10 Ways to Practice Pitch With Your Kids!
Using the songs "Harp" and "Up and Down" from The Bunny Collection
On The Bunny Collection recording, we have 2 songs that are laser-focused on helping young children practice the basic ideas of pitch. The songs are “Harp!” and “Up and Down!” Both sound extraordinarily simple, but in their simplicity convey a really powerful and fundamental musical concept - high and low pitches. No one would be able to sing anything in tune if they couldn’t first discern which notes sounded higher and which notes sounded lower. This basic mental tracing and pitch differentiation is one of the first steps toward musical accuracy!
So, what should you do with these songs? Different kinds of vertical movement! By seeing or feeling high and low, it helps kids (and adults too!) understand how the pitches themselves can be high and low. Here are 10 tips to practice pitch at home with your kids, using “Harp!” and “Up and Down.”
1. Listen to “Up and Down” on The Bunny Collection. It’s literally just a C Major scale. This is your PITCH PERFECT frame of reference for all of these activities.
2. Like the recording, don’t worry about singing letter names or solfege note names even if you know them. Sing on a nonsense syllable like “doo” or “la.” Instead of adding value for kids under 4, singing note names mostly adds confusion. It’s hard enough for a small child to try and match pitches with their voice, and it’s even more difficult if they’re trying to get the words right too. It’s better to focus on one thing at a time, and they can always learn the names of the notes later.
3. Have you ever seen a choir director moving their hand up and down as they sing? This is probably the most intuitive way to practice visualizing pitch. With young children, it is best to trace with your whole arms instead of hands, because fine motor skills are hard. Use one or both of your arms and just raise them up as you sing up the scale and lower them down as you sing down. If your child is big enough, encourage them to sing and move their arms up and down themselves so you’re both singing and moving at the same time. If you have a baby, you can raise and lower their little arms while you sing. (SSSoo cute.)
4. Another super fun high/low activity for kids who can stand on their own is to move their whole body up and down. Crouch down low to the ground to start singing the bottom note, then slowly get taller and taller until you’re stretched out on your tiptoes with your hands up in the air for the highest note. This is silly. Be silly. Your kids will love it and they’ll learn because it’s fun.
5. For young babies (or parents with very strong arms) you can lift your child high into the air and back down as you sing up and down the scale—workout for the day taken care of.
6. Tickle! This is a winner for babies and big kids alike. Start at your child’s toes and tickle up their body as you sing up the scale, and back down as you sing down. Encourage your child to try and sing with you while you do this and giggle together!
7. Listen to “Harp!” on The Bunny Collection. This is a recording of several harp glissandos. A glissando is when the musician slides/strums their fingers continuously from one note to another. This is another excellent way to practice hearing the differences between high and low pitches! A glissando is usually notated with a line straight from one note to another, an awesome visual representation of sliding up or sliding down. We went a little kooky in our graphic representation of this song. 😂
8. In our Music Cats class for 4-6-year-olds, we practice following lines like this with our voices. You can recreate this activity at home by taking a blank sheet of paper and drawing a line or squiggle across it like you see in Harp! Literally, draw a straight line diagonally up from the bottom left corner of the page to the top right corner. Perfect. Now follow that line with your voice on a syllable like “ooo” sliding from a low sound to a high sound. Perfect! Have fun drawing different lines, singing on different funny sounds, and let your kids draw their own lines too!
9. Throw a ball or a stuffed animal straight up into the air! Make your voice mimic the arc of the flying toy by going up as the toy is going up and down as the toy is going down. Try to start as low and get as high as you can. This is very funny and very effective but is definitely better for our kids that are about 3 or older.
10. If you have any kind of instrument at home, whether it’s a keyboard, a tuba, a harp(!), or a kazoo, pick a low note and a high note to play. We recommend “do” and “sol” (For example C and G.) Alternate playing the low and high notes and have your child mimic you by moving their arms low and high. Obviously, all of these other high/low movements work great too. For a smaller child, get a second adult to help show the pitches by tickling their toes and head or lifting them low and high into the air.
Yay! Great job practicing pitches everyone!