Songs for Teaching Half Notes

Our students are ready to learn about half notes after they have a solid understanding of the difference between rhythm and beat, and lots of practice with quarter notes and eighth notes.

The Significance of Half Notes

Half notes represent a huge accomplishment in the lives of young musicians, because this is the first time they’re asked to subdivide.

That’s why is so crucial that students have worked so much on rhythm vs beat, and quarter and eighth notes. Without the knowledge and skills of these elements, the length of a half note is arbitrary.

Future posts in this series will look at some great ways to teach half notes, but before that, we need repertoire. 

The Song Collection

I love this collection because it uses songs with games or movement, songs to develop artistic singing, and a spoken rhyme. As always, I’ll point out where we can double-dip for other musical concepts.

Let’s jump right in.

Songs to Teach Half Notes

1. Bluebird

I’ve written about this song, posted about this song, and sang this song in my classroom for what feels like ages.

Strangely, I’m not sick of it yet!

That’s because my students love the game that goes along with this song. It’s the reason I can pull it out year after year and it’s still fresh.

The Game:

Formation: Children stand in a circle with hands joined and raised to form "windows."
Measures 1 - 4: One child “flaps wings” and weaves in and out the "windows"
Measure 5: The bird taps one child on the shoulder in a steady beat.
Measure 6: The bird taps a second child on the shoulder in a steady beat
Measure 7: The bird taps a third bird on the shoulder in a steady beat

Other musical Uses:

  • Steady beat

  • Ta and ta-di

  • Quarter rest

  • Sol and mi

  • La

  • Re

  • Do

  • Fa

  • High do

2. Who’s That

Who's That.jpg

Students of all ages get a real kick out of the mystery of vocal recognition guessing songs. “Who’s That” is a song that I’ve only started using in my classroom recently, but my students have responded so well that I’m sure this will become a classroom regular.

The Game:

Students are seated in a circle, with one child in the middle who has his or her eyes closed. That child is the “guesser”. The teacher silently chooses two people to be “mammy” and “daddy”.

When the song begins, students walk around the circle, keeping a steady beat in their feet. When the time comes, “mammy” sings measures 5 - 6, and “daddy” sings m. 7 - 8. Then the student in the middle guesses whose voices he or she heard.

When the song is over, the student in the middle will choose a replacement who covers his or her eyes while the other two students silently choose their replacements. The game begins again!

Other Musical Uses:

  • Steady beat

  • Eighth notes

  • Do - sol

  • Mi re do

3. Listen to the Sun

This rhyme is from the Orff Schwerk volumes.

I learned about it in Jane Frazee’s book, Artful, Playful, Mindful. (By the way, I was so impressed with the thoughtfulness of this book that I videoed a book review - you can watch it here.)

I like using this rhyme to remind students that speech is also musical.

The word "sun" is elongated here to a half note, and I like to encourage students to imagine long rays of sunshine as we speak this rhyme:

Listen to the sun
Listen to the sun
Listen to the sun shine
all day long

4. Seashell

Sea Shell Kodaly .jpg

Seashell is a song that can be used to encourage lyrical, artistic singing.

I love performing this in a round. As we sing in a round, I ask students to listen to how the rise and fall of the melody mimics the rise and fall of the waves in the ocean.

Quick tip using this song: Since the half note comes at the end of the phrase, it's easy for students to sing it as a quarter note and quarter rest instead of as two full beats. When you model the song for your class, be sure to elongate the words "me" and "sea" so they last a true half note value. 

Other Musical Uses:

  • Round

  • Do - sol

  • Ta and ta-di

  • Mi re do

Other songs I love for teaching half notes:

  • Fais do do

  • Great Big House in New Orleans

  • Grinding Corn

  • Who has Seen the Wind

You can grab the sheet music to these songs totally for free in the Folk Song Index.

The Folk Song Index is my collection of songs I've put together for my own classroom, and wanted to share with other music teachers. I have things arranged by element so you can find exactly what you're looking for! 

Happy teaching!