppet (don’t ask!!). One is Santa, the guesser. They turn their backs on the other children. You choose one of the remaining children to “steal” the sleigh. At the end, Santa has to guess who stole the sleigh by identifying their voice, or position in the room. It’s clearly a better game with more children but my boys don’t seem to mind guessing between me or their brother!

The original game can be found in the brilliant Jolly Music for Beginners by Cyrilla Rowsell and David Vinden

Santa Santa Where's Your Sleigh-1

Free Nativity Song for Christmas

Here is a Christmas nativity song I wrote called Sleeping In A Stable. It uses the limited solfa toneset of do mi so and la. This is ideal for Reception/Early Years children (aged 4-5) or any child learning singing and musicianship using the Kodaly approach.

It could also be used in piano lessons. You could teach the child to sing the song, away from the score. Then demonstrate that they can play the melody by ear using just the black keys.

On the black keys the required keys are do = F#; mi = Bb; so = C#; la = Eb

On the score do = C; mi = E; so = G; la = A

The song would fit into the nativity as Mary and Joseph settle down in the stable.  They are not too impressed with their accommodation and are worried about getting to sleep with all the animal noises! You can alter the number of verses depending on which animals you want to add to the stable. I have included horses, ducks, hens, cows and dogs! I’ve saved the sheep to arrive with the shepherds later on!

Let me know if you use it!!

Merry Christmas!

Sleeping In A Stable

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