Your Go-To Guide for Using Boomwhackers With Your Choir

Your Go-To Guide for Using Boomwhackers With Your Choir-35.png

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Looking for a fun way to reinforce rhythm and steady beat, play melodies, and introduce harmony to your children’s choir?

Let me introduce you to Boomwhackers.

Boomwhackers are great for older elementary choirs, though they can be used in certain circumstances with younger elementary choirs.

Here are a few ways you can use them in your rehearsals:

  • Rhythm games: give each child a different rhythm pattern to play, then have them rotate.
  • Learning rhythm patterns: echoing back patterns they hear and improvising their own.
  • Learning chords and accompanying familiar songs or hymns
  • Listening and keeping the steady beat: play a recording of something and have the children play along, keeping the steady beat. For an extra challenge, choose something that doesn't stay in one tempo!
  • Learning solfege and playing tonal patterns: echoing back patterns they hear and improvising their own.
  • Experimenting with different sounds and patterns 

For more game and activity ideas, see this post: Fun, Easy Gathering Activities for Children’s Choir

But, before I get too far ahead of myself, let me go over a few basics:


What are Boomwhackers?

First of all, what are Boomwhackers, exactly? For those of you who may be wondering, Boomwhackers are color-coded, plastic percussion tubes, tuned to musical pitches. They come in various lengths and colors - the longer the tube, the lower the pitch.

Boomwhacker colors-36.png

The colors are as follows:

C = Red
D = Orange
E = Yellow
F = Green
G = Teal
A = Indigo
B = Violet

The chromatic notes (e.g. C#/Db, D#/Eb, F#/Gb, G#/Ab, A#/Bb) are slightly different shades, so you can tell them apart from the diatonic notes. The pitch names are written on the outside of the tube.

Conveniently, these colors match the colors of the metal children’s handbells, so if you already have some resources for those, feel free to mix and match. You can also use handbells and Boomwhackers together, if you have both. The handbells work well for melodies and Boomwhackers can create a soft chordal accompaniment underneath.

Related post: How to Start a Children’s Handbell Choir


How to Play Boomwhackers

Boomwhackers create sound when struck against another surface. Hold the tube in one hand and tap it on your open palm. Tap two together, or tap one on your head or shoulders or knees. Tap it on the floor, a table, or the seat of a chair. Be careful not to tap it on a sharp surface, as this can damage the outside of the tube. You can also lay the tube flat on the ground or tabletop and tap on it with a small rubber mallet.

Here is a brief demonstration video showing five different ways to play Boomwhackers (including a few you may not have thought of!).


Supplies

You don't need much to get started playing Boomwhackers (besides the instruments themselves, of course!), but here are some helpful supplies and materials you might consider adding to your list:

If you don't already own a set of Boomwhackers, you can purchase them through Amazon. Here's a link to a basic C Major Diatonic Set, which includes the eight notes of the C major scale (Middle C through Treble C). Depending on how many children you have in your choir, you may want to have two sets.

The basic diatonic set is great for starting out and playing pentatonic melodies or simple songs in the key of C major (though, the melodies must lie within the octave). For songs with a slightly larger range, any chromatic notes, or songs written in another key that you don't feel like transposing, the Chromatic Set comes in handy. This set includes the five black keys (C#/Db, D#/Eb, F#/Gb, G#/Ab, and A#/Bb). This is especially useful for chord-playing when playing in keys other than C major.

Add some pitch variety to your Boomwhackers by adding these Octavator Tube Caps - small plastic caps that fit on the end of each tube to create a pitch that sounds an octave lower. This is great if you have more than one of the diatonic sets: use the caps on one set so the duplicate pitches are an octave apart instead of doubled at the unison.

 

If you don't have a whiteboard in your rehearsal space, or you want to be able to write out songs or rhythm charts once and use them again in rehearsal later I recommend getting a few Post-It Super Sticky Easel Pads. This is a handy way to store your charts and reference them again and again, plus you can carry them with you into the sanctuary and hide them in front of the first pew, if the children need to see it as they play.

 

Use these large (2") stickers to create noteheads on your music charts so the children can follow along with the music and keep track of when they play, based on color.

 

Another idea is to use these small (3/4") stickers to make short tonal pattern flashcards, compose your own song together, notate chords with an existing melody, mark a child’s individual copy of music, or notate a short, simply melody for everyone to read together.

Looking for an alternative to buying multiple sets of Boomwhackers for your choir? Here’s a video and free PDF printable showing you how you can make your own pitched percussion tubes using plastic fluorescent light covers from your local hardware store.


Games & Activities

There are lots of great games you can play and activities you can do with Boomwhackers to illustrate and reinforce musical concepts in your children's choir rehearsals. Here are a few to get you started:

Toreador’s Boomwhackers

Geared toward older elementary children, here’s a free printable and play-along video by Growing in Grace to accompany the “Toreador Song” from George Bizet's Carmen.

Pass the Rhythm

A simple circle game involving a set of rhythm pattern cards and a few Boomwhackers. See how it’s done in this demonstration video.

In the Hall of the Mountain King

This song is always a favorite because it gets faster and faster at the end (a great way to introduce the concept of tempo and accelerando!). Have your children play along with this video as a gathering activity before choir.

Rhythm Games

Try a simple call-and-response activity with various rhythm patterns, use rhythm pattern cards (like these) to have your children practice reading rhythms on their own or composing their own series, or chant (and tap with Boomwhackers) a recurring rhythm in the context of a story or familiar song.

See these posts for more rhythm game ideas: Tried-and-True Rhythm Games: Part I and Tried-and-True Rhythm Games: Part II

Solfege Cards

Introduce solfege to your choir with these free printable cards, color-coded to match Boomwhackers.


Music

Depending on the age and level of your choir, you may want to look for (or create) music notation that is color-coded, so the noteheads match the color of the Boomwhackers. Here are a few resources to check out:

Color-Coded Music Resources

Planning Resources

Other Resources & Materials


In summary, Boomwhackers are a great way to introduce movement and instrument-playing into your children's choir rehearsals, plus they help reinforce the concepts of steady beat and rhythm patterns, tonal patterns, chords, and harmony (win-win-win).

Do you use Boomwhackers with your choir? What are your go-to resources?