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#64328 - 11/17/13 05:12 PM 3.5 year old ear training and pitch matching
pianojazzgirl Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/26/03
Posts: 847
Loc: Montreal
Since the beginning of September I've been teaching the 3.5 year old daughter of my friend (I also teach her 11 year old son). It's been lots of fun!

I'm looking for suggestions to help her develop the ability to match pitch and hear melody. Currently she "sings" most (all?) pieces in kind of a speaking voice with questionable rhythm. She also has trouble identifying well-known songs except by lyrics (for example if I play jingle bells she has no idea what it is, but if I sing it she lights up with recognition). She is only able to match the very simplest of rhythms (like 2 quarter notes, etc). I imagine this is very much in the range of normal for the age, but I didn't have this experience with my own kids.

There has been some improvement. She can now some of the time imitate very simple melodies that alternate between two pitches a minor third apart (kind of "sing-song-y" if you know what I mean). She also easily identified Twinkle when I played it (since Sept we've been working on this piece from singing with motions, to tapping, to pointing and singing at the stars on the page of MFPA, to finally learning it at the piano).

I am not at all daunted and am totally enjoying this new teaching challenge (previously the youngest child I taught was 4.5 yo). I conceive of these lessons as a fun time to make music together and a gentle start down the path towards general music and piano skills.

Does anyone have any ideas of activities specifically pertaining to aiding a preschooler with pitch matching/ear training? My short(ish) term goals with her are for her to learn to sing and recognize some simple well-known songs that later she will play on the piano, to keep a steady beat, and to have her be able to hear a simple rhythm of quarter, half and whole notes and repeat it back.

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#64329 - 11/17/13 07:13 PM Re: 3.5 year old ear training and pitch matching [Re: pianojazzgirl]
alidoremi Offline
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Registered: 03/11/02
Posts: 2120
Loc: California
I love this age group. Here are some ways to begin teaching ear training (and when I say 'teach', I am really meaning getting the child to EXPERIENCE concepts, not really formal instruction).

Highs and lows - I start with having them recognize high and low sounds with me playing them on the piano. Do they sound like birds flying or elephants stomping? They reach up high or down low. Then we move to the piano and they play high/low sounds based on what they are hearing me play (you'll need a 2nd keyboard for this).

Solfege - this should be your best friend when it comes to ear training. I use fixed DO solfege and I start by singing simple 3-note patterns that the child copies back: DO DO DO.... DO DO RE.... RE RE RE.... RE RE DO... DO RE MI... MI RE DO..
When they can do piano fingering (actual lessons), I sing/play these same 3-note patterns on my piano; they play them back on their piano. We eventually get to the place where I can play the patterns and NOT sing and they can play them back for me. And of course, we are adding FA and SOL, keeping it in the Key of C. My 5 yr olds can do melodic dictation of 5 notes in the Key of C.

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#64330 - 11/17/13 08:33 PM Re: 3.5 year old ear training and pitch matching [Re: alidoremi]
pianojazzgirl Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/26/03
Posts: 847
Loc: Montreal
Thanks alidoremi - very helpful (and helps me understand your user name better, lol!).

We have done various high/low games and she is fine at hearing the difference.

I love the idea of using solfege. I actually wonder if perhaps moveable do wouldn't work a bit better for my purposes. She has a very high voice and her comfort level seems to be around E to treble C at the moment. At the last lesson we were singing Old MacDonald in Gb and it was just right (we were focusing on the E-I-E-I-O part in preparation for her to eventually play it on the 3 black keys). Hmmm...

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#64331 - 11/17/13 09:41 PM Re: 3.5 year old ear training and pitch matching [Re: pianojazzgirl]
alidoremi Offline
Star Member

Registered: 03/11/02
Posts: 2120
Loc: California
It depends what you are trying to teach. Fixed DO is to teach actual pitch recognition, which is what you want right? I want students to know that DO always sounds a certain way and FA sounds a certain way.

Also, kids will need a musical language and solfege works here too. I don't use letter names in the first couple of years except to refer to the 'Key of C', 'Key of G', etc... Later I then add letter names and they move between solfege and letter names smoothly.

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#64332 - 11/17/13 09:52 PM Re: 3.5 year old ear training and pitch matching [Re: alidoremi]
pianojazzgirl Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/26/03
Posts: 847
Loc: Montreal
I'm aiming more for pitch-matching as opposed to pitch-naming. I do use the letter names from the beginning with my students. I can see moveable-do being useful in terms of thinking within a key, if that makes sense. Like in my Old Mac example for "e-i-e-i-o" we would sing mi, mi, re, re, do, (ie. descending to tonic) even though it's in Gb Maj (ie on the 3 black keys).

However, that could really cause some confusion later as where I live in the schools fixed-do is taught.

Hmm... now I'm thinking fixed-do might be better in the long run.

(sorry for my confused ramblings, lol!)

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#64333 - 11/17/13 09:54 PM Re: 3.5 year old ear training and pitch matching [Re: pianojazzgirl]
pianojazzgirl Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/26/03
Posts: 847
Loc: Montreal
p.s. I guess the crux of it is - do you think always associating a pitch with a certain syllable helps little kids match pitch earlier? I suppose it might help imprint pitches in the memory?

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#64334 - 11/18/13 12:26 AM Re: 3.5 year old ear training and pitch matching [Re: pianojazzgirl]
alidoremi Offline
Star Member

Registered: 03/11/02
Posts: 2120
Loc: California
I think children, especially young ones, need a solid 'home base', so to speak. They will need a musical language... something that doesn't change and is a constant. Fixed DO solfege does that for my students. I think it does imprint pitches in memory. I've had several students over the years who could sing middle DO right on pitch, not having heard it.

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#64335 - 11/18/13 03:48 AM Re: 3.5 year old ear training and pitch matching [Re: alidoremi]
PianoStudent Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 05/23/11
Posts: 106
Loc: Maine
"very simple melodies that alternate between two pitches a minor third apart"

I believe that Kodaly instruction starts with sol-mi: a minor third. You might get a Kodaly book and look at the order in which relative pitches are added. Maybe you would find a continuing correspondence of the order in which she learns to sing with what Kodaly discovered and taught about singing.

Kodaly used moveable do, but I have heard stories of children learning very successfully with fixed do solfege, from countries which use do re mi for note names.

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#64337 - 11/18/13 10:20 AM Re: 3.5 year old ear training and pitch matching [Re: PianoStudent]
EllaCat Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 04/03/08
Posts: 365
Loc: Atlantic Canada
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent
"very simple melodies that alternate between two pitches a minor third apart"

I believe that Kodaly instruction starts with sol-mi: a minor third.

I'm pretty sure you're right - I remember this from a music ed course I took back in school. Wish I could remember more but as I don't teach that age myself I've lost a lot of it.

Not meaning to hijack the thread, but I'm very interested in the concept of teaching perfect pitch - I always thought this was an innate ability, not something that could be learned? I'd LOVE to have this skill.

What's the advantage of using fixed-do solfege, instead of just note names? I learned moveable-do back in school for sight-singing/ear-training but have never really understood the purpose of fixed-do - it just seems like a different set of names to me versus a learning tool.

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#64338 - 11/18/13 11:01 AM Re: 3.5 year old ear training and pitch matching [Re: EllaCat]
pianojazzgirl Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/26/03
Posts: 847
Loc: Montreal
I've also thought of fixed-do as a different set of names. I think it is that, but with the advantage of better, more easily distinguished, syllables. In the "musical alphabet" all the letters but F and A end with a long "e" sound, and in singing they can all start to sound a lot like one another. It seems like alidoremi has had the experience of students having had the syllable so firmly matched with the pitch that they can develop limited perfect pitch (ie. majority of the time will accurately sing C if asked to sing "do").

I remember when I was in university a friend mailed away for some "learn perfect pitch" course that was advertised on the back of the musician's guild magazine (they still advertise it!). He never managed to gain perfect pitch, but then again I don't think he stuck with it very long.

I don't have that much interest in developing perfect pitch... I think excellent relative pitch it perhaps even more useful (esp to me, as a jazz musician). Food for thought though...

Thanks everyone for your thoughts. I will look more into the Kodaly system. If anyone has any more ideas I'm all ears! (haha... no pun intended).

edited to add: I'm also looking for ways to help her with her rhythmic skills. She has quite a bit of difficulty copying simple rhythms. Never having taught such a young child I've never come across this before. For example, usually I find my young beginners adore the MFPA secret rhythm activity because they can find such immediate success, even from the first lesson, but this is not the case with this young girl. We have been regularly working on keeping a steady beat with some improvement. I also introduced the "drips and rainbows" activity sheet (from Music Discoveries) at the last lesson which she did well with. I'd love to hear about any other very simple rhythm activities, chants, body movement ideas, etc.

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