Yo- Ho, Pass the Anchor! A music therapy activity social skills game for elementary aged students

Ages: Elementary School

Variations can be done with children as young as 3 and 4.

Purpose: To improve social skills. To attend, cooperate, take and relinquish turns

and share with a friend.

Yo-ho pull the anchor. Yo-ho pull it now.

Yo-ho pull the anchor. Who is the captain now? (I am the captain now.)

We modify the song and sing “Yo-ho Pass the Ring.”

and “Stop. You’re the captain now.

Link to melody is below.

Equipment: A drum, xylophone or other instrument/toy to share.   Lyrics. A buddy band or elasto band threaded through a ring or other “threadable” object. (Mental picture: a bead on a necklace.)   The ends of our buddy band detach and we put a ring from a toddler ring stacker toy through it and pass that from person to person. You can put rope or paper around the buddy band if you need.

Sit class in a circle and have everyone hold the buddy band with the ring.   Practice passing the ring from child to child. When the children can do that, then sing the song while the children pass. Sing the song through and Stop as the lyrics cue.   Invite that child to play the instrument in the middle of the circle while the children sing and pass again.   Continue until each child has a turn.


Ask a question to the child who has the ring on a topic relevant to the needs of the group.

Ask the child to share with a friend. Make sure everyone has a turn to choose and friend and to be chosen.

Have each child answer the question “Who is the captain now?” by answering

“I am the captain now.”





by Margie La Bella of Music Therapy tunes.

Instrument ABC Videos Playlist for students. Whole alphabet with Instruments from A-Z .

Hello friends,

I compiled this you tube playlist last year for use in our school.  The videos pair each letter of the alphabet with an instrument– often several.   There are several age groups represented from the very, very young to kids to teens and adults, too.   The instruments are from all over the world and so this could compliment cultural and geography studies in any class.  For certain music therapy populations, think  “Instrument Bingo,” “Name that instrument,”or Musical “Hangman.”


This link is immensely helpful as it has the instruments in alphabetical instrument, gives a short history of each instrument and offers a sound bite as well.  https://www.imit.org.uk/pages/a-to-z-of-musical-instrument.html

Great song for a new School Year. Good for Conscience Discipline. “There’s No One Else Just like ME!” music therapy song activity for children

Goal: to improve self concept, joint participation, eye contact, body part vocabulary etc.

Source: It’s been handed down from person to person all the way down to me. Please let me know the writer so I can give credit where credit is sure due.

There’s no one else like me.


There’s no one else just like me.


There’s no one else just like me.


Like me. Like me.


There’s no one else like me. Like me. Like me.


There’s no one else like me.

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  =-

Middle section:


From the top of my head to my wiggly toes.


From the back of my ears to the tip of my nose.

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –   –



I’m me. I’m me.   There’s no one else like me.


Like me. Like me. There’s no one else like me.

-Can follow up with Hap Palmer’s

“Oh, What a Miracle am I!”      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFlVciz8aGs

and/or Laurie Berkner’s  “Me and My Energy.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEwW3lK-Vjo





Top 10 Activities for May and June

Spring; I think they got the name from watching kids spring, jump, fidget, wiggle, and bounce!  In the effort to help kids express their inner exuberance, we music therapists provide lots of experiences to utilize that energy in a success-based,  positive experience.  Of course, the children might not be aware of it but we are also developing their attention span, body concept, self-expression, concept development, social skills and more!

I’ll provide as many you tube links as possible so you can hear the melodies. And please remember that any song that gives a direction can be modified where either you sing your own directives based upon the needs of  your student(s) or you can incorporate directions/movements that the student suggests.  PECs pictures can be used to interact with low-verbal kids. You can reflect (lyrically and musically) the motions of the group, if these are part of your goals.


Here are my top 10 late spring activities.

1. I’ve got the Sunshine in my hands (Lyrics can be worked to teach about seasons and related activities)

2. When the Rain Comes Down (Relaxing song beautiful for signing) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpJ2PjWGuTA

3. I love to Watch the River Flow (for following directions and vocalization of sounds)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6PZ-vCdc3k

4. The Caterpillar (for acting out the life cycle of a butterfly, and using imagination)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uN_6Z3iZQo

5. Under a Shady Tree by Laurie Berkner  (Singing and signing, acting out the lyrics, following directions)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zq-0JiKs2hc

6. Can’t sit still by Greg and Steve (energy expression, and following directions. Can be adapted in a myriad ways)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cspB9LoPfLw&list=RDcspB9LoPfLw

7.  Tweet Little Birdy by Margie La Bella (for acting out lyrics, repeating short sentences, vocalization, birds)

8. Inch by Inch, Row by Row (longer sentences, acting out the lyrics, taking care of our earth, growing plants…)

9.  Shake Something by Hap Palmer  (moving in specific ways reflecting a variety of concepts.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDaa7Q2so-s

10. One, Two, Three Wheeee  (for directions, impulse control, motor control)


Fun Birthday Song for children’s or elderly Music Therapy Group by Margie La Bella of Music Therapy Tunes

This was a spontaneous, group song that happened during a group instrumental “jam.”

The teacher called out “It’s Luke’s Birthday today” while we were playing “Skinamarink” for Valentine’s day.

We suddenly joined in (WITH Luke’s permission!!) a verse of a birthday version of the old standard.  It went like this:


Skinamarinky dinky dink. Skinarmarinky duke.

G………….. Am

We love Luke.   (Rhyme likewise for other people’s names.)

Am…………….. D7……………. Am……………….. D7

Skinamarinky dinky dink. Skinarmarinky duke.


We love Luke.


We love you in the morning and in the afternoon.


Happy happy birthday underneath the moon!


Skinamarinky dinky dink. Skinarmarinky duke.


We love Luke.




“Name that Sound” easy auditory discrimination and memory activity for music therapy and education by Margie La Bella of Music Therapy Tunes.

This is great! So easy and so useful!  I got some great cloth bags from BearPawCreek and used them to store instruments.  But I had one or two extra.  I put all my instruments into a bin and used the bag to scoop one up without the children being able to see what I was doing. Then, I played the instrument with my hands inside the bag and asked the kids to tell me what they heard.  We repeated the game for several common rhythm instruments and the class loved it!  We then followed up with a group instrumental song.

Good for the following skills: auditory discrimination, auditory memory, expressive language, attention span and focus.







This has been a blog by Margie La Bella of Music Therapy Tunes on the use of alternate

adaptive notation systems for children, adolescents, and adults who contend with

autism, add, adhd, down’s syndrome, down syndrome, ptsd, trauma, psychiatric issues,  learning disabilities, ld, cp, and all the rest of us. Thank you for reading.




I’ve been working on the Farm Yard / barn yard music therapy activity song for children (helps with vocalizing and vocal play.)

I asked my observation student, Anne Crean, to come up with an animal song. She said she tried to avoid “Old Mac Donald” and so adapted this song on her own. Great job “observing”, Anne!!

This song would work quite well with youngsters needing to discover and experiment with their voices and vocal abilities. Older tykes needing to associate animal sounds with animals and those needing experience in producing certain sounds (C-V, and CVCs) would also benefit from this one.

I’ve been working on the farm yard all the live long day.
D E7 A
I’ve been working on the farm yard to pass the time away.
A7 D G F#7 OR D7
Can’t you hear the cows all mooing; moo moo moo moo moooo.
G D A7 D
Can’t you hear the cows all mooing; moo moo moo moo mooo.

(Then- in place of “Dinah won’t you blow,” simply add in your own mooooosic and moo your heart out.)
Chords are:
D/D/G/G/A/A/D/D/ D/D/E/E/A7/A7/D//

Switch animals and related sounds until your group is all sung out.

TOP 10 THANKSGIVING music therapy SONGS for children (and adolescents and adults: see list at end!) by Margie La Bella of Music Therapy Tunes

Hi Everyone, Here’s my list. Working on getting all the links done – but I’ve been looking all over!  At the bottom is a great link of songs for young and older adults from Time Out New Yorker’s List

1. Thanksgiving Swing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1HYYhsxyOg 

2. Hi-ya Ho!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDFGo7h4R6w

3. With my Long Tail feathers –  via Sue Ribaudo on her Earth Celebration CD

4. Uncle Joe  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOX6hobaU8Q

5. Barnyard Boogie by Greg and Steve

6. Family by Laurie Berkner https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxJ3vegVOzc

7. It’s Thanksgiving by Nichole Westbrook https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGPxnYVjnD0

8. The 10 Days of Thanksgiving by Rachael Rambach https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EHbqVOqjpw

9. Turkey Time by harry kindergarten https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLCqoIDBroU

10. Move and Freeze

Bonus Link: 20 best Thanksgiving songs http://www.timeout.com/newyork/music/the-20-best-thanksgiving-songs














This has been a blog by Margie La Bella of Music Therapy Tunes on Thanksgiving Songs for  children, adolescents, and adults who contend with autism, add, adhd, down’s syndrome, down syndrome, ptsd, trauma, psychiatric issues,  learning disabilities, ld, cp, and all the rest of us on our journey. That about covers it. Thank you for reading.


TOP 10 (plus) HALLOWEEN Songs for music therapy and music education activities for children

My top ten Halloween Activity Songs

1. The Monster Hoedown (slowed considerably) I have a video explaining how to do that. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNir80Pj_hU
2. On Halloween Day on Halloween Night (changing some words depending on age group) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxXH-M3jIrQ
3. It’s a Halloween Party by Frank Ledo http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003HJAJYS/ref=dm_ws_sp_ps_dp
4. Spooky Loo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifjdkVrBlEI
5. The Dark Dark House (sometimes I change the last word Ghost to Toast to make it less scary for little folk.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4x7ewDWR6NQ&feature=player_embedded
6. Laurie Berkner’s Monster Boogie Song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gi33uHCI51E
7. Werewolves of London (It has a Sweet Home Alabama feel and is great for vocalization on “ooOOooo.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhSc8qVMjKM  Also good for the “ooOOOoos” is “Skin and Bones” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOhYGxg460k
8. Mr. Billy’s “His Name was Jack.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpq1544B2UA
9. Moving to Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRpzxKsSEZg
10. On Halloween Night by Peter Allard and Sesame Street’s Monster in the Mirror https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNMwRH5UGYY

****Bonus songs *****are my two Halloween Song videos with 6 songs total. Check out:




Lastly, here is a list of Timeout NY’s  TOP 20 Halloween Songs http://www.timeout.com/newyork/music/the-20-best-halloween-songs











This has been a blog by Margie La Bella of Music Therapy Tunes on Halloween songs for use with  children, adolescents, and adults who contend with autism, add, adhd, down’s syndrome, down syndrome, ptsd, trauma, psychiatric issues,  learning disabilities, ld, cp, and all the rest of us on our journey. That about covers us. Thank you for reading.

How to play a song by Ear aka: How to figure out the Chords by Margie La Bella of Music Therapy Tunes


This is a topic I’ve been very curious about and I’d love feedback from both trained and self-taught musicians, schooled, unschooled, classical, improv, other-taught etc

First of all, some people just have the “knack.” I started out on the clarinet at age 9 and played by ear two weeks later and was hooked.  Playing by sight is less natural and sometimes painful to me. People who can fluently do both may have it made in the shade.

Here are a few analogies that happen in my brain. I’d love to hear about yours. (No pun.)


In one way, it’s like walking. If I go into the spare bedroom, it’s a short walk and must be and is that way. The TV set is just further and to go there I have to cross a wide gap, but not as far as the garage.  It’s about mental placement.  Or it’s like sorting mail. The “A” letters go in this top pile because they just do.  The “Ms” go in the middle and they must. The “Qs” go a little further down the line.  Things have their place and they just must go there.  Spoons don’t go in the fork compartment.  Enough with that analogy.


Here’s how I approached picking out a chord progression from the radio before I took music theory.  Most songs just have patterns of chords. If a C goes to an F then a Dm, then there will probably be places where the same sequence of chords appears later in the song – –  Often over and over.  I guess my ear tried to pick out the bass notes and then used  the related chords (either major or minor); whichever the song sounded like. The Bass note is key here. The little bass decorative bass note runs are not in this mix. The louder, longer, more on (or nearest) the beat are the ones I’m talking about here. The bass line often plays the name of the chord.  A “G” chord will have a G bass note and so on.


After taking music theory and learning about I, IV,Vs and other chord progressions numerically, I saw the greater system.  This explained why Cs,F, and Gs were often together in songs just like As,Es, and Ds.  Most songs on the radio follow a 1,4,5,1 progression.  vi, VI, IV is also popular. Now, there are lots of  IV,V, vi,V in popular songs.


I’ll try to write about all those numbers later on.  But I don’t think in terms of numbers when listening to a song I want to figure out. I listen to the bass line. The introduction itself is like a little microcosm of the whole song. It usually contains both the majority of chords in the song and how they are strung together.

Once you have the intro figured out, most of the song will  be those very chords played over and over – or at least the chorus. Then you will have the sequence of verse-chords which stay pretty much the same from verse to verse.  Songs often have a “bridge” portion; that interest piquing different part after two verses that brings you back home to your beloved chorus.  Those chords may be different from the chorus or verses.


I sing along with the bass line then take it to the guitar or piano.   Those notes are usually played over and over and they often carry the (name of the ) chord. And that is your song.

Internet site song chords are often correct for the most part, but some leave a bit to be desired.  Try singing the bass notes to see if the chords are on the correct words and are based(!) on the correct note.  Fiddle around with some different related chords and that may bring the song to life for you.  Try using a chord from further on down the song.


[Shoot; that’s a whole other topic. How do you know when to even switch the chords if they are poorly placed on the screen? The new chord is often on the first beat of the measure or on the emphasized or longest word. Sometimes at the beginning of the sentence. On the word that the sound becomes different or moves. My ears just hear it. The color of the picture changes. Suddenly, there is a new shape, or texture.  One is a glass, one is a plate. Things just shift. How would YOU describe this?? Margie is curious! ]

If I’m really stumped by a chord I just find the bass note and play around with any chord containing that note.

I’d really like to hear how you all figure out melodies and chords. How do you get the job done??  What mental pictures can you sort of use to help explain your method?  Do you prefer reading or playing by ear?  And what do you use your music for/ to accomplish?

What’s your end result??  What technique do you use to improve your skills? And all that Jazz??  🙂




Submitted by Margie La Bella of music therapy tunes. com.

How to play songs by ear, playing by ear for musicians and “non-musicians” and is there such a thing, really…..