Here is the Crescendo Music Education Podcast – Episode 74. Hello, I’m Debbie O’Shea. Welcome to another episode of the Crescendo Music Education Podcast, where we’ll be talking all about how to teach your students to sing in-tune.
But, before we do, I thought I’d have a little talk through one of the downloads that I’ve got on my website. So crescendo.com.au, there’s 1000s of things that you can download in there, it’s growing all the time, there’s a free membership. So sign up, it will never cost you any money if you don’t wish it to, Piano is the free membership. Then there are three levels of membership. Forte is at the moment, it’s only $60 Australian a year, which is pretty good value. The next level is Fortissimo it’s at the moment, $90 Australian, a year. And then there is Sforzato, which is $200 a year.
So of course, there’s different levels of access and different amounts that you can download for free. There’s webinars and workshop repeats. And when there are new webinars and workshops, there’s different levels of discount for the three different levels of membership. If you’re a Sforzato member, basically everything is free all the time.
One of the big advantages of that top level, as well as all of the choir music that I’ve written, I have not been writing for many years now, I must get back to it. That’s all there for you to use with your children for free. So there’s actually quite a bit but I digress, I want to come back to this.
About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes, we would rather skim visually than listen to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too!
The transcript of episode 074 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.
How to Find the Quick Reference Sheet for Singing In-Tune
This is just a bit of a Crescendo Quickie. And it’s actually referring to a download from my site, which is a quick music education reference sheet. How do you help children to sing in tune? It was some ideas that I had popped down through my workshops that I did with teachers over the years. And I just thought I’d jot down some of these notes. It’s literally a one page PDF. So you can hop in and find that and download it. Or you can listen to this podcast, or there will be of course a transcript, either on the podcast page, or you can go to Read the Episode on my blog. So this one is all about how you help children to sing in tune.
Why Do Some Children Sing Out of Tune?
Now, you I’m sure will have many things you can add to this. But this is what I did at the time over a few years. I put this together. So I guess the first question you ask yourself is why do some children sing out of tune? Some seem to come out into the world singing in tune, I think that’s got to do with what they hear in utero, and the experience of their family, all of those things. But not all children automatically match pitch. So what are some of the potential issues?
So they may not be able to even hear the sound of their own voice.
Lack of Distinction
They may not yet understand the difference between their singing voice and their speaking voice. And I think that’s a very important thing to do in early childhood music, is to make sure that they know the difference between singing and talking. And they can hear when you’re singing and when you’re talking or singing and speaking.
Lack of Role Models
They may not have had good models to imitate. So either they were in families, or home situations where people didn’t sing, or they did sing and they did not sing in tune, or they sang in tune at a range that was well out of where their young voices should have been singing. So maybe they just did not have good models to imitate, because that’s the way they learnt. It’s they way we learn to speak. It’s certainly the way we learn to sing. We need those good models.
Too Much Accompaniment
Maybe what they grew up with was music that had way too much accompaniment. And I know I’ve heard quite a few supposedly early childhood resources that are so heavily accompanied that you really have trouble discerning the singing voice in amongst all of that accompaniment. So they need to be able to hear a voice modeled well, without all that accompaniment.
The repertoire that they may have been exposed to may not be appropriate. It may not be in their vocal range. It may not have approachable, no that’s not the word, I’ll just go back to appropriate, rhythmic patterns for them to imitate, they may be too complex. So the repertoire has to be really appropriate.
Lack of Confidence
They maybe just lack confidence. Maybe they’ve been told to shut up too many times. Or maybe You can’t sing, Don’t sing. Kids take things very much to heart, even if it’s not meant that badly. So maybe they just do not have the confidence to sing.
It is possible that there is a physical issue, maybe their ears are blocked, and they can’t hear properly. Maybe there’s an auditory processing issue. There may be some physical issue. But usually, it’s all of these other things, not so much the physical issues preventing children singing in tune.
How Teachers Can Help Students to Sing In-Tune
Create a Safe Environment
Now it’s time to get on to the good stuff, how can you help these little people? All right, the first thing I think you have to do is to provide a safe, secure environment. If they don’t feel safe, and they don’t feel secure, they’re certainly not going to start taking risks, they’re not going to start exposing themselves to potential put downs. So you’ve got to provide that safe, secure environment.
Lead By Example
You have got to be or provide, if you have some difficulty being a good model, you need to be able to sing in the appropriate range, so that the children can match that pitch and that is a bit tricky. A lot of us as we get older, we tend to want to sing a little lower. If you’re a nice alto person, if you’re a man that’s got real issues. At first, you may need to sing a little falsetto. But the kids can learn to match your pitch an octave higher. So you can work around those things.
If you are a man teaching early childhood, however, I think you need to start with that good role model at the appropriate pitch. It might even be using other children within your group that can match that pitch. But you need to provide good models, they could be recorded. There’s actually some lovely recorded models now that you can use, live is best of course, but nothing wrong with some good recordings.
Select Appropriate Materials
So you choose appropriate material, it’s got to be appropriate in pitch, in range and in tempo, it can’t be too fast for them, it also can’t be too slow. All of those things, there’s some research done around what works best for children. So you’ve got to make sure your materials are appropriate.
Something that can work magic is to sit a child who’s having difficulty next to a singer that’s matching pitch. Sometimes it can just fix itself. It’s pretty amazing.
Opportunities to Sing Alone
You need, now can I say guilty Debbie, sometimes you need to give the children plenty of opportunity to sing alone. Now I have songs and games where the kids sing alone, you know Bee Bee Bumblebee, they have to sing their name and there’s Charlie Over the Ocean where they all echo. But I don’t think I actually do it often enough. I think they need to sing alone often, they need to hear themselves, they need to hear others. So give them lots of opportunity to sing alone.
It’s important to encourage and accept all efforts. But I do think it’s really important to not tell a child something is good or correct or right if it’s not. So if they’re trying to match pitch and they sing to you don’t say, ‘Oh, that was good.’ I really like not putting too many value judgments on anything I like using, ‘Thank you.’ I mean, you have to do what works for you. But I like to say thank you to the child that’s done an amazing job and has matched pitch and is just absolutely fabulous.
I also like to say thank you to the child that is struggling, doing their best, but is not quite there. But they both deserve a thank you. So try and get out of the habit of saying ‘good. Oh, yes, you’re right.’ Just say, ‘thank you.’ Like, that’s awesome. You’ve had a go. Yes. Thank you.
A lot of individual response songs. So that’s really linked back to the children singing alone often. So the individual response songs like Lemonade (sings) Here I come, where from? New York. What’s your trade etc. So that’s a fun one. Quite a few individual response songs.
Enhanced Vocal Activities
Now, we get to your upper register, certainly used to be called head voice, chest voice but not anymore. But that nice high. Listen to Wendy Rolls in her podcast episode talking about the different voices, so we’ll just call them vocalizers. So much fun doing vocalizing activities with little kids. Let them experiment and soar with their voices. I’ll read you a little bit of a list that I’ve got here.
So we’ve got scarves, scarves are fabulous. There’s even some special little songs and throw them up and follow the scarf with your voice.
Train whistles at the end of rhymes. The end of songs that nice train whistles so lovely.
Sirens, I do a really silly activity. Yeah I know, you’re surprised aren’t you? Me doing a silly activity. I grab some scarves, red, couple of yellow scarves. And I get the kids to close their eyes in the middle of the room. And I go and stand somewhere in the corner. I don’t have a really big room so it’s a bit silly. And then I say, open your eyes. And I stand in the corner and I wave the scarves all around because I’m a burning building.
So hey, I know, they get in their pretend fire engines and they have to make the siren noise and drive over to me. And then they turn on their hose (shhhhh) and put out the fire and my scarves go down.
Then they sit back on the floor again, close their eyes, I go somewhere else for them to drive their fire engines to put the next fire out. I know, silly, but we’re making siren noises.
Ghosts, I have a ghost puppet. So I can operate the ghost puppet and they follow the puppet with their voice, you can let children have a go at doing the puppets. Of course, you know, you get some really crazy things when you let them do that. But the ghost puppets, try making your starting pitch.
If you’re working with an individual child, and they’re starting pitch is really low, try making your starting pitch super high, then gradually move closer. And sometimes that can bring the child up as they’re trying to imitate your like way too high sound, it might bring them up. So that’s something to try, you can place your fingers on the front of your neck here to feel the different vibrations, if you get the children to hold their fingers gently there and to speak and then to sing and feel the difference in the vibration. And sometimes maybe that physical part might help them to switch into their singing voice.
Variety of Tools
I like using a slide whistle so the children can imitate that with their voices. They can do stuff with their bodies too, imitate with their voices, or a siren whistle.
I like throwing little beanbags. So either, you know, grab some from your sports teacher from the PE teacher, or I’ve got some little toy, animal beanbags.
You can play in a circle, you can say, I quite like the little name one. So we’re in a circle, you say the person’s name, whoever you’re going to throw to, and you throw the beanbag as high as possible. Well within reason and follow the trajectory of the beanbag with your voice over to the other person.
So you know, you go alright, Deb. Then after you’ve had a turn of the beanbag you sit down, so you can get through the whole class and everyone individually has done this nice, free vocalising with their voice.
I used to have a little toy helicopter that I don’t know what happened to it, no doubt it broke. And it launched, it was just a little plastic thing and you pulled something and it popped off the top. I’ve seen some little fairies or something that did it as well and you pull the bottom off and it flies up and back down.
So if you had a toy that did that you could follow up with your voice, that works really well.
You could use a spider on a web and follow that, a marionette type puppet, you could follow the pitch there. I have some vocal contour cards actually, there’s some on crescendo.com.au done by an artist, really fabulous.
And so by that I mean you know when there’s those lines that curve on the chart, so mine I think I have birds that fly through the sky. Then I’ve got an octopus floating through the ocean and you just follow the contour of the line that’s there.
You could also use a pencil and draw shapes in the air. Use a paintbrush. You can use it, the children can have them. All showing this free sliding vocalising.
So there’s a few vocalising ideas, I’m sure you have more, but there’s quite a few there. You might have found a new one or been reminded of one you haven’t done for a while.
Encourage Soft Singing
A couple of other just general things to keep in mind, encourage soft singing or quiet singing. I tell the children that they must be able to hear the person beside them, I want them to listen, as well as sing. In fact, they need to listen as much as they are singing. So that’s really important.
Here’s a biggie, and boy oh boy am I guilty, because I just want to be part of it. Don’t sing with the children unless you have to. Yes I’m gonna say that one again. Are you ready? Don’t sing with the children, unless you have to. Let them sing, let them hear each other.
You need to sing at the beginning as a model, as soon as you can you drop out. But I tell you what, it’s so hard. If I’m literally playing a game with the kids, I find myself starting to join in.
Not good for my voice, which actually you can probably hear it’s not great now, but it’s not good for them either. So don’t sing with them, unless you have to, tell yourself off.
All right I also believe with young children to sing mostly acapella. It’s really important. And remember that the older that children are, the longer it takes you to help them to sing in tune.
So there’s just a few very practical ideas here on how you can help your children to sing better in tune.
So until next time, bye from this Crescendo Quickie. Bye.
Thank you for joining me for this podcast. Don’t forget that you’ll find the show notes on crescendo.com.au/74. Also, you can find the transcripts there. So you’ve got all of the detail that you need. If you’ve found this podcast useful, I’d really love it if you share the link with a colleague. Remember all I can be is the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you. (sings) We’ll meet again. I hope we will. Bye.
Just for Laughs
As we know laughter relieves stress. Don’t lose sight of the funny side of life.
I meant to look for my missing watch, but I could never find the time.
Even I admit that one’s terrible (laughs).
Links Mentioned in the Episode:
Check out the Crescendo Music Education Membership HERE
Crescendo Music Education Reference Sheet: How do you help children to sing in tune?
Where to find me:
- Crescendo Community Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/crescendocommunity
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