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This lesson helps young children match pitch





Title – Helping Children Match Pitch
By – Scott McClain
Primary Subject – Music
Grade Level – PreK 


      Here’s how do get children to match pitch: First use the “oo” vowel to get their head voice going in the upper range. Have the children say “oo!” sliding their voices down from the medium-high register, like a sigh or an expression of mild surprise.

Then see if some of them can match pitch with “5oo 3oo 5oo” (C-A-C or G-E-G). Some children will have trouble. Perhaps they will get it after hearing “The Choo-Choo Train” a few times:

“5oo 3oo 5oo… (breathe) ch-ch ch-ch ch-ch ch-ch (repeat)”

Shuffle around the room alternating between the train whistle (four beats, “5oo 3oo 5oo _”), and making the train engine sound (four beats, “ch-ch ch-ch ch-ch ch-ch”), moving your arms like ‘pistons’. You can have the children line up behind you as a train.

As they begin to match pitch after you, begin to introduce two syllables to distinguish the pitches, having them sing after you: “5ah 3oh 5ah”, “5hi 3lo 5hi” and “5Da 3di-di 5Da”.

You can use two hand signs to represent the two pitches. The ‘strong’ upper note of a minor third set is with the hand and arm straight horizontal, while the ‘weak’ lower note is with the hand bent down, with the arm remaining in it’s ‘strong’ position. Here is a sound clip with a visual representation of the hand signs:

It is easier for children to sing a minor third after you than it is for them to sing a single note out of the blue, but it is also true that the lower note of the minor third set is weaker in their early tonal memory than the upper note. It is because of the weakness of the lower note that their first phrases should begin with the upper note.

Here is a set of phrases to have them repeat after you:

“Hi lo Hi”, (repeat)
“Hi Hi lo”, (repeat)
“Hi lo lo”, (repeat)
“Hi Hi Hi”, (repeat)

Here is a sequence of ‘Da-di’ phrases from the Book/CD, ” Teaching Your Child “, that you can have the children repeat after you – two short ones and a long one. Do the hand signs with one hand, and the gesture to yourself or to them with the other, and always breathe with them when you cue their turn:

Toddler Song (excerpt) © Scott McClain

“5Da 3di-di 5Da, (breathe)
5Da 5Da 3di,(breathe)
5Da 5Da 3di-di di-di 5Da 5Da 3di (breathe).”

Here is a sample from another forthcoming CD/book:

Logan and the Animals (excerpt) © Scott McClain

T here once was a boy named Logan. Logan lived on a farm with some animals. Logan’s nickname was “Lo”. Everyone liked to say “Hi” to “Lo”, even the Animals :

The owl: “Hi Lo, Hi!” (minor third, falling and returning)
The pig: “Hi, Hi, Hi!” (upper note)
The wolf: “Hi, Lo!” (minor third, falling. Show a big wolf mouth on “Hi” and hold it open ominously, snapping it down suddenly for a short “Lo”)
And the rooster, who warns him about the wolf: “Lo! Lo! Lo!” (lower note, sung with space in between each “Lo”, anxiously)

Sample from forthcoming CD/Book, ” Rhymes “.
The songs are written with the Da-di note-reading method built in. For example, the song,

I’ve Got a Puppy © Scott McClain

“5I’ve 3got a 5Pup – 3py,
5He’s a 3wiggle wag,
5I’ve 3got a 5Pup – 3py,
3Wiggle wiggle 1wag.”

can be sung later while pointing under the notes written on the board, or the book if teaching individually, with “Da” for the white (half) notes, and “di” for the black (quarter) notes, the Da-di syllables expressing the pitch and rhythm structures built around the children’s third:

5Da 3di-di 5Da 3di,
5Da 5Da 3di-di di,
5Da 3di-di 5Da 3di,
3di-di di-di 1Da.

E-Mail Scott McClain !

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