Hello! We’re going to talk about TWO songs this week, “Harp!” and “Up and Down.”
“Harp!” Do you like harps?! We do at Music Class, which is why we added the exclamation point into the title. “Up and Down”. Do you like moving up or down? The only way we like to move in Music Class is horizontally, which is why this song’s title has no exciting punctuation. Just kidding. This blog post is going to be precisely why vertical movement is educationally valuable for our kids.
Both “Harp!” and “Up and Down” are extraordinarily simple, but in their simplicity convey a really powerful and fundamental musical concept. Both of these songs introduce the concept of high and low pitches. No one on the planet would ever 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 differentiation of pitches is one of the first steps towards any kind of 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 actually adults too) understand how the pitches themselves can be high and low. Here are 5,829,838 tips to do this at home with your kids. (Just kidding there are only 10.)
10 ways to practice pitch with your kids!
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. Did you ever see an opera singer or choir director moving their hand up and down as they sing? This is probably the most intuitive way to practice pitch because you’ve probably seen a bunch of people do it already. With young children it is best to trace with your whole arms, 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 your 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. This is a winner for babies and big kids alike – Tickle. 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 it’ll be very, very funny.
7. Listen to “Harp!” on The Bunny Collection. This is a recording of several harp glissandos. A glissando is when the musician slides/strums his/her 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 we practice following lines like this with our voices. You can do this 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 do that 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 note 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.
That’s it! Please excuse all the Pitch Perfect gifs, I couldn’t resist.