Teacher Hub

Colour & Play: enlivening early years music education

Written by Tom Wild11/12/23

Teaching music to young groups of students presents a number of challenges, even for those with the most experience. Making music in these groups often requires coordination, technique and concentration that can prove difficult to achieve, especially without the right resources. Furthermore, many teachers of these classes are not music specialists, and have limited time to research and prepare for lessons.

The use of colour in music learning has often been discussed by educators and scholars, and some studies have demonstrated positive learning outcomes coming from the colour coding of musical notes[1]. Relating specific colours to specific notes can be engaging and helpful for young students learning the basics of music notation, and enhance their creative processes from the early stages of musical development. Drawing on this concept, Percussion Plus make a range of brightly coloured, accessible instruments which are great for teaching young students basic musicianship without needing to worry much about technique. The students can learn about rhythm, communication and pitching without having to do complicated, seemingly unnatural processes that many instruments require.

The most popular of these instruments are Wak-a-Tubes. Very simply, these are plastic tubes which, when hit against a surface, sound at a specific pitch. The tubes are coloured, and every colour corresponds to a certain note. For example, here is a diagram showing the Wak-a-Tubes for the C major scale:

Hence the colours not only make the tubes more vibrant and exciting to look at, but also easier to play for students, and simpler to direct for teachers. For chromatic scales, a more detailed colour matching system is also provided in our 25-player classroom packs.

The tubes also make for an intuitive way to learn about the science of sound. As a rule, the bigger the tube, the lower its pitch. It can be fun for students to experiment with dynamics and timbre by varying the material the tubes are hit against, and the velocity with which they are struck.

There is also a helpful resource on looking after, tuning, and playing Wak-a-Tubes available HERE.

Wak-a-Tubes are not the only instruments to use this system. In fact, Percussion Plus make a number of other products which are compatible with them, allowing teachers to establish a Percussion Plus Orchestra of several instruments:

The tubes are colour-coded to match the following products:

Overall, the Colour & Play features of these instruments are brilliant for both teachers and young students, which can help to galvanise classes in schools and music education hubs around the world.

[1] Chris Keelan 2015, ‘The Pedagogical Applications of Associating Color with Music…’, p.44-48 and p.70