Saturday, March 19, 2016

How to Teach a Kid's Choir

Teaching a children’s choir requires a careful selection of music and educating the kids about music notation. Kids need to have a basic understanding of note values and pitches and how to interpret them into musical sounds. By teaching them how to read music first, future choir rehearsals will be more productive. Many children’s choirs instructors will incorrectly assume that it takes too long to teach a child how to read music. The reality is that by teaching these basics first it will allow the choir to sing much more effectively in the future.

Step 1: Begin by teaching the children how to read rhythm aurally. Teach them only the most basic rhythms: whole notes, half notes and quarter notes. Start a metronome and have them clap on each click for the quarter note, every other click for the half note and every four clicks for the whole note.

Step 2: Continue teaching rhythm by showing them what each note looks like. Pass out music that gets progressively harder. Begin by showing them only quarter note music. Add half notes once they understand the quarter note, and finally, use whole notes. Make sure to teach them about rests as well.

Step 3: Start teaching the children about pitch notation after the first week. Since they are children, all of them will sing in the treble clef. Have them remember the spaces on the staff by using the following trick: "If you look between the lines, you see your FACE." Explain that the spaces spell the word F - A - C - E.

Step 4: Teach the names of the lines of the treble clef by using an acronym. A good acronym to use is "Every Good Boy Does Fine." The first letter of each word is the name of a line.

Step 5: Explain that the correct way to breathe is through the diaphragm and that the children should never force a note that is too high. If a child is having trouble singing a part, give them a higher or lower part to sing.

Step 6: Perform musical scales with them. Start with major scales. Pass out sheet music that lists the scales and have the children sing each pitch on a whole note. Practice the major scale until they can sing it without the use of a piano.

Step 7: Present the children with simple stepwise music. Tell them that when the notes go up, they will sing higher. When the pitch goes down they will sing lower, just like with the scales they learned. There is a good deal of music written for children that use stepwise motion.

Step 8: Provide them with more difficult music only after they have been singing together for several months. You can begin to select music that has skips and even leaps between notes once they get a solid understanding of how to sing stepwise music.

Select music that is within the range of a fifth. Children's voices are delicate and you don't want them to sing too high or too low, which can actually harm their voices. Part of the process of singing will require that children memorize their melody. This is OK, and the notes will serve to help them remember the melody and act as a guide. Eventually, they will begin to associate aural pitch with written pitches. If you have not studied voice for at least a year, do not attempt to teach kids to sing. It is easy to damage a child's voice and teach improper methods of sound production.