Knock the Cymbals in the Elementary Music Classroom

Knock the Cymbals is a great song to review several basic music concepts as you get closer to the end of the year. You can use this song and game to practice steady beat, do pentatonic scales, and instrument techniques.


Since there are several variations on the Knock the Cymbals game, I’m going to describe the one used in the video below. That way, if you decide to try it out in your class, you’ll have a solid visual reference to get started.


  • Students break up into groups of four and stand in circles facing inward.
  • The students facing each other are partners.
  • In the first stanza, one pair of partners marches forward and pats their hands together on the word “do” on the fourth beat.
  • Then, the students march backward into their place, and clap their hands together on the word “do” on the eighth beat.
  • In the second stanza, the next pair repeats the same actions; patting on “do” and clapping on “gal.
  • In the second verse, students form a right-hand star and march clockwise.
  • In the third verse, students form a left-hand star and march counter-clockwise.
  • In the fourth verse, students skip around the room, eventually joining another group of four.


Knock the Cymbals is fantastic for reviewing do pentatonic scales. After students have played the game, have them sing through the song as you point to the corresponding pitches on a pitch ladder. You might try using a visual like the one I have here, which gives them an additional reference for how this would be played on an Orff instrument.

Cover up the pitches you want students to identify using sticky notes. Then, uncover each pitch as they identify them.

Another way to get students involved in this process is by asking volunteers to come up and point to the pitches as the class sings them using a pointer or conducting baton. Check out the toy section of your local dollar store; where you might find a small glitter wand or other object that can serve as a fun pointer. This is also a good opportunity to discuss the importance of conductors with your students. 


Knock the Cymbals easily lends itself to playing Orff instruments, colored bells, or Boomwhackers™. Since you’re already using this song as a review of major concepts, you can also use it to review playing technique. For example, reminding students of proper mallet grip. I always had my students practice bouncing their mallets on the floor or chairs first, in order to review technique without them having to also focus on pitches. The reminders I most often had to give, were to not stick out their pointer fingers and to bounce their mallets in the center of each bar (aka don’t “thud”).