MTNA Conference: Monday Session: Engage the Brain: Cognitive Warm-up activities for effective music lessons





This presentation by Dorothy Yan was an interactive presentation on activities we can do with our students to wake up the brain so to speak. I wanted to get a hold of Dorothy before blogging about this presentation to see if she happened to have any video’s on the activities that she shared at the conference. But I haven’t had any luck. So hopefully you can visualize from my notes. I think if she hasn’t already, it would be awesome for her to make some video’s and share them on YouTube.

In Dalcroze, the body is first instrument. Rhythmic movement, ear training, vocal, physical and instrumental improv.

Mental game of sports- hitting is 50% + mental.

Teach-Practice-Teach method. (teach, practice, re-evaluate)

Keep verbal communication at a minimum for maximum results.

Repetition is Key.

Benefits of brain warm-ups- helps set goals early in the lesson; fully engage the students brain as soon as possible; establish a level of respect; inspire creativity.

Musical objectivities-







-Note Values

-Inner Pulse


-Subdivisions of beat


Thumb/Pointer activity– set a tempo on hand points, the other thumbs up then switch; then pick speed on metronome, then turn metronome off and then back on and see if they are where they left off.  Rhythm- do it to a particular rhythm.

X Marks the Spot– One hand beats fist on leg, the other hand rubs forward and backward with the other hand. Subdivisions of the beat- take right foot half notes, “x” hand is doing quarters, sliding hand is eighth notes, steady tempo. Mouth is saying 1&2&

Body Canon– stand up, leader starts taps a body part and says the body part and then we come in 2-4 beats behind and follow behind. Variation, the leader says wrong body part when tapping another- don’t say body part if it’s said wrong.

Canon, subdivisions of the beat, memory

If students lead- put metronome on.

Hip Hop– Uses circular clapping. Use word hip and hop. Hip means to go two times slower then beat, hop two times faster than beat.

Subdivisions of the beat, quick response, steady tempo

Variations- Tap hip hop rhythm on each other’s hand

Yes/No– Fun to do at beginning of lesson. Patterns, Focus, Quick Reactions. Yes or No questions. If answer is Yes, head will do the opposite.

Variation- switch it. Mouth says wrong answer but head does right answer.

Up/Down– similar concept to yes/no but pointing up and down. Can add rhythms.

These activities do not always have to be at the beginning of the lesson. Can be used as tools to “fix” something or refocus.

A1/B2– One hand motions and starts A, other hand does 1, then B…2, C…3

Patterns, steady tempo, rhythm patterns, subdivisions of the beat, concentration

Variations: Add random words like “white” things. A, 1, paper, B, 2, clouds, etc…..

Thumb Tappers- Tips of fingers (“donut holes”)

3 5 4 2 4 3 2 5 – tap in order, backwards

Variation– minus 1, plus 1 (5 stays the same)

Add rhythms underneath

Benefits of doing these activities with students: 




-Goal Setting

-Practice Intensity

-Self confidence

-Emotional control

-Personal Responsibility

1 Comment

  1. Alice

    You’re right, video would be really helpful!
    Thanks for sharing.


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