The sounds before the symbol Mon, Oct 21, 2013

by KayTheEd | categories | all articles

One of the very first ‘sound bites’ I heard as a student in principles of teaching was that the sounds always come before the symbols.
This is in itself, an enormous area to talk about so I will just focus on a couple of issues around it which have reshaped the way I teach today.
Here is just the first one for starters, concerning rhythm.

Here in England, we use terms such as Crochets and quavers as names for notes of a specific duration. The names in themselves don’t tell you anything about what the note sounds like or how long they last for - they are labels and I have to be honest and say that I don’t think they are particularly helpful ones at that.
The American system of labelling notes as divisions of a ‘whole note’, into half and quarter notes etc. seems to me, much more sensible as well as accessible. Unfortunately, a child will need to be at least 7 years old before they can really begin to understand what a quarter or an eighth really mean.
When I first started learning the cello aged nearly 12, I was fortunate enough to have lessons in the Kodaly approach at my local music centre in Yorkshire. This in itself was quite unusual at that time I understand, but it was there that I first encountered Sol-fa and French time names.
The beauty of using french time names or Kodaly’s system based on the same is that you can HEAR what the rhythms sound like and the words are not very likely to be as subject to variation in sound.
I have never really been in favour of using words such ‘coffee’ (often used for crochets or quavers but could sound like dotted quaver-semiquaver rhythms if not careful) or ‘Sausages’ (which could sound like a triplet or a crochet followed by 2 quavers).
Counting numbers has its drawback too. My own children have special needs and couldn’t sequence numbers and I reckon the brain normally has to work jolly hard to work out that 1 is followed by 2 and then 3 etc.
what could be simpler than a ‘Ta’ for a crochet or Te-te for 2 quavers? The symbols (just the rhythm stalks without the noteheads) are in themselves easy enough for a child of 2 and a half years to recognise and understand without having to count out loud or substitute another word for them at a later date.
Having grasped how crochets and quavers sound at an early age, adding more complex rhythms over time is a relative piece of cake.
Another saying is that ‘teachers are taught by their pupils’. My youngest students caused me to scrap some of my first Stringbabies book and rewrite it, as I discovered from them that they could easily cope with triplets and semiquaver rhythms.
I could go on ad infinitum….I have to say, one of my Stringbabies students favourite activities is making up rhythms, working them out in rhythmic time names and writing them on the whiteboard.

prev A great new addition for the cello world ... next Music Teachers Awards 2014

Social site bookmarking