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Ellen’s Tube Tips #1

One day a kid phoned Whacky Music and just happened to reach Craig Ramsell, inventor of the tubes. The boy said, “I’ve got this thing in my hand called a Boomwhacker, but I don’t know what to do with it.” Craig thought maybe the boy was waving it in the air, and since it wasn’t making contact with anything, it wasn’t making any sound. Craig said, ”You have it in your hand, right?” When the boy said, “yeah,” Craig told him to hit the tube on his other hand. Craig heard a little “boop” on the other end, and the boy just said, “Okay, thanks,” and hung up.

It’s this very simplicity that has made the tubes such a popular musical instrument in such a short time. Although whacking them on your hand is, indeed, all you have to do to make a sound, here are some other possibilities.

Floor techniques : Sit on the floor. While holding the tube in the middle, hit it flat on the floor. The type of surface will make a big difference in the sound. On carpet the pitch is soft and mellow while on concrete or wood the impact sound is louder and brighter. The floor is a great place to work with younger children. Have everyone sit with their legs stretched out toward the middle of the circle and play the tubes on their shoes.

A tube with an Octavator™ Cap on it can be played by stamping the capped end on the floor. This can be an effective method for performance. Again, the type of surface makes a difference in the sound of a stamping tube. To soften the sound on a hard surface, tape a piece of felt to the cap with double-stick tape.

Body Percussion gains a whole new realm of pitch with the tubes. Anywhere from head to toe, the body is a great resonating chamber. Legs, hips, shoulders, backs and shoes can all get in on the act now. Caution: Stay in your own body space. Your neighbor is off limits! Please use common sense if you choose to whack your own body.

Tremolo: A tremolo is a way to create a sustained sound for a longer-held note, like a half note. Hold your left hand a few inches from your left thigh. Holding the tube horizontally in your right hand, hit the end of the tube rapidly back and forth between your left hand and your leg. Switch sides if you’re left handed. You can also tremolo between your shoes or between your hand and the floor or the back of a chair.


Ellen’s Tube Tips #2

Color Signals & Ways to Use Them

The Boomalong™ Color Signals and Notation Cards, which are free on this website for you to print, have a variety of uses for teaching and playing music at all age levels. Laminate them or put them in page protectors. Put them back-to-back to make them reversible.

For the very youngest children, use single-color Signals. Stand the cards up in front of the board or attach them to the board or wall with sticky tack or tape. Using multiple copies as needed, spell out a simple tune for them to play, such as Rain,Rain: GEGGE, GGEAGGE, or Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star: CCGGAAG, FFEEDDC. To show that a note is held longer, leave extra space after that card. Place the Signals higher or lower as the notes would appear on the staff. This introduces the concepts involved in reading music. As you point to each Signal, the students with that color play their tube. See our Building Blocks™ books for more songs using this method. You can see some samples on the Educational Materials page under Product Info.

Color Signals can be lined up horizontally for melodic playing or vertically for harmonic playing. The open 5ths or triad cards can be used to lead chordal accompaniment to songs. As older students begin learning to read notation, use the Notation Cards instead of Color Signals to show the position of notes on the treble staff. These can also be used as flashcards for learning notation.

Try this activity: Give a small group an assortment of Notation Cards and let them work out the notes of a simple song, like Mary Had a Little Lamb. They could lay them on a table or put them up on the board. Once they have the song figured out, let them add harmony with single notes or chords below the melody. Then they can play their arrangement for the rest of the class.

To lead a group of any size in playing harmony or chords with a song, hold up the appropriate card and move it up and down to the beat that you want them to play. Whoever has the colors on that card, whacks along. If you are leading a song that requires handling more than two cards, cut a piece of cardboard big enough to hold the number of cards required. Tape on page protectors so the cards can be slipped in and changed for other songs. You can hold the cardboard or mount it where it is visible to all. Point to the chords with a pointer or tube, tapping the rhythm for the tubes to play.

Ellen’s Tube Tips #3

Music Activity Center

An Activity Center contains special games, books or equipment that individual children can use on their own for creative learning play. Time allowed at the activity center can be a reward for good behavior or for completing work early. This is also perfect for a home schooling music center.

The XyloTote™ Tube Holder provides a way to play the tubes with mallets, like a xylophone. Here are some ideas for an activity center using the tube holder with tubes, also called a Boomophone™.

  • A table space big enough to hold the Boomophone.
  • A tray, easel, music stand or some kind of holder for music pages. You could make your own tray from cardboard.
  • Some of the songs from the Building Blocks™ books laminated together to stand in the tray or attach to the wall.
  • An assortment of Mini Color Signals they can put in any order to play. They are available to download free on this website. Print them on cardstock and laminate them to make them last longer.
  • Children can play songs by color from the Building Blocks pages or compose their own music using the Mini Color Signals.
Some moveable Sticky Tack or Blu-Tack can be used to attach Mini Color Signals to a board or wall behind the Boomophone for composing or copying music. This adds the dimension of vertical positions for the notes.

Ellen’s Tube Tips #4

Ideas from Stephanie

I’d like to share these comments and great ideas from Stephanie in Clovis, New Mexico who teaches music for grades K-6.

“Most of the musically inclined sixth grade students had band and did not come to me for general music. I taught straight from the curriculum and realized I needed to supplement with something ‘fun’ and ‘interesting’ since my sixth graders were not liking music. I couldn’t imagine anyone NOT liking music….

“I attended a workshop on Boomwhackers at TMEA and this was the answer I was looking for…. Believe it or not, I now have zero behavior problems since the kids are engaged and liking music class. They learn through Boomwhackers in a much more effective way than just using our books.

“I have to share with you what the 5 th and 6 th grades are currently working on. We have been discussing sharps and flats. We used the song ‘Dry Bones’ in our curriculum. They guessed the pitches were going up so the notes must have sharps in front of them. We discussed going up chromatically from C…. I played a natural note and then a ‘special note’. The class had to guess whether it was a sharp or a flat.

“On day 2, I broke them up into groups of four and had them compose 4 measures of 4 beats…. Each person took a measure and played it on their Boomwhackers. Together, all four students in the group made their ‘group song’ and performed it for the class.

“On day 3, we got back into our groups to play the Domino Game. Everyone got a domino—a piece of paper with two colors on it or double of the same color. There were 4 colors and black. Black was a measure of rest. We put the dominoes together. I assigned each group a color and when I pointed to their color they had to play their group song. I started from one end of the domino track and went to the other end. Then they wanted to play it backwards. We also changed the order. So much fun!

“On day 4, we notated it on staff paper. Each group was responsible for finding their pitches on the staff and writing it down. Then we put it all together to form a ‘class song’ and hung it in the hall for everyone to see. What’s great is that the students have figured out how ‘funky’ sharps and flats make a song sound. (The student’s words, not mine.)

“Thank you so much for the great new ideas I got from your workshop at NMMEA, Ellen. I can't wait to put them to use!" Thanks, Stephanie, for sharing the fun and excitement that Boomwhackers Tubes can bring to a music class, even with students who are not “into” music. If you have interesting ideas or experiences, please email us at the link above so we can share them with everyone


Ellen’s Tube Tips #5

Boomwhackers® Tubes: For Music and Much More!

Preschoolers find many ways to use the tubes, like building, balancing and sound experiments. You never know what the kids might come up with! Ms. Joni from Mountain View Preschool in Cottonwood, Arizona wrote to us about her experience with the tubes in her classroom.

“We love the Boomwhackers because our kids like to try new things with them. They are a very open ended instrument/tool that children can use in creative ways. We can leave them out all the time because they are durable, safe and easy on the ears. Everyone enjoys whacking along with the songs and activities from the Tube Time™ book.”

The Tube Time™ series has lots of activities for both active and quiet times, teaching colors, numbers, rhythm and imagination with songs and dances.

Inspire creativity! New ways to play. Make experimenting fun and safe.

NAU Class Visits Whacky Music, Inc.

Members from Northern Arizona University’s “Current Issues In Music Education” class visited Whacky Music for a preview of new educational materials and a tour of the facilities.

Boomwhackers ® Tubes were new to some of the teachers and, to our delight, some of them are already incorporating our materials into their classroom curriculum. We discussed how one of the great advantages of using tubes in our music programs is that kids love to play them and stay engaged in the activities. As always, budget and classroom time are still issues, but here at Whacky at least we are helping with the budget. Using the tubes and Boom-a-Tunes™ curriculum is a very inexpensive way to put an instrument in everyone’s hand.

Students aren’t the only ones who enjoy playing the Boomwhackers Tubes. It was great fun and artistically satisfying for us as teachers to play a Bach Prelude together. Baroque music is particularly well-suited to the percussive qualities of the tubes. Surely even Bach would have written for these fine instruments!


Rainbow Acres

Whacky Music’s Ellen Foncannon and friend, Naomi Nelson, conducted a music therapy session with Boomwhackers ® Tubes for the residents at Rainbow Acres. Everyone whacked to the beat of the music, tried out some sword fight moves and played stamping tubes with caps on them.

They all had a great time and later, at dinner, residents were still talking about it and pretending to play the tubes.Rainbow Acres is a non-profit Christian ministry in Camp Verde, AZ that provides homes for adults with developmental disabilities and fosters their emotional, cognitive, physical, social, spiritual and vocational development.

Kid’s Choir, Verde Valley Voices Christmas Concert, 2005

The Kid’s Choir performed with the Verde Valley Voices in concert. They played arrangements of “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” with Boomwhackers Tubes from our A Tubular Christmas™.

Verde Valley Voices, Inc. in Cottonwood, AZ is a non-audition community choir for people who enjoy music and love to sing. Over a thousand concert-goers enjoyed the fine choral music directed by Beverly Hall and accompanied by Nancy Bright.



Ellen's Tube Tips #6

Cool Tips for Summer Water Games

It’s HOT here in the Arizona summertime, so we have been playing water games outside with Boomwhackers® Tubes. Just add water to your Tube activities and watch the fun bubble up. These games are from our latest book, Totally Tubular™ “Whactive!” for active groups, camp settings and P.E. classes.

Bucket Brigade: Teams compete to fill their bucket first by holding their tubes together to form a pipeline from a hose or water poured from a bucket. Make sure teams have equal sets of tubes. Alternately, they can carry water in their tube from the source to their bucket. When the buckets are full, play the tubes vertically by striking them with your hand as you move the tube up and down in the bucket. Listen to the pitch change. When finished, use the water on your trees or flowers.

Water Balloons: We used good quality latex balloons. Fill small balloons with water. Try to balance them on the end of a tube or bat them along the ground for a whacky version of polo. Use tubes and air-filled balloons to play water polo in the pool.

Make a big gallon-sized water balloon and play the tubes on it. Listen to the sound of the tubes and the squishy sound the balloon makes. Have everyone play their tubes on the balloon one at a time. Call out different tube combinations to play together on the balloon.

Our gallon balloon lasted so long that we ended up beating it like a piñata. It finally broke when everyone put the ends of their tubes on the balloon and popped it together!



Ellen's Tube Tips #7

Rhythm Activity with Chenille Stems

This is a hands-on activity that involves both pitch and rhythm without using a music staff. By using chenille stems as headless quarter and eighth notes, we create an easy-to-use rhythm system.

Materials: We used Fiber Craft® Creative Hands Chenille Stems, Big Pack, product #3228-10 & 3228-30, which come in colors similar to the tube colors. www.creativehands.com Any colored wire or sticks could also be used. For color cards, download and print Mini Color Signals from this website or make your own.

Cut stems in thirds for quarter note stems. Bend in thirds to form eighth note stems. For quarter rests cut white stems in half and bend in a zig-zag. Use plastic bags or containers to store stems. If you work mostly with pentatonic, keep the B and F colors separate.

Activity 1: Pentatonic Rhythms

Have children sit in a circle. Place a pile of pre-made stems beside you. Say the rhythm (ta, ti-ti, etc.) as you place one beat at a time on the floor in front of you. Place 4 beats and ask the children to say it with you and/or tap the floor. Repeat with several different patterns with any colors.

Hand out tubes. Say and play the rhythms with tubes. All pentatonic tubes can play together. Repeat four times so everyone gets the pattern.

Change the 4 beat pattern and increase to 8 beats if desired. Ask individual students to change out one beat and then play each different line.

Variation: Replace a ta or ti-ti with a rest. When playing the tubes, show a rest by holding the tube in the air.

Activity 2: Pentatonic Rhythms with Colors

To begin, use just three colors of tubes with matching color cards and stems. Distribute sequentially from low to high, keeping the same colors together.

Place stems in a repetitive color and rhythm pattern. Point and chant colors in rhythm while students play only on their color. Change stem colors, rhythms and add more colors as time allows.

Ways to Distribute Tubes.

Plan A: Hand tubes out randomly as quickly as possible.
Plan B: Distribute tubes from lowest to highest sequentially  around the circle, keeping the same colors together.
Plan C: Put tubes in the middle of the circle. Hand out color or alphabet cards to each child. Call them by color (or letter) to pick up the correct tube. Also, a good way to put the tubes away is to call them in by color.



Ellen's Tube Tips #8


Mary from Eagan, MN has been teaching with the Boom-a Tunes™ curriculum and wrote to us about an activity that her students have especially enjoyed.

“While teaching Volume 1, at the end of the class time, I did a review of the songs in Lessons 1 and 2. I told them that when we got to the ‘Grand Finale’ they would sound great because they would be able to read notes and rhythms and have good playing technique.

“After each additional lesson, we did a review of all the notes, and I commented again about how wonderful they would sound when we got to the ‘Grand Finale.’ When we finished lesson 8, they finally got to play it—a recap of all eight songs straight through without stopping. Now they request the ‘Grand Finale’ almost every music day, no matter what lesson we are working on!”

In Boom-a-Tunes, Volume 1, Lessons 1-8 introduce the treble notes Middle C through third space C, one at a time. Memorable lyrics are used to help learn the location of the notes on the staff, i.e. “Middle C has its own special line,” and “A is a space case, second space A.”

Playing the “Grand Finale” actually reviews all eight note names. The activity in Lesson 8 is “Name That Tune,” from the first eight songs, so Mary’s “Grand Finale” is a winner of an idea.

Thanks, Mary! It’s always great to hear that the curriculum works. We appreciate your creative comments.



Ellen’s Tube Tips #9

Getting on the Right Track with Scales

Bonnie from Scottsdale, AZ emailed these comments:

“Boomwhackers are a great tool for getting students actively involved in learning a musical concept. We’ve used them to teach the major scale pattern, chord progressions and ostinato patterns, to name a few. The colors and sizes really help students understand the relationships between pitches.”

Thanks, Bonnie, for your feedback. Here is a way to literally build a scale.

Tube Tracks: For each chromatic scale you will need the following materials: 10 cardboard egg cartons, packing tape, scissors, C Major Diatonic and Chromatics Tube Sets. Remove and discard egg carton lids and front flaps. Cut off the inside bumps so the carton lays flat when turned upside down. Work on the floor or on a table. Place five egg cartons bottoms-up in a straight line end to end and lightly tape together. With the other five, make a line parallel to the first. Ta-da! The tube tracks are now ready for scale work. When you finish an activity session, you can remove the tape and stack the tracks.

Activity 1: To build a chromatic scale, place tubes across the tracks in the “valleys”. Begin with a long C tube and continue going up by steps with C#, D, D# etc. Notice that the chromatic tubes have both of the enharmonic names like C sharp and D flat, and that the colors of the chromatic tubes are halfway between the diatonic. (C is red, D is orange, C# is red-orange.)

Optional: Say the letter of each half step using sharp names in ascending order and have students take turns playing the tubes and then placing them in the correct order. Continue to high C. Then go down, starting with high C and use flats with the letter of each half step in descending order. Play the half step theme to Jaws.

Sing these words to the tune of Down in the Valley.
Down in the valleys, we’re placing tubes.
Play all the half steps for a chromatic tune.

Activity 2: Make a chromatic scale and discuss the major scale pattern of whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half steps. Remove a tube to make a whole step between C and D and continue to remove tubes where whole steps are needed. The resulting scale or key of C has no sharps or flats. Have a keyboard (or a picture of one) handy for reference to show half steps and whole steps.

For more advanced work, begin with other notes to create different scales. You will need either a Treble Extension Set or Bass Sets to work with other key signatures. You may want to have key signature cards to show the correct order of sharps and flats. Point out that the whole-half pattern is the same for every major scale.

This is a great hands-on way for students to truly build a scale!



Ellen’s Tube Tips #10

A Homeschool Parent Reviews Boomwhackers® Tubes
By Betsy Williams, Arizona

I had an interest in Boomwhackers ever since my children got to use them during a demonstration at a homeschool fair. I immediately made a mental note to add them to our homeschool music curriculum (what existed of it). Recently, I finally got a set for our 3 homeschooled children – boy 8, girl 10, & boy 13.

Let me start by saying that the innovative ‘outside-the-box’ creativity in everything from the musical tubes themselves to the curriculum activities to the compositions is outstanding and downright refreshing. For anyone who desires to expose their children to music in both sound and written form in a relaxed and fun way - this product does that and so much more.

One outstanding feature of Boomwhackers is that children with absolutely no music in their background can immediately begin to create musical sounds. The curriculum provides fun and innovative activities for children to make music at the same time they begin to learn the names and sounds of real notes. It can be used by a single child or several children. The effect is that even though they’re ‘just having fun’ they are actually learning. Isn’t that every homeschooler’s dream come true?

The Boomwhacker curriculum provides the student the opportunity to see written notes on the page and also the names of the notes. The child is able to sit down the first try and read notes and play a little tune. Instant gratification - Yippee! The CD that is included in the volume entitled Totally Tubular, (this is the one we tried) is very catchy and my children enjoyed it immensely. One favorite is Fruit Basket Upset. The three of them actually put on a little ‘recital’ for their grandparents and everyone was giggly and blessed – even the older, more serious 13 year old had a good time.

This is a multi-sensory introduction to music. It expands on the standard music lesson by reaching all the senses – the children get to touch (even toss) the tubes, they get to see the wonderful bright colors and they get to hear the sounds and notes. They also get to read notes. They themselves get to produce the sounds with something as simple as tossing the tubes to one another. The CD and book provide the music and the compositions to follow along. This is music that majors in fun and leaves behind all the seriousness and stress of hard work. And don’t we want to avoid those negative things as long as possible when working with our young children? The more interested they are, the more we can fan the sparks of delight - and the longer and harder they will work at learning!

This product’s rating – 2 thumbs up for usability and 5 stars for quality. Unexpected Bonus - your children will have fun and beg you for more Boomwhackers!



Ellen’s Tube Tips #11

Solfege & Boomwhackers® Tubes

Solfege is a system used for pitch training with singing. It is used all over the world and is the only true international system of naming notes. In fact, it was our European customers who requested that the solfege syllables be added to the letter names on Boomwhackers’ labels. The tubes obviously used the “fixed do” system, and not the “movable do”, since the labels are indeed “fixed.” Solfege usage encourages hearing sound, while the alphabet encourages conceptual thinking. So, it is good to do both!

Laura from Big Park School in Sedona, AZ utilizes the solfege with her elementary classes and shares this fun activity with us.

“My second grade class has been working on solfege pitches and hand signs for do, mi, so, and la.  To reinforce the pitch as well as get them thinking, I broke out the Boomwhackers one day.  Pulling out C (do), E (mi), G (so), and A (la), I gave each student one Boomwhacker.  

Then we made a class melody “ala” fast food restaurant. I had each student pick a solfege pitch (do, mi, so, or la) and a note value. They could ask for a quarter note (or ta) or an eighth note value.  When a student "ordered" a note, they would say something like this, "Mi for eighth note," or, "Do for ta."  After each student ordered, we played the rhythm on Boomwhackers and sang through the melody with solfege. The students could only play their Boomwhacker when their pitch came up. Some of them sang along with the melody, too.  We came up with a couple of great melodies.  The kids had a ball!”

Thanks, Laura! I love the idea of a restaurant theme to write a song. I wonder what a “Happy Meal” sounds like!

A Little Solfege History
The word "Solfege" derives from the Italian solfeggio, ultimately derived from the names of two of the syllables used: Sol and Fa. Solfege was created in the 10th Century to help monks easily learn the chants for the mass. Guido d' Arezzo had a difficult time teaching the monks the Gregorian Chants for the weekly mass services so he devised a system where each note of the scale had a symbol on a different part of his hand. In this manner, he could point to a symbol on his hand and the young monks would sing the corresponding note. An entire song could be sung just by pointing to the different parts of his hand. The "Guidonian Hand" was widely used in Europe. In the 1600's the French standardized the use of solfege as we know it today.



Ellen’s Tube Tips #12

How Far Is It?

The ability to hear and sing intervals is a wonderful asset for all musicians. Use numbers or fixed Do Solfege syllables to practice interval singing.

Review how to build a C major scale in Tube Tip #9. Once the scale pattern is completed, verbally number the tubes (or use sticky notes) from lowest to highest. Point out that the half steps are between tubes 3 & 4 and 7& 8. Have a keyboard (or a picture of one) for reference to show half steps and whole steps.

Start with Middle C as #1 and explain that intervals are the distance between two notes. We count both the starting note and the ending note to determine the interval name. Sing and play #1 and then #2 (Do, Re.) This is a 2nd. Ask all the students to sing it with you.

Start with Middle C as #1 again and count up to G. This is a 5th. Touch or tap very lightly on the notes between the designated interval notes and then play louder when you reach the target note. Say and sing 1 (Do) and 5 (So). With two mallets play the intervals harmonically as well as melodically. Demonstrate and sing all ascending intervals. If you want to talk about songs that start with certain intervals, see the list below.

Variation 1: Have eight students line up shoulder to shoulder and distribute consecutive tubes from Middle C to C’. Practice playing and singing numbers or Solfege syllables several times. For interval recognition, ask the two players with the correct notes to step forward and play their notes three times. For example, you would say “interval of a 6th” and the C and A would step forward to play. If an incorrect note is played, just go back to C and count again.

Variation 2: For a competitive game, have 2 or more teams and see which team can find the correct interval first.

Variation 3: For more advanced work, work in other key signatures. Besides the Diatonic Set, you will need the Chromatic, Bass Diatonic and Bass Chromatic Sets (or capped equivalent) and the Treble Extension Set. You may want to have key signature cards to show the correct order of sharps and flats.

Songs and Intervals
2nd London Bridge
3rd Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In
4th Here Comes the Bride
5th Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
6th My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
8th Take Me Out to the Ball Game

If you know a familiar song that begins with a major 7th, please let me know!

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