Pentatonic Chime bars
Using pentatonic chime bars in your music lesson can be quite tricky – especially with three year old children. Here are some hints and tips for running a melody and harmony activity.
I supply the chime bar sets in the picture. Each child collects the little case and sits on the floor. I ask them to take out the ones that are in the song, usually some or all of these notes: C, D, E, G, A (C Major Pentatonic Scale). I find that separate chime bars are much easier to use than a fixed-bar instrument such as a glockenspiel.
We all put our selected chime bars on the floor and close the lid. It doesn’t always work and I don’t insist! I can stand the slight musical dissonance if there’s an occasional semitone clash when they play an F or a B note. It’s better than the social dissonance if they have an emotional melt down over it. The three year olds can’t always follow instructions but older children in the class will gain more and more control and by the time they are ready to follow everything you are doing you know it’s time for them to learn an instrument formally (e g violin or piano).
We all have fun experimenting and then we practise making our notes ring by striking in the centre of the bar.
The letter name notation charts I supply are there for the teacher and any helping parents or child care professionals, I don’t expect the children to use them, it’s way too much strain on their intellect. The other adults and I sing and we all play together a couple of times with the backing track. Then I ask them to take a turn each while the others put their sticks on the floor, fold their hands and listen. This is teaching them the convention of being in a concert audience. I always ask if they want the music (the backing track) on or off, they usually want it on.
When a child can sing and play at the same time something special and complex is going on in their brain. In my classes, I have only noticed these two skills happening at once with a child who is almost five. That doesn’t mean that younger children won’t sing and play at the same time when they are contentedly playing at home.
I’d love to hear from you if you have experiences to share on this topic. Please write your comments below. You can find Diddle Diddle Dumpling wall chart and the music in the lesson plan called Uh-Oh. Click on the link to go to the lesson plan page and scroll down to the playlist to hear it.