Rhythm sticks are a go-to instrument in our music therapy sessions and classes. They’re not colorful and interesting-looking like some of our other instruments, but they are super versatile and can address so many important skills.
Another benefit of rhythm sticks is that they’re inexpensive, so we always have enough on hand to that everyone can play at the same time, no matter how big our group. We buy these in bulk.
Since we use our rhythm sticks so often, I’m constantly writing new songs specifically for them. It’s been awhile since I shared a song round-up, so here are 8 of my favorite stick tunes for working with children.
1-2-3, Tap With Me offers specific directives for playing the sticks, but I always change it up when using this song in a class or music therapy session. It’s also fun to let my students take the lead, choosing different ways to play.
The little chant I came up with this month is one of the many settings I use to incorporate rhythm sticks into my music therapy sessions and early childhood music classes. Clatter Clatter, Clackity Clack is just a framework for using all of those skills — listening, grasping, reproducing a pattern, and more — while playing the rhythm sticks.
When I sat down to write a song for my favorite amphibian-shaped instruments, two existing tunes about frogs immediately came to mind. I couldn’t get them out of my head, so I combined them to create one cohesive song all about the little brown frog guiros my students play. But it turns out that Little Brown Frog also works wonderfully for rhythm sticks, which are much more common amongst instrument collections and allow for everyone in a group to play at once.
Every time I use Rhythm Sticks Waltz in a class or music therapy session, I start by having my students count to 3. We do it once to begin with, very slowly, and use our fingers as well as our voices. Gradually we get faster, counting to 3 again and again in rhythm. Then I explain that they’ve just counted a type of song called a waltz. Rhythm sticks are a great instrument for this type of activity, because the beat can be heard very clearly. Younger students seem to have better impulse control while playing sticks as opposed to drums or other types of percussion instruments.
Tap Dance wins the “triple threat” award — it manages to combine instrument play, movement, and gradual increase in tempo — with bonus points for being super simple and repetitive. One of those tunes I whipped up on the fly and yet is incredibly handy to have in my toolbox. What I like most about this song is that you as the music therapist/teacher/facilitator can choose your own dance steps and rhythms depending on the child or group with whom you’re working. Or, you can let your kiddos choose their own (which is what I usually do!). There really is nothing more entertaining than watching a room full of preschoolers make up dance moves while playing rhythm sticks at the same time.
You know what’s pretty awesome? Watching and listening as a huge group of 2, 3, and 4-year-olds tap their rhythm sticks together as quietly as can be. It’s not a common sight, but it’s one that I have the pleasure of witnessing each time I use this song, along with playing loudly, quickly, and slowly. Tap Tap Your Rhythm Sticks provides plenty of opportunity for kiddos to listen to the lyrics and and respond accordingly while playing their instruments.
The Toolbox Song combines imaginative play and rhythm sticks, which are transformed into a variety of tools during each verse. I show my students how to use each “tool” throughout the course of the song, but I also give them the opportunity to come up with other tools and use their rhythm sticks as such. It’s fun to watch their creativity at work, especially once they realize there is no wrong way to do it.
Luckily, you don’t need thunder and rain sound effects to perform this song — that’s what rhythm sticks are for! Thunder & Raindrops allows children to practice playing softly (raindrops) and loudly (thunder), and then alternate quickly between the two different types of playing.
Hope you found this roundup of rhythm sticks songs to be helpful! What are your favorite stick tunes? It is impossible to have too many in my bag of tricks.