So-La and Ti-Do

UMT - So-La and Ti-Do Making Theory Fun

So-La and Ti-Do are the Ultimate Music Theory "Stuffies" - two adorable characters with their own unique personalities who make theory FUN for Teachers and Students.

So-La feels music in her heart.  She loves to sing, dance and perform.

Ti-Do feels music in his hands and feet.  He loves to count, march and conduct.

In this Blog, I will share with you different ways that I incorporate So-La and Ti-Do into my own teaching studio using:

  • So-La and Ti-Do Challenges
  • What Would So-La Say and What Would Ti-Do Do
  • So-La Says and Ti-Do Tips

How can So-La and Ti-Do make a difference in your Teaching Studio?

UMT - So-La and Ti-Do Making a Difference

So-La and Ti-Do - Making Students Feel Safe

When you use So-La and Ti-Do as part of your Studio, they become friends to your Students.  The Teaching Studio is not just the "Teacher and Student" - it is the Music Family.

Personally, I am part of a Teaching Family - my sister Kirsti Bakker and my daughter Deanna Walker are both Piano, Theory and Voice Teachers.  When Glory and I created So-La and Ti-Do, I gifted them each with their own UMT So-La and Ti-Do Stuffies.  They have become an integral part of their Studios.

Several months ago, my sister Kirsti purchased a new piano.  When her little student walked in for her first lesson after the "studio revamp", Kirsti told me that she started to cry.  When asked why, this little one told her Teacher "Where are my friends?  I can't play without my friends!".  She was so used to playing WITH So-La and Ti-Do beside her on the Keyboard, she didn't want her lesson without them!

So, Kirsti moved So-La and Ti-Do back to the keyboard (instead of on the piano top) and the Student was SO happy!

So-La and Ti-Do - Challenges

As a Teacher, I use So-La and Ti-Do to Challenge my Students in all areas of their music - practical, pedagogical and theoretical!

So-La feels music in her heart.  She loves to sing, dance and perform.  When teaching piano and voice, I use So-La to "remind" my students to play the music and not just the notes.  So-La challenges my Students to play their articulation, to feel their phrases and to follow their dynamics.

Ti-Do feels music in his hands.  He loves to count, march and conduct.  When teaching piano and voice, I use Ti-Do to "remind" my students to count.  Ti-Do challenges my Students to play with correct rhythms (giving the proper values to the notes and the rests), to play with a proper pulse and to stay steady.

So, what does this look like in my studio?  In my Studio, my Students can earn special "So-La and Ti-Do Challenge Stickers".  During the Teaching year, I will run 3 to 4 different Challenges and each Challenge lasts about 10 to 12 weeks.  Here are some examples of So-La and Ti-Do Challenges at the Piano:

So-La Challenges Dynamics and Ti-Do Challenges Counting

In the Challenge pictured here, So-La was challenging Students to play with proper dynamics and Ti-Do was challenging Students to count aloud (out loud).

My Goal as a Teacher is to work with each Student so that they can earn at least one sticker from So-La and one sticker from Ti-Do as a reward inspiration.  Each Student has their own "sticker page" on the wall in my Studio so that they can display their Rewards.  At the end of each Challenge, they take the Sticker Page home.

In my Studio, I will (for example) say "So-La Says that she heard you play your piece using the correct Dynamics!  She heard a beautiful forte on line 1 and a nice, soft piano on line 2.  Bravo!  So-La Says you earned a Sticker for playing with Dynamics!".  The Student then gets to pick a Sticker from So-La.

Guess who takes the longest to pick out just the "right" sticker from So-La....?  My teenage male Students!  That's right, my Adults AND my Teens love these Challenges!  They are NOT just for young Students!

UMT - So-La and Ti-Do Challenges

Here are just a few of the So-La and Ti-Do Challenges I have used in my Studio:

  • So-La is listening for Musically Shaped Phrases; Ti-Do is looking for a Strong Pulse.
  • So-La is looking for Curved "Piano Fingers"; Ti-Do is looking for Proper "Thinking Feet" (feet flat on the stool or floor when playing.  Check out my Blog "Feet Placement for Concentration").
  • So-La is watching for "Eyes on the Music"; Ti-Do is watching for a Straight Piano Back.
  • So-La wants to hear Singing for your Christmas Carols; Ti-Do wants to hear Steady Counting.
  • So-La is listening for Silent Rests; Ti-Do is listening for correct Note Values.
  • So-La is listening for Articulation; Ti-Do is listening for Counting (Aloud).

Whatever you choose, whether it is a general music concept or a specific music concept, Students are encouraged to achieve their challenge goals!

What Would So-La Say?  What Would Ti-Do Do?

As my Students become familiar with the unique personalities of So-La and Ti-Do, I "use" them to help my Students think about what they are playing.

Music (whether you are teaching singing, flute, guitar, violin, whatever) is more than just the notes on the page.

When I want a Student to think about how they are "performing" the song, I will ask them "What Would So-La Say?".

  • What Would So-La Say about the Dynamics?
  • What Would So-La Say about the Articulation?
  • What Would So-La Say about the Melody Line?

When I want a Student to think about how they are "playing" the song, I will ask them "What Would Ti-Do Do?".

  • What Would Ti-Do Do to keep the Rhythm Accurate?
  • What Would Ti-Do Do to let the Listener know that this song is in Triple Time?
  • What Would Ti-Do Do to stay Steady?

So-La and Ti-Do can then "help" the Student focus on the area of their playing that YOU (the Teacher) want them to "fix"!

I work with a number of Special Needs Students (and Students with specific learning needs) and, by having the question "come from" So-La or Ti-Do, the Student and the Teacher can work together to figure out what the correct answer is.

This creates a learning environment that is safe.  And it works!

"So-La Says" and "Ti-Do Tips" (and introducing "Ti-Do Time")

So-La and Ti-Do are an integral part of my Theory Lessons too!

In the Ultimate Music Theory Supplemental Series and in the Ultimate Music Theory Beginner A, B, and C Workbooks, we use So-La and Ti-Do as teaching tools that support learning (for Students of ALL Learning Styles).

So-La introduces each Theory Concept.  When "So-La Says" something, Students know that it is important!  These text boxes are vitally important as they are the foundation for learning each new concept.

Ti-Do likes to add Tips for learning, implementing and writing the Theory Concept.  These Ti-Do Tips support different Learning Styles.

UMT - Adventures of So-La and Ti-Do

Ti-Do also likes to have fun!  So, in these Workbooks, you will find little "Ti-Do Time" activities.  These are suggestions for how the Student can take the music and theory OFF the page and ON TO the instrument.  Play!  Sing!  Clap!  Rap!

These activities can also motivate Teachers to stop making theory a "table top only" activity.  When finished, each Theory Page can (and SHOULD) be taken to the piano and played.

So-La and Ti-Do - The "WOW" Sticker

So-La and Ti-Do also love to reward my Students in their Theory too!  The very best Sticker that my Students can earn is the "WOW" Sticker.  This Sticker, presented by either So-La or Ti-Do, is "THE" Ultimate Sticker.  When earned, a picture is taken and sent immediately to Mom and Dad with the Subject Line "Ask Me How I Earned this WOW Sticker!"

Students then can explain to their parents that they earned a WOW Sticker by:

  • Read and Follow the Instructions all by themselves.  Seriously, I do NOT take a lot of lesson time to explain a concept.  When I know that a Student is able to read and follow the instructions themselves, I teach them the importance of DOING IT themselves!
  • Tap and Rap.  This is my "fun" way of reminding Students that they need to Clap the Rhythm and COUNT out loud (aloud) while they are doing it.  We call it the Tap and Rap Game.  (Remember - Games are fun!)
  • Playing Each Exercise.  Students need to play what they write!  Theory is not just pencil and paper.  You MUST add the Instrument so that the Student can hear what they see.
  • Bonus Pages.  I like to also challenge, I mean Ti-Do likes to also challenge my Students to do Bonus Pages.  The Ultimate Music Theory Workbooks are written so clearly that most Students can read, comprehend and apply what they see.  I like to put a "So-La Says Stop Here" sign (written on a post-it note) several pages PAST what I have assigned.  These are the Bonus Pages.  Students will earn a WOW Sticker when I clip the corner of a completed Bonus Page.

Yes - Clip the Corners of Completed Pages!  It makes it so easy to find the page where the Student is working.  When a Student sees an unclipped page corner, they know that the page is not completed.

UMT - So-La and Ti-Do The Wow Sticker

I would love to hear from you.  How do YOU use So-La and Ti-Do to inspire, motivate and teach your Students?

Please email me at [email protected] if you have a picture of your Student with So-La and Ti-Do.  (Remember to get Media Permission from the parents.)  I would love to showcase them in a follow-up Blog or in a Facebook Post on the Ultimate Music Theory Facebook Page.

These ideas are what I use in my Studio.  I hope that they give YOU ideas too!


The So-La & Ti-Do Pack includes:

  • 2 PLUSH STUFFIES - Your very own So-La & Ti-Do!
  • MUSIC THEORY GUIDE - Musical Terms and Signs that add "So-La Sparkles" to music.
  • MUSIC THEORY CHART - Simple Time Signature Chart that shows rhythmic pulse for "Ti-Do Taps" in rhythm.
  • SO-LA & TI-DO SONG - Sing & Dance, Tap & Count, Learn & Play the So-La & Ti-Do Song.
  • STICKERS - Have fun with So-La & Ti-Do Stickers!

So-La feels music in her heart. She loves to teach, compose and perform.

Ti-Do feels music in his hands & feet. He loves to analyze, share tips and conduct. 

To help you even more we've created FREE RESOURCES for you to use as learning tools and building blocks in your musical adventure.

Keep on Learning... With a Smile and a Song!

Shelagh McKibbon-U'Ren


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