At Flutterby Music our main aims are to provide a calm atmosphere for learning and singing together and to have fun. We will always start by singing hello and a welcome song, and then singing to each child. We will then do a range of songs and rhymes to explore pulse and the particular musical concept for that week.
A movement section in the middle of the session allows children to physically experience pulse, tempo, structure through dance, and to let off some steam! We then sit in our circle again for more songs, or perhaps using some percussion before calming down with a teddy and listening to some music.
Almost the whole session is using the unaccompanied voice as this is the best way for children to internalise their musical development - either through listening to others sing, or by beginning to sing themselves. We do use recorded music for listening and occasionally for some simple dancing. However, do not worry if you are not used to singing. Feel free to listen for a few weeks, and then sing softly to your own child, as soon as you've picked up the song or rhyme. Your confidence will soon develop, as will your singing.
No, Flutterby Music is not a franchise. It is independently owned and all classes are planned by Rachel according to the needs of the group and with progression in mind. All administration, marketing, accounting, website/social media updates and everything else are also undertaken solely by Rachel.
What musical concepts are learnt and how?
All the learning in a Colourstrings session is initially at an unconscious level - particularly until children are around 3 years old. Musical concepts are used as the focus of the session for a few weeks at a time and include fast-slow, high-low, loud-quiet, long-short, structure, character and mood, solo-ensemble, and sound-silence. Repertoire is carefully chosen to highlight the particular concept for that session and is often matched with actions or props to visually or kinaesthetically help to illustrate it. Children experience the concepts through the various songs, movement activities and listening to recorded music, and repetition of songs and activities help the children feel at ease, strengthens their learning and enhances the fun.
Developing a sense of pulse or keeping the beat is key to all sessions and this is achieved by bouncing, clapping, tapping on your child or yourself, walking and dancing with your child and using percussion instruments. We also meet a family of bears at an early age, walking how they walk and experiencing the feel of minims, crotchets and quavers.
When they are about 3 years old, and have been attending sessions for a while, we start to make these concepts conscious to the children. Having experienced them for so long, the concept has been internalised and the step to understanding it is simple. After this age, we introduce reading notation initially through finding Mummy Bear's and Baby Bear's paw prints - simply visualising what children have been feeling rhythmically through movement in previous sessions.
School age children will develop their understanding even further, moving onto stick notation, more complex rhythms and learning solfa (Do, Re, Mi) with corresponding hand signs.
Why is it different from a bounce & rhyme library session?
Flutterby Music classes are run by a musician with a music degree and training in the Colourstrings approach. Key to the approach is selecting repertoire that is within the range that a young child will be able to sing in and that is melodically and rhythmically achievable for children. Starting the song at a comfortable pitch for young children is also extremely important. Many songs in a Colourstrings session will concentrate on maybe just two or three notes (imagine the playground chant 'ner ner ner ner ner' and you will know immediately how naturally children can pitch and sing these notes).
Bounce and rhyme sessions at libraries are usually led by a librarian who may or may not have had musical training. They tend to focus on traditional nursery songs that often have a large melodic range and can be tricky both melodically and rhythmically. In addition the songs tend to be sung in a low key, which means that a pre-schooler would not be able to join in should they wish to. Having said that, there is absolutely nothing wrong in attending these sessions to sing TO your child and have fun together.
Flutterby Music classes are very carefully planned, rather than being a random selection of songs. A musical concept is focussed on for each class and many of the songs are chosen to help children experience this concept. Classes are progressive, meaning that a weekly attendance is best so that your child can gain the most benefit musically.
Flutterby Music has a maximum of 12 babies in the Caterpillars class and a maximum of 10 children registered for the other classes. Parents attend with their children in all classes for under 3s and any family classes. Work in schools and nurseries may be with larger groups.
Classes are payable by the term, which vary in length (usually between 10 and 14 weeks). Classes work out at £4.50 per week for Caterpillars, £5.75 per week for Chrysalises, Red Butterflies and Orange Butterflies and £6.75 per week for after-school classes. If you need to pay by the half term for financial reasons please do discuss. Twins will be charged at full price for the first twin and 20% off for the second twin.
What if my child doesn't settle in the first class?
It must be very unnerving to come into a strange room, with lots of other children and adults, and someone singing at you! Flutterby Music would suggest attending at least 3 sessions before making any decisions on whether the classes are right for you and your child. After a few weeks, you will both be familiar with the structure of the sessions, the other people in the group, that singing lady, and will have picked up several songs. In my experience, even those children who seemed to show little interest or were interested in everything but the music, become confident enough to sit within the group and even join in with activities after a few weeks.
Many children like to just listen for several weeks (or months, or longer!). This does not mean that your child is not enjoying the sessions or that they are not learning. My own daughter spent 2 years attending classes without participating, but would often be singing as soon as we started driving home, or would do the actions to songs in the bath. I was confident that everything that we had done in her class with her teacher had been soaked up.
Babies and young children cry, find it hard to share, or want to explore the space. All of this is fine and I will carry on with the session and try to engage your child in the activities through adapting my plan if necessary. Please feel free to deal with the situation how you see fit as the parent/carer. I only ask that if it is extremely disruptive, to perhaps remove the child for just a couple of moments until they are calmer. I usually find that by the next activity it has all blown over. Equally, if babies need feeding etc please feel at ease to do so.
Is my child too young to attend?
No! Flutterby Music has sessions for very young babies and aims to provide a calm atmosphere where you can build the bond between you. We use lullabies, rocking, tickling, bouncing and movement where your baby can experience and feel a sense of anticipation, increase their listening skills, spatial awareness and eventually their co-ordination and language and communication skills. There has been a lot of research about the benefits of singing to young babies. One study found that singing to special care babies in hospital wards reduced the total length of their stay in hospital. Singing is a natural extension to the lyrical parentese speech that parents use to their new babies, and to your baby, your voice is the most beautiful in the world.
Starting early gives everyone a chance to feel settled and used to coming. They will be used to me as the teacher, other people in the class, and will have experienced sharing from an early age. It also gives your baby a knowledge of the songs and rhymes that gives an excellent head start for when they are ready to speak and sing. Starting slightly later may also coincide with the time that your baby starts to feel more anxiety at doing new things, meeting new people or leaving your side. Asking them to then join in with new songs and activities as well may be hard for the toddler.
Finally Colourstrings was developed from Kodaly's work in music education. Kodaly said: "The musical education of the child should start 9 months before the birth of the mother". So no, never too early to start.
My child is very active - are the classes right for us?
Classes are carefully structured to cater for everyone. Activities are varied to keep everyone's interest, with enough repetition for the children to remember the song and to join in with the actions and singing if they want to.
Children are encouraged to sit for some sections of the session, and at others we move in a circle or freely, doing activities to release some of that energy. If children go off to explore the room, I try to encourage them back through varying the activity or moving on to something new - perhaps offering a prop or an instrument.
I find that the children soon get used to the structure of the class and learn when it's time to move around and when it's time for something quieter. Please do come and try the sessions out for a few weeks to see if it's right for you.
I can't sing and don't want to sing out loud - is that a problem?
Flutterby Music believes that everyone can sing! The voice is a muscle and just needs a little practice to develop. It's ok just to listen for the first few weeks until you feel more comfortable with the group and have learned a few of the songs. We do lots of repetition - it's good for the children's learning and they absolutely love doing things again and again! It's best to start singing in the session as soon as possible, even if it's only softly to your own child. Your voice is the most important one in the world to them, and it will encourage them to feel confident enough to test out their own voice when they are ready. Singing to your children is great for their musical and emotional development and they really don't mind how good you are! Singing the songs together at home will help both of you to develop your confidence and voices.
How can we make the most of the classes?
Attending regularly each week is the best way to make the most of the classes. Sessions are carefully planned to be progressive, so missing sessions means that your child is missing out on the learning - and the fun!
It is preferable that you can buy the Colourstrings books. This will enable you to continue enjoying the songs together at home. There are 3 colourful and beautifully illustrated books - Pentatonic, Do and La, and each have a corresponding CD that has all the songs sung by children, as well as a story weaving through them all, which is very engaging for children. Books and CDs are £7.50 each and can be ordered through the teacher.
What instruments will the children learn?
The main instrument that the children will explore is the voice. Children love hearing adults sing, and particularly the voice of their parent or carer. Getting used to hearing singing makes it easier for the child to feel confident enough to try out their own singing voice, and to develop this over time. However, we will also frequently use shakers or shaky eggs and claves, and will also try out drums, tambourines, triangles, rainsticks, guiros and chime bars. Flutterby Music is adding to resources all the time, so new instruments will be introduced at appropriate moments.
Do you work in schools and nurseries?
I haved worked at Kings Rochester delivering sessions using the Colourstrings approach. I have also delivered sessions for all children, from 3 months to 4 years, at Prima Montessory Nursery at Elm Court and for reception children at Walderslade Primary. If you would like to discuss the possibility of music sessions in your setting, using the Colourstrings approach, please get in touch.