I have been asked, “But if he plays an instrument is it really important that he sing?” Teaching children to sing is important and there are several methods to accomplish this. Here are a few tricks of the trade that can be effective with children in helping them secure the ability to match pitch. Some of the ideas listed below are over simplified but effective.
Vocalises – Vocal Exercises and Scale Songs
- Teach the four voices.
Singing, Whispering, Speaking, and Outside Voice
- Use Story Sounds / Vocal Exploration.
- We must know that the child’s voice can move in the direction we ask it to, before we ask it to land on a single note.
- Use vocal energizers to explore the range of the voice and sing in head tone.
- Vocal Excercises should simply get the voice going.
Teaching Fact: Let’s think about the fact that the mouth and throat are the main things that control the voice. To learn to sing on pitch, we must exercise our mouths. Do the vocal exercises. :-)
- There is an order to teaching pitch.
- First we learn sol, mi.
- Sing up to desired pitch and down.
- Second teach do, re, mi
- Third add fa by singing from 1 up to 5 and back down.
- Identify higher/lower pitches
- Identify melodic direction
- Use movement to represent melodic direction – not just the body scale you can also use streamers, balls, and puppets, etc.
- Match simple intervals and patterns alone and with others.
- Distinguish same/different short melody phrases
- Recognize melodic movement as same, step, or skip
- Sing short solo phrases of call/response songs or a stanza as class sings refrain.
- Learn to use good sitting and standing singing posture.
- Begin and end words together.
- Steady beat is the foundation. It is a precursor to instrument playing as well as matching pitch.
Steady Beat – The author Helen Kemp writes a lot about the voice.
She says the basis for pitch is steady beat.
- Every rehearsal should have a steady beat activity.
- Steady beat helps brain development and teaches coordination. It also helps children learn to focus and concentrate on the beat.
- Where’s the beat? (How do you find steady beat when they have no beat all? Oh gloom, no beats and agony on me!)
- Represent the pitch visually. A simple example to think about is this: If you put the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 horizontally on a board or wall and sing up the first five notes of a scale, there is nothing that visually confirms to the ear that the pitches are going up. This may not seem important to you but check the the blog post tomorrow for the experiment I did with my class to see if this really worked. If you will place the numbers vertically with 1 on the bottom and 5 on the top, you will be visually representing the pitches correctly.
- Add the body scale. If you are not familiar with the Body Scale, see it here. Here is the blog posts on mapping pitches in the brain. Use the Body Scale with a simply scale song. Kodaly hand signs are also effective with a scale song.Here is a scale song called Freddie Flea:C—On the floor there C—On my head is
D—is a flea B—Freddie Flea
E—now he’s crawling A—Now he’s crawling
F—up on me G—down on me
G—Past my tummy F—Past my tummy
A—Past my nose E—Past my knee
B—on my head D—On the floor
C—where my hair grows C—take that you Flea (more spoken and stomp the floor with your foot)
The Entire Voice / The Entire Child
When we teach music to young children we are concerned about the whole child and not just a musical concept. Singing is part of who we are. The Bible tells us to sing. Psalm 105:2 “Sing praise to Him, sing praise to Him.” The Bible also says in Luke 19 that without the praise of the people, the rocks will cry out! So singing is not the only way but ONE of the ways we worship the Lord. 1 Corinthians 14:15, Ephesians 5:18-19, and Colossians 3:16 all speak to the fact that sometimes we can sing prayers and sometimes we can pray songs. But either way it is an open line of communication with the composer of the universe.