This informative and poetic post comes to us from member Liz Hannan. A music teacher and choir director, Liz recently shared a few thoughts on the list-serv about teaching young children to match pitches; it was so popular, we asked her to flesh out those comments for the post below.
Each week I am blessed to lead music circles for 10 Montessori preschools in the San Francisco Bay Area. The circles usually have 15 to 20 children between the ages of 2 and 5.
These are some of the things I do to help the children match pitches:
I use a set of resonator bells (see photo). The children are reminded to be silent so they can listen. They are invited to listen and watch as I play an ascending scale very slowly. Then I invite them to listen first and sing as they count. Often they attempt to sing as I play so I stop and remind them to listen first. Variations can include letter names of notes, colors of the bars, days of the week, solfege, lip trills, hums and/or the sound of the week.
Then I invite the children to play, listen and sing as they take their turn. We are all silent as each child takes a turn. Just this week a 4 year old matched the first 7 pitches but missed the 8th one. She stopped, frowned, played the 8th and sang it in tune. She gave herself an approving nod and smile.
When the children are ready I present intervals, triads, octaves and descending scales.The children watch and listen as I play the entire chord progression of our first song.
Then we sing it.
Once I am confident they really know the song I ask them to listen and see if I am playing the correct pitch for that song. I invite them to think about that song for a few minutes in silence. The first chord is C Major with a 4 4 pick. I strum a Em from the high E to the low E, an A7th with a flamenco flare, barre chord all 6 strings at the 12th fret and randomly strum. Then I play the C with a 4 4 pick.
As the year goes on I do the same but then play an F, G, or D before the C. Some children can tell within a half step.
I also use a chromatic pitch pipe. I play softly, they listen, then we all match each pitch with a vocable. My favorite is La to engage the teeth and tongue. We do this for an entire chromatic scale.
Then I tell them to listen and match the G for Two Little Black Birds or whatever pitch for whatever song. They listen and match the pitch before each verse. Later I ask them to listen and see if I am playing the correct pitch for the song.
At first I begin with pitches furthest from the correct pitch. Then I gradually get closer and closer.
Often if I begin a song without asking them to listen for the correct pitch. They ask for the listening and matching exercise.