DownByBanksSo what in the world do frogs have to do with piano?? Today I’m sharing an awesome idea for a group ensemble to “Down by the Banks”. Do you remember that children’s song? The one about the frog? Ok, now that the visual makes sense let’s go on.

One of my favorite parts of group classes are the opportunity to perform as a group. But in small studio spaces with only one grand piano (like my current set up) how can you make this work? Today I want to share something that my students loved with you – a simple ensemble of the children’s song “Down by the Banks”. The music is written for 4 students to play on the piano together (one hand each). Then the rhythm sheets can be given out to the rest of your students.

We had 10 students at various levels attend this particular group class. This activity was done in three parts – first we sang and played the regular game “Down by the Banks”. Then we started with a rhythm composition activity. I split students into groups of 2 or 3 and gave them a rhythm sheet to write their own rhythm to clap along to the song. After they got about half way through, I sent the older students to the piano with the ensemble sheets to sight read through. When the younger students finished, they each clapped out their rhythm compositions. We used ta’s and 1, 2’s to change it up each time. Then they each picked a rhythm instrument and tried doing it all together. They laughed as they learned to keep a steady beat together!

While both groups were practicing together in separate rooms, I went back and forth checking on each group. Now this ensemble is very simple for more advanced students. This was done on purpose so students could work together as an ensemble, rather than worrying about each correct note. After each group was ready, we put it together and even added dynamics. We wanted to share the video with you to show you what a blast it was! Hope your students enjoy this activity too!

Download here:

DownRhythmSheet – add your own bar lines and time signatures!

DownByTheBanksEnsemble – includes 4 part ensemble


Author: Whitney

Whitney Hawker, NCTM, teaches group and private piano at Weber State University, Utah. She loves surprising students with the perfect piece or a new exciting game! After graduate school, she missed sharing ideas and resources daily with colleagues so she and her friend, Spring, began blogging together at