Easy Orff Instrument Warmups for the Beginning of the Year

Playing instruments with elementary students was always one of my favorite things to do. I loved watching the delight on their faces when the instruments were introduced and the looks of excitement after making their first few sounds. If you’re more comfortable teaching voice than instruments, or if you’re simply looking for some fun Orff instrument warmups to spice up a lesson, this post is for you.

How Fast Can You Go

If your students are working with mallets and struggling to hold/play them correctly, then this is the warmup to sneakily reinforce good grip and playing technique.

  • Students start with one mallet in their dominant hand (no instrument yet!)
  • Start by having them follow a steady beat as they tap the mallet on the floor or their shoes or their chair (whatever seems most fun to them)
    • Do NOT just use a metronome for this activity. Go grab a fun Youtube video that really makes your students want to move with the beat, like the one below
  • As they play, go around and adjust their technique as needed
    • Project an image of proper technique on your whiteboard as a constant reminder.
    • The image below is from my Rain, Rain guided lesson for Orff instruments, which you can find HERE.
  • Once students have the proper technique, add in the second mallet
  • Finally, take away that steady beat and ask them how fast they can go while still playing correctly (and without damaging anything)
  • If they start to forget good grip and technique, have them stop, reset, and try again.

Rolls & Challenges for Alternating Hands

If your students have already mastered good grip and wrist movement, then maybe you’ll want to work on alternating hand movements. The most fun way to do that (in my opinion) is with rolls. The video below is a fantastic starting point for this. The narrator reminds students of good grip and wrist movement. Then, students pick a side of the screen to watch, and play only the note that shows up on that side. Eventually, it splits into four sections, which makes for a nice, full sound.

Once they’ve mastered rolls, have them warm-up with a simple rhythm pattern that includes rolls. If you have some tricky pitch patterns that you know they’ll need to play for an upcoming informance or concert, be sure to use some of those patterns in your warm-ups. Here are some examples:

  • C – G – C – G – C Roll (four beats)
  • G – F – E – D – C Roll (four beats)

If your students are loving a certain song, create some “themed rolls” to make warmups more fun. Here are some examples:

  • (Jaws Roll) E – F – E – F – Roll on any bar (four beats)
  • (Baby Shark Roll) C – D – F – F Roll (two beats)
  • (Glimpse of Us Roll) C – Eb – C – Ab – Bb – Ab – F Roll (two beats)

If you’re not sure what your students are listening to these days, check Tokboard. Tokboard keeps a running list of the most popular songs on TikTok. You can also just ask your students for their favorite songs, and create some simple patterns from that.

And please don’t blame me if those songs get stuck in your head, because they definitely will…