Musical Drill Practices

Musical Drill Practices

In my last post we looked at how Mason developed her principles of education regarding rhythmic movement from special and general revelation. To develop her living principles, she studied God’s word and science, and she observed children. If you missed that post, I encourage you to go back and read or listen to it. It’s important to understand Mason’s principles as you implement each subject so you get to the heart of the matter and can teach in a living way, with joy, instead of just going the through the motions and checking off the box as you teach your children. Mason says throughout her volumes that she developed a method, not a system, and we must hold every lesson up to the light of the Spirit of God to determine if this exact lesson is “living” to each child. In order to do that, you must understand the principles as well as the practices so you can be led by the Holy Spirit instead of being rigid with the practices alone.

With that in mind, let us consider Mason’s practices in regard to the subject of drill, specifically musical drill, dancing, and musical games. I am particularly excited about these subjects since they relate to my own specialty of music education.

I was a music major and I am certified as an early childhood music educator through the popular music program, Musikgarten. In my education and training, I learned that children need to do all of the following for complete music literacy:

  1. Sing
  2. Dance/move
  3. Listen to music
  4. Play music

As a Mason home educator for over nine years, I have seen Mason resources frequently mention folksongs, hymns, and composer study. By contrast, Sol-fa and drill are mentioned in the PNEU time-tables, yet I never fully understood those portions of the curriculum, nor have I seen them used much in homeschool rooms or CM curricula. This year when I began researching Mason’s original sources more carefully, I realized there was a depth to these subjects that we’ve been missing. I am so excited to share my discovery of these life-giving practices with you!

Defining Drill

Before we delve into the practical parts of Mason’s methods in regard to drill, I would like to clarify what drill actually meant on the PNEU programmes. Drill was a broad heading for all things that involved some sort of physical education. In the later years of the PNEU, after Mason’s death, the programmes became more specific and the heading actually said, “Drill, Dancing, and Games.” Even those terms are quite broad. Physical education, as referenced in Mason’s volumes, the PNEU programmes, and The Parents’ Review articles, includes the following: Swedish Drill, musical drill, military drill, running drill, gymnastic exercises, active games, marching drill, calisthenics, Indian clubs, Grecian exercises, rhythm games, singing games, ball games and breathing exercises, hockey, lacrosse, cricket, swimming, tennis, netball, rounders, English country dance, Scandinavian dance, peasant dance, skipping, jumping rope, Eurhythmics, and more!

As you can see, to the PNEU, drill is much, much more than just Swedish Drill! Interestingly enough, some of the drill activities were supposed to be done to music. In fact, under the heading of drill, the programmes specify books for musical accompaniment. Since this may be a surprise to some, I will begin with demonstrating from primary sources that Mason did, in fact, utilize musical drill in the PNEU. Then we’ll jump right into the practices: we’ll look at Mason’s time-tables, the books she used, and how we can use them today. We won’t get to Sol-fa in this post, but hopefully I’ll cover that interesting topic here at Charlotte Mason Poetry in another series of blog posts!

Primary Sources on the Subject of Musical Drill

One primary source that helps us learn about Mason’s practices is The Parents’ Review, Mason’s monthly magazine for educators. In one Parents’ Review article, the Rev. Moore helps us see the importance of valuing the whole child and educating the body as well as the mind. He discusses the different forms of drill, including musical drill, that can help children get exercise, have graceful movement, and open up their lungs through singing during exercise:

Musical drill, military drill, running drill, gymnastic exercises, active games, ought to be daily taught and superintended by competent teachers, and practised by the children, all the exercises being, of course, graduated and adapted to the different ages and powers of the children, and a preference being given to those exercises which are specially favourable (1) for opening and developing the lungs, for the measure of the lung capacity is the measure of the vitality, (2) or for promoting free circulation of the blood and perspiration of the skin, which are absolute essentials to health, or (3) cultivating smartness and gracefulness of movement. In every exercise in which it is possible, singing, shouting, or recitative, should also be conjoined, in order to bring the lungs as much into action as possible, and thereby to expire more completely the vitiated, used-up air, and to inspire fresher supplies. (Moore, 1898, p. 317)

In 1936, the PNEU celebrated the 50th anniversary of the publication of Home Education with a Jubilee Conference. The June issue of The Parents’ Review that year contained a detailed report of the six-day gathering of parents, teachers, and children. Here is a fascinating account of one of the break times during the conference:

On Tuesday from 11.0 to 11.45 a.m. everyone had drill, games or dancing, while the second part of the time allotted was used for a rehearsal for the Pageant. Seventeen ex-students were in charge of the various groups on this day, and the present students on Wednesday. There were seven groups for breaks, the numbers being divided according to forms with the exception of Forms IV, V and VI, which worked together. On Tuesday Form IB had drill and free games. Form IA had drill and easy team games. Form IIB played Rounders, and Form IIA Netball. The Form IIIB’s had English Folk Dancing, the Form IIIA’s drill and team games, and Forms IVA and B, V and VI had musical drill. On Wednesday the groups had field or team games.

It was much to be regretted that it was found impossible to fit in Scandinavian and English Folk Dancing for everyone, especially as many people had made an effort to learn the dances suggested on the programme, but it was unavoidable because of the Pageant rehearsal which had to be fitted in. (PNEU, 1936, p.402)

It turns out that this use of musical drill at the Jubilee Celebration follows a precedent that goes back at least to 1893. In that year, the “Report of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools on the House of Education at Ambleside” includes the following remark:

In the large hall I saw the students practise (1) Swedish Drill with musical accompaniment. Each student learns to lead the drill in turns. (2) Kindergarten Games, with and without songs, among which I noticed a very pretty French action song which would develop a sense of the French accent in a pleasant way. (PNEU, 1893, p. 948)

We can also learn about Mason’s practices from the structure of her programmes and the books she selected for the children and teachers to use in the PNEU. The physical education book Mason used was The Syllabus of Physical Exercises. In Mason’s programmes she indicates the teacher must read pages 161-163 from the Syllabus book to understand how to do drill in Form 1. On these pages the Syllabus says music can be used for marching:

Marching and running.—These vigorous movements are perhaps more important in the Infant school [Form 1B, children 7 and under] than any others. The younger the child, the more irksome does continued sitting at a desk become, and the more necessary are exercises which bring into action all the muscles of the body. A proportionately large part of the lesson should therefore be spent in marching and the greater number of easy “step” marches taught, the greater the enjoyment of the class.

Marching is also of great value in teaching the child to walk and hold himself correctly. Music may be used to accompany marching, especially the various “step” marches.

“Astride jumping” and “Running on the spot” can be easily done even by young children. (Board of Education. 1909, p. 162)

Mason’s programmes also prescribe a musical accompaniment book for marches in Form 1.

Mason’s volumes also provide a sound source for understanding her practices. In Appendix III of School Education, Mason lists attainments for children ages 6-12. One of those is: “(s) They should have learned Swedish Drill and various drills and calisthenic exercises” (1989c, p. 302). So we also see here Swedish Drill isn’t the only kind of drill to be taught. Then in Appendix IV, she gives a sample programme for a child of 12 (Form 3, or 7th and 8th grade) from the PNEU. The only book listed for drill in that programme is called Musical Drill for the Standards by A. Alexander, and the exercises to be done for that term’s programme were “Grecian Exercises and Marching Drills” (1989c, p. 305). Here is an image from the Grecian Exercises in Drill for the Standards where we see a picture of a boy doing rhythmic movement with hand cymbals to music:

The second page of the movement is the musical accompaniment for that specific exercise:

The children are to move their arms and march in time, and the exercise is to be done over a duration of eight bars of music (Alexander, 1894, pp. 108-109).

We can safely conclude from the evidence found in The Parents’ Review, the PNEU programmes, the assigned school books, and Mason’s own volumes that Mason did in fact include musical drill as a part of the drill exercises for the PNEU. The formal lesson tables from the Syllabus book—which primarily cover Swedish Drill—were done sometimes with music and sometimes to commands in rhythm. But she also always included some musical drill and musical games and dancing as a recreative way to break up the morning lessons. Musical accompaniment books were included in all forms of her programmes under the broad heading of drill to help teachers accomplish this goal. We will now look more in depth at the practice of how rhythmic movement was included in the PNEU and how we can implement these ideas today.

Musical Drill In Practice, Then


According to PNEU time-tables, drill and singing were done every other day in the same time slot midway through every morning lesson from 10:20 (10:25 in Forms V and VI) until 10:50. Mason says a change is as good as a break, so I believe she utilized this portion of the day both as an educative and recreative lesson. What a lovely and practical way to have recess! While the children are moving and singing with delight, they are also getting physical exercise and developing musical skills.

Time Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Form 1


Drill Sol-fa Drill French Song Drill Sol-fa
10:35-10:50 Dancing or Play Play or Drill Dancing or Play Play or Drill Dancing or Play Play or Drill
Form II-IV


Drill and 10 min. Play Eng. Song and 10 min. Play Drill and Play French Song and Play Drill and Play Sol-fa and Play
Form V/VI















I believe Form 1 did dancing in the mornings so the children were introduced to the subject. Forms 2 and above are instructed in the programmes to do dancing in the afternoons as an occupation. In The Parents’ Review, we see that some PNEU schools and communities offered afternoon dancing classes for children to participate in, as well as classes in Swedish Drill, Sol-fa, and even music appreciation. I think “Play” in the time-table refers either to free play or to the playing of team games, musical games, and skipping rope, which were also included the PNEU Programmes under drill.

Since we don’t usually do Saturday school in the US, I recommend for this active learning recess time that you implement a slightly modified schedule. Here are some suggestions for ways to incorporate these lessons into your school morning. They still allow you to do drill three times per week and singing three times per week. The suggestions just shorten some of the times a little bit or remove a play time.

Form 1

Monday: Drill and Dancing (30 minutes)
Tuesday: Sol-fa (15 minutes) and Play (15 minutes)
Wednesday: Drill or Dancing (15 minutes) and Foreign Language Folk Song (15 minutes)
Thursday: Sol-fa (15 minutes) and Play (15 Minutes)
Friday: Drill and Dancing (30 minutes)

Forms 2-4

Monday: Drill (20 minutes) and Play (10 minutes)
Tuesday: Sol-fa (20 minutes) and Play (10 Minutes)
Wednesday: Drill (20 minutes) and English Folk Song (10 minutes)
Thursday: Foreign Language Folk Songs (20 minutes) and Play (10 Minutes)
Friday: Drill (20 minutes) and Play (10 minutes)

Forms 5-6

Drill and singing are done every day during the time period allotted. My guess is the time was divided evenly between the two subjects. Sol-fa lessons were completed by these forms and so students were singing English and Foreign folksongs and choral pieces. These forms are of course easier to adjust for our five days of school. Just sing and do drill every day for 25-30 minutes and do it for fun when you can on Saturdays!

Scope and Sequence

The chart below shows the scope and sequence for all the different forms or grade levels from the programmes for “Drill, Dancing and Games” from Mason’s lifetime. The information primarily comes from the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection.

It seems to me that drill time, as noted on the Time-Tables, included Swedish Drill and musical drill, as well as marching, skipping, and other musical games. I am not sure whether each daily lesson included all of these components or whether they might have rotated from day to day between these books and activities. Whatever the case, a majority of this drill time included musical or rhythmic movement activities. The game books are musical, the dancing is obviously musical, and the drill was almost always rhythmic even if it wasn’t always accompanied by music.

Even though it doesn’t seem that all the Swedish Drill from The Syllabus of Physical Exercises would have been done to music, every form in the programme lists a piano accompaniment book that either “should be” or “may be” used for drill. I am still researching how each song from these accompaniment books was used, but I think in Form 1 they were used for all the marching exercises as well as their musical games and dances. In the upper forms they were most likely used in the morning for marching drills and the Ball Games and Breathing Exercise book, which was to be done with waltz music and then used in the afternoon for their dances as well.

In the resource section at the end of the post, we have provided links to the public domain books Mason used in her programmes which are listed in the following chart.

Form Drill Dancing Games Other
Form 1 The Syllabus of Physical Exercises (4-6 Tables), House of Educ. Drills The Joyous Book of Singing Games or Rhythmic Games and Dances (Eurhythmics)

With British Marches for Schools by Martin Shaw (piano score)

Skipping (Jump rope) Possibly to music
Form 2-4 The Syllabus of Physical Exercises and

Ball Games and Breathing Exercises by Alice James,

Music for Mrs. Wordsworth’s Classes (piano)

Peasant Dances and Songs of Many Lands Hockey (in season), longball, netball, sometimes swimming, tennis, and cricket are also mentioned (offered as team classes in the PR for afternoons) Skipping rope


Form 5/6 The Syllabus of Physical Exercises, Manual Of Free Standing Movements 6 Country Dances (The English Country Dance) Hockey, Lacrosse, etc.


Our Practice Now

After all of the information about Mason’s principles and practices, you may ask, “How do I implement this in my home today?” It seems the scope and sequence of Mason’s programmes always included three main components: games, dancing, and drill. Let’s look at each one in turn.


Instead of team sports, the younger children played musical games and jumped rope. Open up those old books linked in the resource section of this article and try the musical games a few times a week mid-way through your morning lessons. I also include modern musical game books in the resource section. I am also building a CM music website which I will launch soon. It will have practical how-to videos for many of these subjects.

Jumping rope, and even trying it to the beat of music, is really helpful for children’s coordination. Many of the books from Mason’s day suggest that the children do many movements with arms going up and backwards, in order to open up the shoulders and lungs for good posture and breath support. I can imagine with all of the screen time and desk-hunching these days, this suggestion would be especially helpful for both children and adults!

For team sports, I encourage you to follow Mason’s lead and enroll your children in only one afternoon sport per term. Try different sports each term, as Mason recommends, to help your child be a well-rounded athlete. Consider waiting until Form 2 or 3, so the younger children can have a happy growing time that isn’t so full of busyness.


With the youngest children, dancing, much of the singing, and musical games are incorporated into one or two book selections. The Joyous Book of Singing Games and Rhythmic Games and Dances are both available online and are in the public domain. If you can read music, either of these books will be easy for you to use in your homes! The introductions to the books are very instructive in these musical methods, as well as the philosophy of music education. The games are simple and fun, but also educative. I could tell you exactly how to implement these things in your schooling, but I really do think you will make it more your own if you do a little digging yourself! After you have read these little gems for yourself, narrate it to some friends and start dancing!

Since country/folk dancing was an afternoon occupation for Forms 2 and up, and is a bit more difficult with one or two children in a home, I encourage you to join a dance class, or do folk dancing in a CM co-op, or invite your friends over, build community, and start your own class once a week with a few CM families, learning a few dances per term.

The dancing book Mason used in Forms 2-4 is called Peasant Games and Dances. One really lovely thing about this book is that it focuses a little more on individual steps (imagine River Dance—Irish dancing), and several of the dances don’t need very many children. Check out the resource links and see if you can include family dancing 1-2 days per week for about 15 minutes. I am sure YouTube can be a great support as you research these dances for yourselves!

High schoolers were supposed to learn six country dances from The Country Dance Book volumes 6-8 by Cecil Sharp. In the years after Mason’s death this book series was utilized in Forms 2 and up so all the children worked through this series of dances from beginner to advanced. The dance instructions are on the linked website as well as the sheet music for each dance, so I suggest you begin at the beginning and work through the dances as a family or co-op and see how far you can get. This past year we tried folk dancing at my Spread the Feast Community and the children really loved dancing together!

Drill (Swedish and Musical)

After Form 1 it seems both dancing and games were moved to afternoon occupations. This leaves drill with all its variety of expressions for morning lessons. Drill was broken up into Swedish Drill and musical drill. In the earlier days of the PNEU, this possibly included other drills and exercises like Indian Clubs and gymnastics. In the years following Mason’s death, the programmes became a bit more organized. It is worth noting that The Syllabus of Physical Exercises includes formal Swedish Drill lesson tables. Yet even when it is the only drill book listed, it is still listed with the same musical accompaniment book, Music for Mrs. Wordsworth’s Classes, well into the 1930’s.

The Syllabus of Physical Exercises was utilized primarily for its Swedish Drill “tables” since Swedish Drill was one drill component in Mason’s programmes. As I shared earlier, the inspector’s report indicates that Swedish Drill was at least sometimes performed with music. Other Parents’ Review articles, written by Swedish Drill instructors, indicate that Swedish Drill was not always to be done to music because the exercises needed to be done with full attention to the commands given by the teacher instead of being “mindlessly” done to the music’s rhythm. One of those articles also said music can sometimes be in a different tempo than what might be needed to do the exercises precisely and accurately. So music should not always be used specifically with the formal Swedish Drill tables. But even the fact that Swedish Drill has a rhythm different from the music indicates to me that Swedish Drill was still done as rhythmic movement, even if it was not always accompanied by a piano.

I think we can infer from this that there is freedom in how you use the drill books from week to week. I think there are times to do the exercises without music simply in rhythm with one another so the children can pay full attention and listen to the drill commands. Then there are times for drill to be done with music for musical training and delight.

While Mason was living, the younger children were definitely supposed to do their marching drills to a piano book called A Book of Marches for Schools by Martin Shaw. This same practice is very simple to try at home. Eventually, I encourage you to dig in and find out how to do some of the formal marching movements that were done in the PNEU. I am still researching this myself. In the meantime, put on some music and march! It will help your children learn how to feel the beat and listen to how the music changes. It will be fun and good exercise too. Obviously the formal marches will train habits of attention and obedience to commands, and these are valuable. But don’t become so overwhelmed by trying to learn all these new things you don’t do any moving to music at all. Start small and add as you go! It’s a method, not a system!

The older students, grades 4 and up (Form 2 and up), were to use the Musical Drill for the Standards in the early years of the PNEU. Then in the 1920’s programmes, Ball Games and Breathing Exercises was the musical drill book. It is a book that uses small hand balls and Pilates-type moves and lunges similar to the other Swedish Drill book. The ball games aren’t for multiple children to play together; they are for individual children to do to gain self-control and attention. The children move their arms around in circles and toss or bounce both balls simultaneously. All the while their legs are doing other exercises. These exercises can be done with one child or many just as easily. The ball games are to be done with waltz music. The book also addresses how important it is to do exercises with both sides of the body to develop balance and symmetry. I hope to digitize this book soon and make video lessons for home use. They will be available on my website, Miss Mason’s Music, when it launches later this fall. My 13-year-old daughter and I have made three quite funny videos of this book. They are listed in the resources section for you to try out at home!

The main point of these books is to move to music for rhythmic training, for exercise and for training of attention. And remember, as a mid-morning movement activity they should also be full of delight. Don’t wait until you get this perfected to try it with your children! You can do other calisthenics or Pilates to music or read more about Swedish Drill in Dawn Duran’s new Swedish Drill eBook (see resources) and try them with music.

If you don’t have any music training, don’t panic!

Start small and just move to music. Turn on the radio and clap, march, skip, and dance for fun to the music with your children a few times per week midway through your school morning. Sing on the opposite days.

If you feel you really need help with this area, I would suggest that you look for programs and classes in your community that utilize many of Mason’s educational principles such as Kodaly, Musikgarten, Kindermusik, Dalcroze Eurhythmics, or Orff. I think it is important to consider one primary difference between these classes and Mason’s practices: often these classes are 45 minutes and combine all music elements into one day a week. While still fun for children, it takes away the effect of short lessons spread through your school week. Mason did in fact include all elements of music literacy in her programmes:

  • Rhythmic movement through drill and dance
  • Singing with Sol-fa and folksongs
  • Listening through music appreciation
  • Playing with her piano curriculum

She implemented each piece morning and afternoon every day in some way through short 10-30 minute lessons. Not only does this practice bring regularity, competency, and music literacy in children, but it also lightens and delights each school day in a beneficial way. But again, the local 45 minute classes are better than no music or movement education at all.

I also encourage you to be on the lookout for my new Miss Mason’s Music website that will be launched this fall. We will have research for each musical subject there as well as lesson videos and helpful resources and never before seen books!

I hope that you are as excited as I am about rhythmic movement. If you aren’t convinced yet, do an experiment. Try playing music for 20 minutes every day for a week and ask your children to march and clap around the house to the song and do it with them. Observe them carefully while you do this. Notice how they act, notice how they feel and how they express themselves. Pay attention to how you feel as well. I suspect it will bring delight, unity, and a nice active change into your morning routines. Godspeed!


Here are links to many of the public domain books from the 1920’s (and some 1930’s) PNEU programmes:

Form 1:

  • The Syllabus of Physical Exercises by Board of Education. Four to six tables per term from this book were used. This drill book says, “In these Infant classes [children 7 and under] music should be used as far as possible; the exercises are more easily performed to a definite rhythm, the fatigue is consequently diminished and the enjoyment greatly increased” (Board of Education, 1909, p. 20). At the back of the book, there is also a section to help exercises be modified for children under 7. Mason suggests teachers should read it. Pages 161-163.
  • The Joyous Book of Singing Games by John Hornby. Singing and dancing for young children.
  • Rhythmic Games and Dances for Children by Florence Kirk. This book is based on some of the philosophy of Dalcroze Erythmics.
  • British Marches for Schools by Martin Shaw is a piano accompaniment book to be played live while children do their drill and marching exercises along with it. They may have used it to skip or jump rope to the beat as well.

Forms 2-4:

  • The Syllabus of Physical Exercises by Board of Education(4-6 tables per term). This is the same book as used for Form 1. Mason worked sequentially through this book as the years went on. Includes Swedish Drill and marching.
  • Peasant Dances and Songs of Many Lands by C.W. Kimmins. Used for dancing.
  • Ball Games and Breathing Exercises by Alice R. James. I hope to publish video lessons that accompany this book in the coming year, since the book has been out of print for many years and is hard to find. Get ready for some laughs! We have some videos so you can see what this book was like:
  • Musical Drill Book for use in Mrs. Wordsworth’s Classes composed by Clothilde (Music for Mrs. Wordsworth’s Classes) is a piano accompaniment book that is suggested for use with drill in these forms. I hope to record this piano book and make it available in the coming year to use with your drill exercises.
  • Skipping seems to mean skipping rope.
  • Games such as lacrosse, hockey, tennis, swimming, netball, and longball were sometimes included in Form 2 and 3 (grades 4-8th, depending on the year or term) and were always included in Form 4 and up (9th -12 grade). Based on The Parents’ Review articles, it seems that these were done in a similar way to what we do now with afternoon teams. One Parents’ Review article talked about the hockey team meeting at 4:00 pm. So it seems that this was extra-curricular, but still suggested in the programmes. Maybe this was done so children learned how to play a variety of team sports. The significant difference I notice from current practice is that a new sport was suggested every term. This would result in a much more well-rounded athlete than our modern situation where a child plays only one sport, such as soccer, for 12 years. While Mason was alive, usually just Forms 3 and up included team sports.

Forms 5-6:

Modern Resources

Miss Mason’s Music on Facebook and coming soon at! I am building a comprehensive CM music website to share my research as well as some video lessons to help families implement music education in their homes.

Dawn Duran’s Swedish Drill eBook can help you learn how to specifically implement the Swedish Drill portion of the drill syllabus. She also has some blog posts and videos.

New England Dancing Masters are CDs and DVDs with folk dancing music and instruction.

I also list a few books to get you started. Just be aware that none of these will look exactly like Mason’s methods, but I do believe many of the basic principles are present in these materials:

John M. Feierabend is a modern author who has written a First Steps in Music Series. There are books for movement, dancing, and folk singing, among other things. I currently only own one in the series, but they look promising. I suggest looking for them at your local library first to check them out.

Play, Sing and Dance by Doug Goodkin

Rhythm and Movement: Applications of Dalcroze Eurhythmics by Elsa Findlay

Music philosophies that have similar components to Mason’s philosophy (many of these organizations offer classes):

Kodály Concept
Dalcroze Eurhythmics
Gordon Music Learning Theory

I hope you enjoyed my two-article series on rhythm and movement. I hope to be back soon with articles on Sol-fa!


Alexander, A. 1894. Drill for the standards. London: George Philip & Son.

Board of Education. 1909. The syllabus of physical exercises. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode.

Mason, C. (1989c). School Education. Quarryville: Charlotte Mason Research & Supply.

Moore, H. (1898). The true basis of a rational education. In The Parents’ Review, volume 9 (pp. 315-324). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

PNEU. (1893). Our work. In The Parents’ Review, volume 3 (pp. 958-950). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

PNEU. (1936). Report of the Jubilee Gathering. In The Parents’ Review, volume 47 (pp. 351-406). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Heidi Buschbach, mother of 4, has been studying Charlotte Mason’s philosophy for the past 9 years as she strives to put living principles into practice in her home school room. Heidi leads a local fine arts and nature study CM community in the Twin Cities area. She has a particular interest in researching how Charlotte Mason implemented music education. Heidi looks forward to sharing her discoveries with the Charlotte Mason community on her new music education website entitled Miss Mason’s Music.

©2017 Heidi Buschbach

3 Replies to “Musical Drill Practices”

  1. Thanks for the link to Swedish Drill Revisited, Heidi. I have enjoyed communicating with you regarding the intersection of our research in these areas, and I become increasingly more convinced about the value of combining physical and musical education in a time slot in which they can reinforce each other so well. I do know that you have found exceptions in which Swedish Drill was set to music in the PNEU in some of your research, but my findings have given a strong indication that Swedish Drill should not be set to music – with the exception of it possibly having value with use in Infant Schools (i.e. Kindergarten and possibly Form Ib). The more I have reflected on what you have shared regarding the inclusion of Swedish Drill with musical accompaniment from an 1898 PR article, the more I think that it was speaking to this exception (i.e., using it in Infant schools, as suggested in the Syllabus of Physical Exercises) – especially considering the very next line speaks to the performance of Kindergarten Games. I am thankful to you for bringing that possibility to my attention, though, as I did not consider the possibility of this “exception” before our previous discussions. I’m excited by your research, and thankful we as a community can continue to learn from each other as we grow in our knowledge together.

    1. Dawn,

      Thanks for your comment! I am so glad you were able to take the time to read my article and think through these things with me. I agree with you that Swedish Drill, as intended by Ling, was not meant to be done with music. Your findings from Timberg’s two articles in the PR indicate that it was better to be done without music so children could pay attention to the commands and the accuracy of the positions, as I mentioned in my article. That’s also noted in the Syllabus for Physical Exercises and other books about Ling’s system of Swedish Drill. I agree with you that in most cases the portion of the drill time in the PNEU that was given to Swedish Drill was usually not done with music.

      You are also right that the youngest children in form 1b must have used music for their marches to add delight and recreation based on pages 161-163 from the Syllabus for Physical Exercises book and also because the programmes provide a music accompaniment book for their marches. The Physical Exercises book indicates that the infant school was for 7 and under, so that would have been form 1b. The PNEU seems to extend this musical book for marches through all of form 1 though, as the marching accompaniment book is still listed into the 1930’s for both forms 1b and 1a. So I suspect that they intended for all of Form 1 to march to music in some fashion. Here is a quote from Miss Mason’s volumes that indicates to me that music was good for the “little people” under age nine which would include all of Form 1:

      For physical training nothing is so good as Ling’s Swedish Drill, and a few of the early exercises are the reach of children under nine. Dancing, and the various musical drills, lend themselves to grace of movement, and give more pleasure, if less scientific training, to the little people. (Volume 1, p. 315)

      On the other hand, Timberg’s two articles are the only two PR articles I have seen that indicate music shouldn’t be used with Swedish Drill. In contrast, I see over and over through other PR’s and Mason’s own volumes that music was used quite often for drill. That doesn’t necessarily mean all drill was Swedish Drill, of course, which is why I draw a distinction between musical drill and Swedish drill in my article. They can be two coinciding practices in the PNEU.

      I would however like to address the idea of using music for Swedish Drill with the older students. While I acknowledge that the bulk of formal Swedish Drill ought to be done to commands for the benefit of full attention without music, I have reason to believe that music was used for the tables in a book called Syllabus of Physical Training. These tables appear to be charts with instructions on Swedish Drill. Notice programme 127 from the CMDC:

      Form 4 Programme 127 (1933)

      Drill, etc. (Choose new work each term.)

      Drill, dancing or games

      (а) Drill : Board of Education Syllabus of Physical Training for Schools, 1919 (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1/6) Take six consecutive tables. Use also 1927 Supplement for Older Girls (H.M. Stationary Office). For drill music, Music for use in Mrs. Wordworth’s Classes (P.N.E.U. Office 3/6), may be used.

      (b) Dancing : The English Country Dance Graded Series, by Cecil Sharp Vol. III-VI. (Novello, 3/- each volume), each containing instructions and music for 6 dances. Scandinavian Dances, Seires III (Ling Asdsociation, 11d.)

      (c) Games: Longball [Rules, Bourne & Co., 2d.). Netball; Hockey.

      In some of the earlier PNEU programmes, all the books for drill were listed in one paragraph and it was difficult to tell which books went together for drill, dancing, or games. By 1933, the PNEU had better organized the programmes so under the main heading of Drill, three subheadings are given: Drill, Dancing, and Games. The first subheading, as you can see is “a.) Drill.” The main drill book is the Syllabus book. There is also a Supplement listed. After some digging I found the full title of the supplement to be: Board of Education Supplement to the 1919 Syllabus of Physical Training for Older Girls (London HMSO, 1927).

      Note in the programme that Music for use in Mrs. Wordworth’s Classes is specifically designated for Drill, not for dancing and not for games. We can also take note that it’s in the upper forms (Form 4, 9th grade), not just Form 1. It doesn’t appear to even go along with another musical drill book. It’s simply listed for the Board of Education Syllabus of Physical Training for Schools and the Board of Education Supplement to the 1919 Syllabus of Physical Training for Older Girls. Programme 120 doesn’t even list a supplement book. All it lists is the Syllabus and the musical accompaniment book that may be used for drill.

      I was able to request the supplement book from the University of MN and picked it up today. I found that it’s not anything unique relative to the other Syllabus books. It’s a short booklet that just offers more advanced drill tables and group games for older girls who continued on in the schools past the age of 14. There aren’t any special dances included or musical activities. I conclude from this evidence that if the PNEU programme indicated that they were supposed to do six consecutive “Swedish Drill” tables from the Syllabus books, and there is a musical accompaniment book listed that says “For drill music, Music for use in Mrs. Wordworth’s Classes (P.N.E.U. Office 3/6), may be used,” then it’s likely that music was being used for the drill tables. In what way was the musical accompaniment book being used for the Swedish Drill tables from the Syllabus book?

      I am still doing research into this area, but there are a couple things I have found so far that I would like to draw attention to that seem to help answer this question for me. The primary lesson book for drill that was suggested in the PNEU programmes was the Syllabus for Physical Exercise (or Training) 1909 and 1919. This first quote is from the 1919 version in a section about teaching younger children, so this quote relates to Form 1.

      Music plays a valuable part in the physical education of a child; in all rhythmic movement, rhythmic games and dancing it is essential, and therefore it should be used for a great deal of the work done in the secondary lesson. In the primary lesson there is little need for music, or opportunity for its use. A musical accompaniment is by no- means suitable for most of the exercises and movements, in fact they would lose character and effect if performed continuously to music. There are some, such as running, marching, skipping, jumping, etc., which can be performed rhythmically with advantage, and occasional music will add to the pleasure of the children. Besides these there are games of general activity such as “Musical Circle,” “Ninepins,” “Pop goes the Weazel,” “Musical Bumps,” etc., which are much more enjoyable with music, and it should be used for them whenever possible. There are few singing games active enough to warrant their being included in the primary lesson; but these particular games, or an active dance or illustration of a nursery rhyme, when well known, may suitably be taken at the end of the lesson. Out of doors, a violin, a mouth-organ, or a song may take the place of a piano.

      I think it shows that occasional music with running, marching, skipping and jumping drills from the tables adds pleasure and that there are also some musical games which should be included at the end of the primary morning lesson. When I have looked over those tables, every single one ends with a marching, running, or jumping drill and/or a game. So I think that it was perfectly fine for drill lessons to end with musical accompaniment.

      In the 1909 version there is a section that applies to all ages, not just infant schools (or Form 1) and it says:

      Music—Music is at times made use of in the physical training lesson and is of great value if properly employed. It must, however, be clearly recognised that it should not be used in the formal lesson with the regular physical exercises, because exercises performed to music are carried out rhythmically, more or less mechanically, and without much thought or concentration of mind. For this reason the Educational and Developmental effects are greatly diminished, though fatigue is lessened and the recreative effect is markedly increased. Music should, therefore, be used in Infant classes, where it is especially important to avoid fatigue and to make the lessons bright and cheerful; it may also be used to accompany marching or dancing steps, when teaching the older classes, either if the children are tired, or in order to avoid monotony and render the lesson more recreative.

      This note seems to support the idea that although music with the tables is less than ideal, even for older students marching and dancing steps may be done to music “if the children are tired, or in order to avoid monotony and render the lesson more recreative.” Mason’s placement of the drill tables half-way through the morning lessons seem to indicate to me that they are meant to be partially recreative since the time is also followed by games, dancing and/or play. I think in providing an accompaniment book for drill in Forms 1-4, Mason may be stepping away from the Swedish Drill ideal and giving the parents and teachers some freedom to utilize music as needed for delight and recreation.

      A third quote I would like to share is from the introduction to the 1909 version of the Syllabus book (Page vii) and it says:

      7. Several other matters in regard to the Syllabus call for mention. The Board desire that all lessons in physical exercises in Public Elementary Schools should be thoroughly enjoyed by the children. Indeed, freedom of movement and a certain degree of exhilaration are essentials of all true physical education. Hence, it has been thought well not only to modify some of the usual Swedish combinations in order to make the work less exacting, but to introduce games and dancing steps into many of the lessons. If appropriately taught, many of the free movements accompanying games and dancing steps cannot but have good results, as indeed experience has shown where such exercises have been introduced.

      This indicates to me that Swedish Drill from the syllabus book was being utilized in the schools in a modified fashion and that games and dancing steps were included on the drill tables to make the lessons enjoyable for the children.

      Another note is that in the earlier years of the PNEU, sometimes only a musical drill book was used, as I showed from the Appendix of School Education. That programme only utilized the book “Drill for the Standards” and every drill exercise is accompanied by music. Here is a quote from PR Volume 5 from a book review of Musical Drill and Drill for the Standards both by A. Alexander:

      Musical Drill, {^s. 6d.), and Drill for Standards, {2s. 6d.), by A. Alexander, (Philip & Sons). Mothers will find an immense variety of pretty drills in these two volumes. Perhaps Drill for Standards contains the most truly gymnastic drills and Musical Drill, pretty and graceful calisthenic exercises, including the Maypole Dance. Mr. Alexander deserves the hearty thanks of home teachers for reducing – these valuable drills to printed instructions, with music and illustrations.

      Interestingly, I found a “Notes on Lessons” in PR Volume 15 where form 4 is doing Spanish exercises for Drill time. They are supposed to learn them for graceful movement, then it says: “Step III.—Repeat the exercise for the girls, this time with the music.” Then they practice the exercise. Who knew that besides Swedish and Musical Drill the PNEU was also doing Spanish Exercises!

      This month I discovered a few PNEU programmes utilizing a Skipping Manual for forms 3 and 4 which solidified my suspicion about using music for skipping rope. There is a book called Mind and Body, Volume 34 which described the manual:

      Skipping Manual by Olive M Newmarch. Edited by Messrs A. Brown and Sons, London. Price 2-8. 5” x 7 1-2”. Bound in cloth. In this book Miss March has made rather a unique contribution. While the title, Skipping Manual does not indicate it, the book deals with the various kinds of rope skipping. It contains all varieties of skipping, for class and individual, both simple and advanced. Starting out with plain rope skipping it gives all degrees of difficulty including complicated combinations with dancing steps.

      I suspect that if there were dancing steps being done with rope skipping that music was also being used. This is reminiscent of the skipping songs we used to sing on the playground as girls. Singing helps keep the skipper in a steady beat.

      The most curious thing to me, as I mentioned in my article, is that Forms 5 and 6 at the 1936 conference for the Jubilee Celebration did musical drill, but there aren’t any special musical drill or musical accompaniment books listed in their programmes for those forms in the 1930’s. So I wonder how the students were able to come together at a conference and do musical drill together if they hadn’t been working on it at home during the term. It seems to indicate to me that they were in fact doing their assigned drill books to music by default because they always had when they were younger possibly. Here is a Youtube video of Ling’s System in Sweden in the 1930’s and it appears to me that at least parts of it are being performed to music by the way they are all able to move in synchronization, but I can’t be sure as it’s a silent film. But it reminds me of the flag drill team for marching band. Then here are two modern videos showing what was historically being done for gymnastics in Scandinavian countries and it’s very similar to Swedish Drill as you can see. In the 1860-70’s historical reenactment they don’t do the drill to music. Then in the 1920s-30s they were using music. So this was an interesting find!

      So while I agree with you that the primary portions of formal Swedish Drill are meant to be done to commands and not to music, it seems there are portions of these Drill Tables from the Syllabus of Physical Exercises book where it’s acceptable to do them with music with younger and older students. The marching and dancing steps from the tables and any musical games in the syllabus book would most likely have been done to music some or all of the time. Then on top of that, the earlier PNEU programmes had specific musical drill books as well as the Syllabus book, so it’s clear that although Mason thought very highly of Ling’s Swedish drill, it wasn’t the only thing happening during drill time in the school morning and that it was most likely modified to include some music for all forms.

      I hope some of these references help to clarify where I am getting my ideas from. I am excited to continue the conversation!


      1. Thanks for your reply, Heidi. I think it’s exciting that physical and musical education can complement each other in such a powerful way, and I am grateful for the opportunities you have provided me to learn more about this. I am also impressed that Charlotte Mason did not systematize the practices that she incorporated into this combo time slot, but treated them as the adaptable methods that they are. While a trained Swedish Drill instructor in the Parents’ Review – as well as manuals and books that focus on the Swedish Drill method – advise against the use of music when implementing Swedish Drill, setting Swedish Drill to music does not violate any of the six foundational principles of the method, making it entirely possible to adapt to suit particular goals.

        One must, of course, consider their goals in determining whether or not to adopt a particular practice. For example, my goals with Swedish Drill relate to specific physical attainments to optimize alignment and health, and it is my opinion that introducing music into the equation often detracts from the goals because the focus shifts from physical mastery to keeping time with the music. However, I believe it is possible to use music and still achieve physical goals if close attention is paid to the tempo (is this particular tempo so fast that with this particular movement the student isn’t able to perform it properly and, therefore, safely?), etc.

        It seems like you and I have different goals because of the particular lens we use as we investigate these practices, Heidi – and that’s okay. My lens is one of a physical therapist, emphasizing the physical aspects, while yours as a music educator emphasizes the rhythmic elements. Clearly, Charlotte Mason – in placing these two elements of education together in one time slot – was not systematizing either one. Rather, she saw the flexibility that any of these practices had to offer, and maintained fidelity to the methods without undercutting their foundational principles. Such a beautiful thing.

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