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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Boomwhackers in the Music Room

I love using Boomwhackers in my elementary music classes! Not only are they fun and accessible for even the youngest students to play, but they are a really helpful tool for exploring some key musical concepts that make them useful well into the upper grades. Today I want to share some of my favorite ways to use Boomwhackers in the elementary general music classroom. 

1. Melodic composition

Boomwhackers are a great tool for melodic composition in elementary music because students can use the color-coding of the notes to add pitch to rhythms. My favorite way to do this is with "solfege stickers"- adding stickers to the note heads in the colors that go with the Boomwhackers. The nice thing about that is there is no writing required, and if I want them to use a limited set of pitches (like the pentatonic scale, etc) then I just give them those colors. You can read more about how I make and use them in this post- it's super easy and so much fun!

Another way to use the colors to have students compose is with the Chrome Music Lab Song Maker. It's set up so you click on different squares to add pitches, and the colors match the Boomwhackers perfectly! This is a great way to get them practicing and experimenting with melodic composition, because there's no rhythm or traditional notation involved at all but they can hear the notes as they click them.

2. Practicing scale types

Boomwhackers are also a great way to reinforce different scales. I use them in my classes to teach pentatonic scales and minor scales- I find the visual is really helpful for many of my students to practice and understand which pitches go in what order when they use the Boomwhackers as a visual / manipulative to put together the scale. I'll give a small group of students a set with 1 of each diatonic pitch, and have them pick out the ones they need and put them in the correct order on the floor, and/or play a scale in order.

3. Practicing chords

I use Boomwhackers to introduce the concept of chords and help my students practice building triads to help them understand how to start with the root of the chord, then skip every other pitch to find the other two notes they need. They're also helpful for looking at chord functionality and "translating" between roman numerals and letter names of chords (in C major) because they can use the solfege and letter name labels to help them remember which is which.

4. Centers

Boomwhackers are perfect for centers because they are easy to play without supervision and they're not too loud. Sometimes I'll have students "notate" a melody using matching colored bingo chips (see picture) that they lay out on the floor, or notate in Chrome Music Lab and then play the song on the instruments. I've also printed out melodies from Chrome Music Lab for students to practice playing.

5. Play along videos

One of my go-to lessons on days when I know I can't continue with my normal sequenced curriculum for whatever reason is play-along videos. They're a great way to keep students engaged and mix things up while keeping it low-key, and it's still a valuable musical experience! I use the diatonic play-alongs by Musication on YouTube, but there are plenty more options for play-along videos around, especially if you have chromatics in your room!

I hope you find some new ideas to use in your music classes here, and if I missed any of your favorites, please share them in the comments below! If you love Boomwhackers as much as I do but hate trying to keep them organized, be sure to check out my previous post where I shared my storage solutions. If you're looking for tips and lesson ideas for teaching other instruments, like ukulele, recorder, keyboards, xylophones, and more, head to this post:


  1. How many Boomwhackers do you have in your classroom (compared to the average number of students in your classes who use them)? I have some funds to spend this year and have never had Boomwhackers, so I thought they might be fun to add... I just want to make sure I get a reasonable number for students to use (but also to store easily!)

    1. I have six octave sets for an average class size of 20-25. I find having an octave for every 3-4 students is a good amount for the way I use them.

  2. Do you use the chromatic set and if so, how do you store them? Do you talk about what they are?

    1. I actually just ordered the chromatics this summer so I will have them hopefully soon! :) But I will probably only pull them out if and when I need them- most of the time the diatonic notes are all we need. I mainly decided to get the chromatics for 1) play-along's, and 2) working with chords with my 6th graders. I don't get into what they are too much other than to show them the black and white keys on the piano and talk about how to raise the third to switch from minor to major.