Robert The Guitar Guy talks about his style of music-play:
For over seven years I've been visiting nursery
schools, pre-schools, and kindergarten classes, guitar in
hand, teaching and entertaining children.
Initially, focused on beat, movement, and
singing. Gradually, my emphasis evolved into a style of
creative play that incorporated music, rhythm, movement,
humor, role-playing, and props. I was empowering children
to play creatively with the conflicts of their daily
lives. My albums, MOVING TO THE BEAT and PARAKEET WATCH
OUT! are the fruit of thousands of hours of teaching and
A teacher named Chris Patella first taught me how
to teach a music class to pre-school age children. One of
the first things she told me was to keep a steady beat so
that the children would recognize the beat, and be able to
clap, pat, shake, walk, march, dance, run, jump, to the
Beat is primal. Rare is the child who doesn't
respond to it. Maybe the appeal derives from hearing
Mother's steady heartbeat in the womb. The heart is not
the only bodily function that has a beat. The breath has
one. Walking has one. Even talking. Research indicates
that synchronizing movement to a beat improves attention,
concentration, motor skills, planning and executing
actions, as well as controlling aggression, and improving
Also, by encouraging children to move to a beat,
you give them a vehicle for expression. Moving to a beat
is cathartic. In fact, some children are so pent up with
emotion, energy, conflict, that once they begin to express
it through rhythmic movement, they can easily go out of
control. It was clear to me that there was emotional
benefit in moving to a beat - these emotions and energies
need to be expressed, but there had to be some self-
regulation mechanism to the movement songs.
So, I set out to make up movement songs that
contained a built-in calming element. One of the first
ones I wrote was GO TO SLEEP (MOVING TO THE BEAT ALBUM).
GO TO SLEEP is basically a jumping song. I start the
children lying on the carpet. "Go to sleep. Put on your
pajamas. Get under the covers. Good night." Then comes
the jumping. Driving beat. "I'm gonna jump with my toes,
jump with my feet, jump with my nose, jump with my knees,
jump with my bones, jump with my feet, jump with my heart,
beat, beat, beat." After each eight bars of jumping, back
to the carpet and "Go to sleep, etc." I found it was
useful to introduce the resting place (in this case lying
on the carpet) first so that returning to it felt natural
to the children.
I soon realized that the appeal of this song was
not only a result of rhythmic movement and the built-in
time-out. There were other elements that I'd intuitively
included: daily-life connection, humor, exaggerated
contrast, and power struggle.
In writing music & movement songs for pre-school
and kindergarten children, I felt drawn to exploring chase
games. Various songs based on this principle began to
emerge. The songs resonated with the children and also
satisfied my own creative impulses.
Here are three examples:
ANTS & SPIDER (PARAKEET WATCH OUT! ALBUM) first requires
the children (ants) to hide from the spider. As with GO TO
SLEEP, I immediately introduce the resting place to ease a
return to it later. Then, with a rockabilly beat, I play
and sing THE ANTS GO MARCHING.
Once the children have marched from the hiding
place to me, I introduce myself as the spider and sing the
chorus: "I am the spider, empty inside 'er. Now you are
caught in my web! Hide if you can! Hide if you can! But
I'm going to get you instead!"
I modify the mood and intensity with which I
deliver this to match the age and temperament of a given
group of children. I make it clear that we are playing.
Regardless, the peril is palpable enough to engender
delighted screams from the children making their way to the
hiding area. Once they are hiding, the marching music
begins again, and the ants go marching again toward me.
In PARAKEET WATCH OUT! (PARAKEET WATCH OUT! ALBUM)
the children are coyotes chanting "Parakeet, watch out!" to
a funk beat as they step closer and closer to me, the
parakeet. Once they are close enough, I ask them questions.
Me: Are you coyotes?
Me: Are you hungry?
Me: Do you like to eat parakeets like me?
I sing: Get back! Get back! Get back! Get back!
Once they are far enough back, the process begins
again with chants of "Parakeet, watch out!" I ask the
children whether they would accept edible substitutes.
Peanut butter and jelly, French fries, etc. The answer is
usually "No!" which engenders "Get back, etc." This game
is slightly more challenging than ANTS AND SPIDER because
the children sing.
ANTS AND SPIDER uses the following elements:
rhythmic movement; confrontation; flight; exaggerated
contrast; trickiness; built-in time-out. PARAKEET WATCH
OUT! adds the element of singing or chanting. I AM A DOG
(PARAKEET WATCH OUT! ALBUM) builds on this by adding the
element of improvisation.
In I AM A DOG, I stand at one end of a room, the
children at the other end. I start playing funk-based
rhythms singing "I am a dog, I wag my tail." I wag my tail
and invite the children to do the same.
They approach me, singing and wagging. When they
reach me, I sing/play, "Let me put a leash on you! Let me
put a leash on you!" The children retreat to their end of
the room, and then sing "No, No, No! No, No, No!
There is rhythm and pitch to their singing part and
the children learn it spontaneously. The improvisation
comes in as I ask the children, "What else do dogs do?"
And so we go on to "scratch my flees, chew my bone, woof-
woof-woof" or anything the children invent.
My albums, MOVING TO THE BEAT and PARAKEET WATCH OUT!, are my way of reaching out to children who don't go to the dozen pre-schools at which I regularly perform and can't come see my shows in the New York metropolitan area. I've invited talented musicians to help bring the fun to you!
In my shows, I alternate between sitting and standing, high energy and tranquility, music and comedy, singing and moving, well-tested original material and old favorites. I've introduced the same mixture into these albums.