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.

“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…..

Dinosaur Dance “Walk the Dinosaur” music therapy & ed movement routine performance song for children and older children by Margie La Bella of music therapy tunes

Everybody walk the Dinosaur

-Age: preschool and up

-Goal Area:  attention, sequencing, memory, impulse control, fun, left right concepts, and left – right brain hemisphere stimulation.

-Objective: Folks will follow  the movement sequence of the dance/movment routine.

-Materials: Accompanying instrument, group, possible recording of song

-Method: Sing – demonstrate – do.  Our kids gravitated to the drumsticks playing the Boom chacka lacka. They got a kick out the words, as well. The topic is HOT with kids.  The verse’s movements are repetitive.  The chorus took time. For quite a while we just opened the door. They we spoke about all the silliness of walking a dinosaur. After that class we opened our “doors” and walked our pet dinos. Some time later, we were able to stamp on the floor as well. Some of the kids could do it, some couldn’t but it didn’t matter.  I actually had a class of  older 3’s perform this for their parents at graduation.  Old kids can jazz it up and make it more “current.”

-Adaptations: Slow the song down, adapt the motions to be more or less physical depending on your kids, your goals, and the purpose of the song.  Ours was to perform at graduation. Lots of programs have a dinosaur unit at one time or another.

-Submitted by: Margie La Bella of music therapy tunes.

-Melody and one version of routine with young children:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Or0-bwKowA

-Composer:Apparently, the original lyrics are not very child friendly. Luckily, Queen Latifa did her magic in “Ice Age 3” the movie. The original song was written by the band “Was, not Was” in 198

The recorded song moves quickly and has a bit of a repetitive verse.  I used some free programs (Audacity) to slow the entire song down and cut out one chorus at the end.

Here’s my video one  on how to do that.


Lyrics to Walk The Dinosaur 

Boom boom acka-lacka lacka boom

Boom boom acka-lacka boom boom
Boom boom acka-lacka lacka boom
Boom boom acka-lacka boom boom


(We do this song seated. You can certainly stand if you want. Our group imitated the kids in the video and played air-drums twice then gave a hip shake for the acka-lacka booms.)

It was a night like this forty million years ago
I said I’ll be your friend, I go wherever you go
I heard the sound of drums
Didn’t know they where from
Wherever i was it started to buzz
And know I’m having fun

.  .  .  .

.  .. .. ..
(For this verse, we did “rainbow claps;” by clapping with both hands on the left side of the body, arching the right hand back to the right side then bringing the left hand to meet it and so ending with clapping both hands on the right side of the body.  Then visa versa.I’ll word it nice and sanely- – clap on one side, make the rainbow and then clap on the other side. )
Everybody walk the dinosaur (Both hands on the right side like dinosaur claws.)
You can do it, do the dinosaur (Both hands on the left side like dinosaur claws.)
Put your back into it, do the dinosaur (Claws on the right.)
they’ll be shocked, do the dinosaur (Claws on the left.)


Open the door, get on the floor ( Pretend to open a door, stamp your feet 3x)
Everybody walk the dinosaur (Pretend to walk your dino like a huge dog.)
Open the door, get on the floor (Repeat…..)
Everybody walk the dinosaur


Boom boom acka-lacka boom boom….


I met you in a cave, you were painting buffalo
I said I’d be your friend, I go wherever you go
That night we split a rattlesnake and danced beneath the stars
You fell asleep, I stayed awake and watched the passing cars.

(During the second verse, we clap our hands under one leg and then the other throughout.)


Each part is done the same for each repetition. If you use the music track, there is an instrumental portion during which we made faces and postures like 4 different dinosaurs)

Open the door, get on the floor…….

Everybody walk the dinosaur
Open the door, get on the floor
Everybody walk the dinosaur
Open the door get on the floor
Everybody walk the dinosaur
Open the door, get on the floor
Everybody walk the dinosaur

Boom boom acka-lacka lacka boom
Boom boom acka-lacka boom boom
Boom boom acka-lacka lacka boom
Boom boom acka-lacka boom boom

“When I’m Gone” Cup Song: 8 music therapy and ed variations for use with preschoolers, kindergarten, and teens and adults.

The Cup Song post
1- intro
2.- cup pattern method
3. words and chords
4. variations with differing populations
-Age: Various ages
-Goal Area: A variety of goals including coordination, sequencing, memory, frustration tolerance,
fine motor skills, creativity, cooperation, leadership, problem solving, lyrics discussion and many more.
-Name of Activity: “When I’m Gone” aka: the Cup Song featured in the move “Pitch Perfect.”  the song was written by A.P. Carter and is most recently sung by Anna kendrick.
-Objective:  Some objectives are written below
-Materials: Cups, music, and participants
– Medody: see this video:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26Uftr-jWz4
Lyrics and chords:
How to do the motions: a) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bqjTVGnlBg
The rhythm of the cups sounds like this: ta ta ti ti ti (rest) ta ta ta.
Ta ta ta ta ta ta ta
How to Do the basic pattern:
Start with glass up side down
1. 2 claps (tat a)
2. hit top of cup 3x (ti ti ti)
3. clap once
4. pick up the cup (from the bottom, which is face up)
5. put it back down.
6. clap once
7. pick up the side of the cup – grabbing it (awkwardly) with your hand “upside” down.
8. tap the top of the cup to the inside of the other hand.
9. stand the cup right side up.
10. pick it back up silently with the other hand.
11. put the first hand down on the table.
12. put the cup back into position with your free hand, cross it over your resting hand.


Here is a trickier way b) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5zuY4Nprk0, I don’t do it this way bc I already spent 500 tries learning the first way. My personal goal now is to sing and use the cups together.
I got my ticket for the long way ’round
Am                            C
Two bottle ‘a whiskey for the way
F                          Am
And I sure would like some sweet company
G                                   C
And I’m leaving tomorrow, wha-do-ya say’
CHORUS —————————————–
When I’m gone
When I’m gone
C                             G
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone
Am                  G
You’re gonna miss me by my hair
F                  C
You’re gonna miss me everywhere, oh
G                             C
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone
I’ve got my ticket for the long way ’round
Am                            C
The one with the prettiest of views
F                   Am               C
It’s got mountains, it’s got rivers, it’s got sights to give you shivers
G                                  C
But it sure would be prettier with you
CHORUS —————————————–
When I’m gone
When I’m gone
C                             G
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone
Am                  G
You’re gonna miss me by my walk
F                   C
You’re gonna miss me by my talk, oh
G                             C
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone


Play song with or without the video. Have kids just invent ways to make interesting sounds on their cups. (creativity, problem solving, attention to ask….)

Have sub-groups of children come up and experiment with creating sounds.Have the children come up and take turns leading one method of sound production of their cup. The group imitates. (social skills, cooperation, compliance, leadership, relinquishing roles……)

Invite the group to create their own 2,3,4 etc. step patterns. How many steps can they create, remember and perform? (memory, sequencing, creativity, cooperation…..)

Have the group invent ways to pass the cups among members as part of their routine.  Video of passing cups: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lr0FLbg7CRI   You could always just alternate between who plays their cups and who rests for a time. (focus, turn taking, cooperation, dealing with mistakes….)

Have the groups pass their cups to the person on their right or left only when they hear the word “gone.” (attention span, focus…..)

Of course there are some good discussions that can come about as a result of relating the lyrics to the people’s lives. This song could be about the loss of a loved one (or not-so-loved one) , appreciating aspects of  people in your life, and other related topics.  If you think your group could go deep on this song, be sure you feel comfortable processing feelings or have a support person there.  Play out your feelings.  Re-write the lyrics individually or as a group. ( verbal and non-verbal self expression, processing of emotions…….)

Please let me know how YOU use this song and activity with the people in your life.


Submitted by Margie La Bella of Music therapy tunes; music therapy and music education activities for children, adolescents and adults.

Pete the Cat: Make you own music therapy video! Great for Literacy, language, teamwork activity idea / lesson plan

Hi friends:

I found this video on youtube and think it is amazing idea!  Create your own Pete the Cat Video with your class IF and WHEN proper consent is given by the appropriate personnel. I work with little tykes so I love this version.   http://youtu.be/0qjOVw-v3d4

Here’s another one: http://youtu.be/stJTVOZh8X8

And this is an Orff presentation with older students: http://youtu.be/uRaatxumTFo

Goals of this activity would include:

1. Language Skills.

2.  Attention, focus, and cooperation.

3. Memory.

4. Self-control (impulse control)

5. Pre- literacy / Literacy

6. Multiple Concepts (colors, numbers, vocabulary, etc.)

7. What do you come up with?  Are there other stories you could use in an activity like this one? Let me know.  🙂

5 More Graduation Songs for preschool through elementary aged children. For music therapy, music education, and beyond.

Hi everyone. Here are 5 more songs that are good for graduation and moving up ceremonies.

The original list of 20 great graduation songs for kids is right here at https://www.musictherapytunes.com/wp/?p=1343

1. Roar by Katy Perry: If you feel the lyrics are a bit too mature, feel free to adapt.  Haven’t used this song yet, but the chorus is appealing to kids.  I  imagine that motions can be ascribed to at least the chorus.   http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/k/katy_perry/roar_crd.htm

2. Happy: http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/p/pharrell_williams/happy_crd.htm

3. Walk the dinosaur: Cute routine and good teachable song chorus:


4. Pete the Cat songs:Free mp3s of each song and story at http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com/feature/petethecat  You can even try making your own Pete the Cat’s Rockin’ in my School Shoes video featuring pictures and/or video of your students. IF you do that: get appropriate parental and school permission and related signed forms!

Ready for a Whole New World  Good lyric content for Kindergarten graduation.  Words may be tricky but can be modified.    http://youtu.be/Q5735xfDc30


This has been a blog by Margie La Bella of Music Therapy Tunes on 5 more songs appropriate for graduation ceremonies 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. Thank you for reading.