Body Percussion – A Universal Language. Guest Post by Ollie Tunmer

Alistair Bryce-CleggBoys Learning, Child Initiated Learning, Creativity, Music, Reading, Talk, Uncategorized1 Comment

I first met Ollie from Beat Goes On last year when he was running a workshop at a conference that I was speaking at. While Ollie was running his training I was setting up my equipment so I only got to watch and listen, but what he was doing really made we want to join in! It was just great fun and everyone taking part seemed to be genuinely having a ball.

Music, and singing in particular, play a big part in our everyday practice in the Early Years and that is not by chance. Children (on the whole) get a great deal of pleasure from singing, dancing and making music. Not only is it good fun music also has strong links to other areas of learning.

There have been a number of scientific studies that have identified a link between rhythm and reading.

The researchers believe that the ability to perceive rhythm is connected to the ability to learn to read because the skills needed to break words down into proper syllables is similar to the ability to detect strong and weak beats in a musical sequence.

Although you beat a rhythm on anything from a table top to a cardboard box to a set of bongos, you can do some brilliant rhythm work using just your own body.

I asked Ollie to do me a guest blog post because he does just that. Here he is doing his thing on CBeebies.

Here is to tell you a bit more about what he does…

Body percussion – a universal language



Ollie Tunmer – Director, Beat Goes On

I’ve been playing body percussion since I can remember. Actually, we all have! Clapping and tapping are some of the first ways that we learn to communicate. As a percussionist, I’ve just developed it a little further. It allows me to instantly engage a group of children (and adults) regardless of age or nationality – without saying a word.

Call & Response with body percussion

Call & Response clapping games are great fun. Many of the rhythms we’re familiar with in the UK fit into a count of four. Try counting to four out loud as part of your Call & Response. Once your pupils are familiar with this you could try –

– asking one of you pupils to be the ‘Caller’, clapping a simple rhythm that fits into the count of four. The rest of the class then repeat what the Caller plays.
– asking four pupils to be Callers, one after the other. With four Call & Response rhythms, you’ve got the beginnings of a group composition.
– (with you as the Caller) varying dynamics (volume), tempo (speed), body sounds (stomps, thigh slaps, bass claps etc.), and the inclusion of rests (silences on certain beats). This will keep the class focussed and introduces new ideas for group composition.


Body percussion can also be a great way to develop literacy. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Pie Corbett combining poetry and storytelling with body percussion. By taking the rhythms of words and adapting them into body percussion rhythms children can create musical performances from their own written work. This adds a fun, engaging, kinaesthetic approach to a project. You can read more about Pie Corbett and our work together here.

Music and literacy with body percussion

We also use the rhythm of words to teach musical rhythms and the key words of a topic. I call this ‘rhythm mnemonics’. Here is a common South American rhythm called ‘clavae’, spoken in time with Portuguese words, the language of samba! (translated ‘one, two, three, clavae’)

1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a
Um dois trés cla- vae

By saying the words in time, pupils learn the rhythm, the name of the rhythm and a little of the culture that the rhythm comes from.

Give these suggestions a go – let me know how you get on and if you have any great new ideas that you’d like to share! You can get in touch with me by clicking here.


About Beat Goes On

Ollie Tunmer is the director of Beat Goes On. They deliver school workshops and CPD throughout the UK & internationally. Ollie is a former cast member of STOMP and a former secondary music teacher.

For information on workshops & CPD including STOMP-style Body Percussion, Samba Drumming, Body Percussion with Literacy & Junk Percussion please visit


For free music resources (including  more Ollie’s appearance on CBeebies!) follow @BeatGoesOnUK on Twitter and Facebook.

There are lots more ideas and examples on the Beat Goes On website so pop over there and have a look.

Happy ‘sambering’



One Comment on “Body Percussion – A Universal Language. Guest Post by Ollie Tunmer”

  1. Great ideas!
    I agree that body percussion is an inexpensive way of having fun while developing music, language and numeracy skills that include all children. Keep up the brilliant work!

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