By: Jeff Sabo

One great thing about music is there are so many fun ways to make sounds! Many of us teach just one (or maybe a few) instruments, but we can still bring others into our lessons to expand our students’ learning. At Lotus Centre, our students love pitched percussion instruments, like xylophones, handbells, boomwhackers, and many more. These are great for multimodal learning and are also a ton of fun! In this blog article, I’ll outline four ways you can use pitched percussion in your lessons.


Pitch identification: Students can learn to identify notes using many different instruments and multimodal resources. For example, if you assign a colour to each note, you can link the colours to solfege cards, pitched percussion, and then your instrument. This works really well with percussion instruments that already follow a colour scheme, like boomwhackers or hand bells. Students can learn each note by connecting its sound, color, and name. Eventually, students can even learn the pitches in their instrumental repertoire by playing them on many different instruments. This provides a lot of variety and makes learning new songs fun!

Learning about timbre and register: Students can sample many different instruments to discover their unique sound qualities. They can also internalize the concept of high and low notes by transferring them to different instruments. For example, a student who has just played a pitch pattern on the glockenspiel can try it on boomwhackers. The notes are the same, but now they sound lower and darker.

Sensory activities: Many students with exceptionalities learn best when they get a lot of sensory input (link to optimal zone blog). Feeling the vibration of a mallet on a xylophone or a boomwhacker after it hits the floor is a great way to get that input in the middle of a learning activity. 

Learning to improvise: Improvisation is a great musical skill and it allows students to engage with music freely and creatively. It also provides a fun way to learn new concepts/skills or give a warmup, cooldown, or break activity within your lesson plan. There are any number of ways to do this on pitched percussion instruments. For example, you can pick a pitch pattern and improvise different rhythms. You can also choose a rhythm pattern and improvise different pitches. You can improvise with graphic scores to learn about different musical elements, or even be totally free and explore sounds. 


These are just some ideas to get you started with pitched percussion in your lessons. Really, the possibilities are endless! The important thing is to know your student, be open to trying new activities, and find what works for them. 


To learn more, check out some of our other resources related to this topic:



Multimodal Teaching Tools for Adaptive Music Education Part 1:

Multimodal Teaching Tools for Adaptive Music Education Part 2:

Creating a Sensory-Friendly Music Studio:

Adaptations for Students with Learning Disabilities:


Using colour for students with learning disabilities:

Balancing structure and student led learning:




Happy teaching!