1-handed Recorder for a Beginner?

I was recently asked if I could suggest an instrument to enable a 1-handed child to join a beginner recorder class and thought my reply might be helpful to others:

Lovely to hear about your young would-be recorder player! The good news is that there are 1-handed recorders available and, depending on the child’s disability, may not be strictly necessary but there’s quite a bit of bad news too!

A 1-handed recorder makes all the notes available by adding keywork that can be raised and lowered using just the fingers of the available hand. This means that, once the notes played with just one hand have been mastered, the player must use a totally different system of fingering (ands this varies from one manufacturer to another). The teacher taking a class of players using normal fingering would not know this system and would have to familiarise themself with it without the benefit of having learned the new instrument. Of course, this would be eased by the class only needing to learn one new note at a time. The more complex system of fingering is also challenging for the child and may be beyond her if she has learning difficulties. A child with cerebral palsy is likely to have poor finger control and coordination, adding to the problems.

Although, I have taught a player on two different systems of 1-handed plastic recorder, I am unable to track down either of them at the moment. One was manufactured by Yamaha but there is nothing about 1-handed models on either their global or USA sites. You’d have to contact them directly to enquire. I believe Aulos also do one but, again, I can’t locate a supplier. Quality wooden instruments are available but expensive (over 600 US Dollars) and I wouldn’t recommend such an investment at this stage. There is an Aulos instrument in six sections (as opposed to the customary three) that can be customised to the needs of a player who has 6 digits available between the two hands. This is available from an American source at  http://www.rhythmband.com

Again, the cooperation of the teacher would be required to set it up.

If the child can use all the fingers and thumb on one hand, the first five notes can be played on a standard recorder and I would suggest getting one of these, very modestly-priced instruments to see how she gets on. Simple music for this stage is available in pdf format from the Full Pitcher at


These start with reminders of the written notes, warm-ups and tunes for just the first two note. Using these she could get in the extra practice and home support, likely to be needed by a child with special needs.

Do let me know how you get on and get back to me if you have further queries.


New Year, New Beginners – New Music?

Not a few people will be the delighted recipients of new musical instruments as Christmas presents. For beginners, it’s the start of a great new journey and they can’t wait to set off and it’s a joy and privilege for teachers to set them on their way! The first few weeks are not without anxieties for teachers, though, as the pupils discover that there is very little instant gratification in playing a musical instrument. While the pupil can play only 2 or 3 notes, the only available tunes are likely to be in the chosen method book. This is fine for the pupil who can sail quickly through the early lessons but it can be a problem when reinforcement is not only desirable but necessary before proceeding to the next step. This is where the Full Pitcher beginner downloads can come in very useful. The “…. Start Here” series is available for Recorder, Flute, Clarinet, Violin and Cello. Each download has warm-up exercises and several tunes, the first using just 2 notes. They are in pdf format and can be displayed on screen for class use or as many copies printed as are required. Piano accompaniments are also available. Unlike many beginner pieces, though, these do not have the main interest confined to the teacher’s part! The scores can be listened to online and, in some cases, there is also audio of accompaniments only, “minus-one” style.

Have a great journey!

Singing Rounds in the Classroom

Singing rounds is a simple, accessible activity which provides opportunities for a wealth of musical learning and development. It is an easy introduction to the highly satisfying experience of singing in harmony. The only thing that holds back some teachers and their classes is the lack of strong leaders to aid beginners in holding their part. Since the advent of music technology with multitrack recording , though, backing tracks are available with each voice part played by a separate instrument, or group of instruments, so providing strong support for each part.

Singing in parts isn’t the only way to make use of rounds in class, though. Rounds, by their very nature, are built on very few  chords and, often, only a single chord. This means they can effectively be accompanied by short repeated phrases on a voice or instrument. Quite young children will soon learn to sing the melody over one of these repeated patterns, technically termed an ostinato (‘obstinate’) pattern. As they progress, pupils may be able to manage two, or more, of these accompaniment patterns. This is an easier experience of singing in harmony than singing the entire melody in parts. Special needs pupils, unable to learn the whole melody, may be able to sing, or play, a short ostinato.

Rounds also afford many opportunities for creative involvement including:

  • choosing an instrumental sound for an ostinato which will enhance the mood of the song
  • rearranging the sequence of phrases to create a new piece
  • improvising an ostinato, or even a whole new melody, on the notes of the chord
  • varying the sequence in which instrumental parts enter to create new orchestrations
  • composing an introduction section before the main melody enters.

Some years ago, when Becta’s Teachers Resouce Exchange was in operation, I uploaded two resources based on “A Bell Round”. This is the same tune used in “A Christmas Round” but with different lyrics. Level 1 was intended for use at Key Stage 1 and Level 2 at Key Stage 2. The resources comprised sheet music PDFs and MIDI files, describing a range of activities Now that, sad to say,  TRE is no more, I have adapted the resources to this site and they can be found at http://www.fullpitcher.co.uk/COL_ks1.htm and http://www.fullpitcher.co.uk/COL_ks2.htm. Music and lyrics  for “A Christmas Round”, and several others, can be downloaded at http://www.fullpitcher.co.uk/PDFMusic.htm.

See also: http://fullpitcher.co.uk/SingTogetherKP.htm

Music Resources for Special Needs Groups

I describe myself as a teacher and facilitator but, in reality, all teachers are facilitators: we try to make pupils aware of, and develop confidence in, their abilities: to enable them to do what they can do. Over the years, as a freelance teacher and independent educational consultant, I’ve been asked to adapt my ideas and resources to many special needs situations. I’ve been approached by carers and teachers who believe passionately in the value of music to those in their care but they seldom dream that they, themselves, can provide such musical experiences.

Often working alone, without an accompanist, I turned to technology to fulfil the latter role so that I could engage fully with the participants. Soon, the amazingly versatile ‘MIDIgrid’ software, developed at York University, became an essential resource. This is ‘content-free’ software, something like a word-processing and presentation package for music. I found that, in addition to providing speedy access to customised backing tracks for the sessions, I was able to use the software to create virtual instruments which could be played with a range of special access devices. Having established a computer-based system with resources that had proven their worth in a range of situations, I saw that this was a way in which I might enable carers to run their own sessions. In 2005, York University created GridPlay, the Full Pitcher’s read-only version of the software, which I could distribute with my resource packs.

Mindful that making provision for someone with a disability is a very individual matter, the special needs resources were offered as a customised, created to order, product. This, however, has proved a bit daunting to many who don’t really know where to start. So, our new GridPlay for Carers/Teachers takes a different approach: the package includes the most generally useful resources, with unlimited post-sales support and customisation. Also included is a 43-page e-book, with ideas for using the grids, sheet music for several original songs and suggestions for initiating and sustaining music sessions for people with profound disabilities. Hopefully, this package will enable many more carers and teachers to make music with those in their care. At a time when it is increasingly difficult to find the funds to buy in specialist provision, this will, hopefully, be ‘half a loaf’ for many who would otherwise go without bread. See:  http://www.fullpitcher.co.uk/softwareSN.htm

Grids from the GridPlay resource packs can be loaded into the parent program and, in the latter, users can create and save their own customised versions of the grids. In this way, teachers can create grids set up for different methods of access and can also save recordings made by pupils playing the virtual instruments.

Easy Ensemble Music in the Classroom

An exciting aspect of music teaching is that of introducing diverse people to a shared heritage that each can enjoy and recreate in their own way! Thus, one of the first resources I wanted to make available when I set up the Full Pitcher website was a collection of arrangements that had enabled me to facilitate music groups made up of players of hugely different musical and technical skills, where the composition of a group was subject to change from week to week. Although the basic arrangements stayed the same, parts were frequently customised to the needs of individuals. The core arrangements I made available as Easy/Classroom Ensembles and Flexible Ensembles. For the website, many easy pieces were standardised to meet the needs of classes at Key stages 2 an 3. In my own sessions, group members, who were able to do so, were given the freedom to elaborate their parts, or I adapted them, and I frequently introduced improvisational activities which allowed everyone to contribute at their own level. Ideas for this kind of creative work with beginners  can be downloaded from the Easy/Classroom Ensembles page.

For the first few years, sheet music downloads were in the format of Sibelius ‘Scorch’ files, which meant that users could preview the written music and could transpose parts to any key before downloading. This had all the flexibility I wanted to offer but proved prohibitively expensive to run!  It also meant peoples had to install special software and many found it confusing. I came to actually dread selling a score, anticipating the support that might be required! In 2006, I moved the site to a new hosting platform, where I could make the playback available in Flash audio, which is compatible with the vast majority of browsers and could sell PDF sheet music downloads. It isn’t currently practicable, or economically sensible, to offer parts in every transposition but, if what you need is not available on-site, the custom-print service will make a custom set of parts available at very reasonable cost. Printed Packs for the classroom ensembles, with multiple copies of parts for C, Bb and Eb instruments can be found at Packs: Easy/Classroom Ensembles

Happily, few teachers will have to cope with the the enormous range of ability and floating populations that characterised my community workshops, but all could surely benefit from having a few really flexible pieces up their sleeve for when things don’t go to plan! :>)

Special Needs: Starting the Session

Setting the scene is important in any music session and in the classroom or rehearsal  space this usually begins non-verbally with the arrangement of the furniture that greets participants when they enter the ‘music space’.  If the session is taking place in the general living area, there may be limited scope for rearranging the physical setup but it’s vital that the the music leader should be able to get close to each participant and make eye contact. The best arrangement is to seat them in a semi-circle around the leader and/ or accompanist. Anyone who needs a wheelchair tray or small table to support an instrument or switch should have this in position, ready to receive an instrument at the appropriate time.

When sessions take place in the living space, televisions, music-players, etc., should be switched off well before the session. In this ‘quiet time’, attention will be engaged by watching the leader set up for the session. When the moment to begin finally arrives, the air of expectancy may be further enhanced by the leader playing a very quiet and simple tune on melody instrument, whilst endeavouring to make eye contact, or singing a song such as “Something Is Going To Happen”, written by Clive Robbins and Paul Nordoff, expressly for this purpose.

‘Gathering’ songs further secure the engagement and will pay dividends later in the session by focusing attention. This is particularly true of those which elicit both a verbal response and physical activity, such as tapping an instrument, clapping hands or raising arms.

See Living My Song Specials to download  sheet music and listen to two examples. You can also see the lyrics and listen to the music of “Come On, Everybody, It’s Music Time!” by clicking here.

Update 23/9/2914:  (The music of the latter song is the same as for “Come on, Everybody, Let’s Sing God’s Praise! which is a free pdf download on the Sacred Music page)

Interacting With Other Users

I was absolutely delighted that one user responded to the “Welcome” post saying “It’s really exciting to “hook-up” with other folks who are enabling all kinds of individuals to make music.” This is what I hope so much to facilitate through this blog and what I tried to initiate through the Full Pitcher Forums.

Ours is a large website and it occurs to me that many of you may have missed the links to the forums, which cover areas of interest identified by subscribers to the newsletter which this blog replaces. so, I have created a permanent page on the blog, “Discussions“, which explains the rationale behind the forums with a link to each one.

I hope, of course, that many more people will participate by commenting on posts, here on the blog, and on other people’s comments. When you post a comment here, your email address is not published but your comment is public. If you wish to communicate more widely with other users, you can do this by subscribing to the forums, where members can opt to send and receive private messages from other subscribers, in addition to posting publicly. There is also a ‘live-chat’  facility (limited to 3 subscribers at any one time).

I look forward to some lively discussions!

Family Music-Making With Our Resources

Activities shared by the whole family are the stuff of precious memories. And creative activities, in particular, are a potent way to build a strong family, or group, identity.

Computers have often been blamed for causing fragmentation in family life and encouraging children to spend long periods in isolation. But computers don’t have to be isolating. Today, there are many interactive applications that can simultaneously engage the interest of users with very different levels of knowledge and skill. Our GridPlay Level 1 software is a good example. This is not intended to be used by a solitary child, focused on the computer but as a shared activity in the home, playgroup or classroom, as we explain in “Using GridPlay with Young or Disabled Children

On this site, we make suggestions for using our online music scores as the focus of activities shared by groups of mixed age and ability. One, of many examples, is the arrangement, ‘One Man Went to Mow’, on the Summer Music page. In this, the written parts are for experienced instrumentalists. However, the very simple tune of the song can be substituted for any of these parts. It is an easy song to sing and there are suggestions for involving a very young, or disabled child. There are similar family-fun pages for Spring, Autumn and  Christmas seasons. See: Miscellaneous Scores.

Most of our music is flexibly arranged, with optional parts suitable for beginners and for the basic instruments most likely to be available.Experienced players and beginners can each contribute at their own level. Parents may be surprised at the amount of practice their children will put in on music used in this manner!

Suggestions are often made about ‘how to improvise with this piece’. Sometimes a lot of mystique surrounds the improvisation of music and people often think it requires lots of skills they couldn’t hope to have! In truth, it is a very natural thing to do. We do it all the time in various aspects of our daily lives and music is, really no different. It has been said that all we need to improvise is ‘the courage to move from one note to the next’. What better way is there to develop the confidence and self-trust, necessary to explore,  than learning to improvise in the accepting and sharing environment of the family circle?

Families with disabled members should be aware of our custom arrange & print service. We are very happy to supply custom-arranged prints to meet the needs of would-be musicians with disabilities that prevent the playing of conventional instruments, or who must play them in unconventional ways.

We want our family resources to be accessible for all so, if you need something different, please ask.

Improvisation Resources for the Classroom

Good news for the creative classroom! From the end of September the Get Creative! teachers’ notes, providing lots of activities based on music included in our Easy Ensembles series, are available as free PDF downloads.

The activities are presented in the notes in a way we felt would be most useful for teachers at key stages 2 and 3. However, we have used both the ensembles and the activities across a wide age range. No doubt instrumental teachers and would-be improvisers will see how they might be adapted to their own situations.

The pieces are:
Anon: The Carnival of Venice
Anon: Portsmouth
Handel: Minuet II from Music for the Royal Fireworks
Schubert: A German Dance

You will find them at:

Welcome to the new blog!

Welcome to the our new blog, where we will post news and resources geared to the interests of all our user groups. Many of you have registered an interest in one or more of the following areas:
Instrumental Teaching, Classroom Teaching, Special Needs, Improvisation, Kids’ Pages

We will update this blog, rather than communicating with the interest groups via email. You will be able to subscribe to the blog to receive an email when a new post is added and we can have two-way communication, as you can comment on posts.

I look forward to meeting with you through the blog!

Audrey Podmore
(The face behind The Full Pitcher Music Resources)