Working on pitch/singing solfege as pre-twinklers

said: Nov 16, 2009
 8 posts

Our teacher has suggested that my 4 y.o. twins work on their ear training skills by practicing their ability to match pitch and also learn how to sing solfege. This seems to make pretty good sense.

However, during the week I sometimes find it difficult to practice these things with them. My own sense of pitch and singing voice is far from perfect and we can make an awful racket. :) Is there a CD or series or songs or something that help students (and mothers) work on their sense of pitch? The “Do Re Mi” song (”doe, a deer, a female deer . . .) is a start, but what else is there?

Deanna said: Nov 16, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
90 posts

Do you have a piano? If you do you can practice matching pitch with that. Just play two notes (within an octave) and try singing both of them and then singing all the notes in between. You can also do the same thing with the violin. Maybe start with just the open strings and practice matching pitch to those and then singing in the notes in between.

There are lots of vocalises that you could sing but probably if you have pretwinkle songs like the pickle song and monkey song that should be enough.

Probably the easiest and most fun way to practice would be to just sing along to music you like. Even to your kids’ music. The more you sing the easier it becomes to hear the difference between pitches. Sing before meal time or to wake the kids up in the morning or a lullabye at bedtime.

Jennifer Visick said: Nov 17, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

for matching a pitch…

try playing a pitch on the piano or pitch pipe that is within your singing range (your teacher should be able to help you find a good note to start on). Immediately after playing the note, imagine that same pitch continuing in the silence for several seconds. Then play the pitch again and see if your imagination “matches” the way the real note sounds. Adjust how you imagine the note if it doesn’t quite match…

After doing that a few times in a row (shouldn’t take very long), then try adding your singing. So you would play the note, then imagine the note continuing in the silence, then sing the note you’re imagining, (if what you sing doesn’t match what you imagined, adjust your singing if you can, but don’t worry about it if you can’t), then play the note and see if it matches what you’re singing. If it doesn’t match, continue playing the note while you adjust what you’re singing until it does match.

If this begins to be easy, lengthen the amount of time in the imagination part. If it’s too hard, shorten the amount of time in the imagination part.

For solfage, is your teacher using “fixed Do” or “move-able Do”? If it’s move-able Do, you can solfage the suzuki repertoire (your teacher can help). Twinkle (in a move-able Do Solfage System) would then be:

Do Do So So La La So,
Fa Fa Mi Mi Re Re Do.
So So Fa Fa Mi Mi Re,
So So Fa Fa Mi Mi Re,
Do Do So So La La So,
Fa Fa Mi Mi Re Re Do.

Barb said: Nov 17, 2009
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

Something that just happened in our house in the course of brushing the kids’ teeth…

Just to get them to open wide we would get them to sing “Ahhhh” and to brush their front teeth “Eeeeee”. It turned into a game of matching pitches. Our first son matched pitches when he was three, our second was six before being consistent. So when matching our pitch was difficult for them, we would match theirs! Kept it a game.

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Laura said: Nov 17, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

Pitch is often compared to color. Indeed, many people with absolute or “perfect” pitch often attribute certain notes to certain colors. Absolute pitch is a built-in reference of what individual notes sound like. For example, that you can tell that an “A” is an “A” purely by the sound, or you can just sing an “A” out of thin air without a reference pitch to compare it to first. But most people, including most musicians, don’t have absolute pitch. They get by on a good sense of relative pitch, which is actually much more useful as a musician than absolute pitch. Relative pitch is the ability to recognize how notes compare relative to each other—whether two notes are exactly the same, or if not, then how far apart they are.

Without knowing just how “out” you are in terms of your own ability to match pitch, I will encourage you that relative pitch can be completely trained and developed. It’s just a matter of familarity and exposure, how much the musical “language” has been part of your life experience, with or without training. We have all experienced birthday parties in which the Happy Birthday song was sung wonderfully in tune by everyone, regardless of how many were trained musicians. We’ve also experienced the exact opposite (although that is less likely to happen, the more trained musicians in the crowd).

Going back to the color analogy, you start off by telling the difference between yellow and blue. Then between yellow and green, and blue and green. Then yellowey green vs. bluey green. Then lime yellow green vs. chartreuse yelllow green. Then lime yellow green with a touch more white. And so on and so forth, until suddenly the difference between all of those paint chips at Home Depot actually make some sense to you and you’re ready to go for your interior design diploma!. It’s not that you were born color blind, it’s only that you have not been required to care about the fine distinctions in the color spectrum until now.

Same with pitch. As soon as you can distinguish the interval of pitch between two open strings, then you start learning how the individual fingered notes sound relative to each other. After a while, you’ll learn the difference between high finger 2s and low finger 2s. After that, you’ll learn to distinguish not only a high vs. low finger 2, but whether or not it’s actually in tune. And so and so forth.

In my worst case of tonedeafness, a student and his mom both started off completely unable to tell the difference between two notes a fifth apart (for example, the “do” and “so” notes in the Twinkle Song”. But it got better—by Book 2, the student could tell when he played wrong notes, and so could the mom. And it continued from there, until he could start picking things out purely by ear. So it can be with anyone else, as far as I’m concerned.

said: Nov 20, 2009
 8 posts

Thanks to everyone for their input.

We do have an electric piano, and have been using it. And yes, RaineJen, we have been teaching them a fixed Do. It would be a good idea to sing TTLS in solfege; I probably can’t mess that one up too much. :)

Purple_tulips, thanks so much for your analogy. I was much heartened by your story.

I confess that one of the reasons I was hoping for a CD or some other support is that these pitch exercises often leave me confused and even sick to my stomach (really!). They are truly not my favorite thing to do. It’s gotten so much better, but I’ve had problems with sound and music since a nasty bleed in my brain’s auditory processing center nearly three years ago. For a while I couldn’t even think of music without making myself dizzy and sick. I look forward to gradually rediscovering my musical self as my twins discover their own. :)

Jennifer Visick said: Nov 20, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

we have been teaching them a fixed Do.

in which case, Twinkle in the key of A Major would start on La, whereas in the key of D Major it would start on Re… Ack! They made us use move-able Do solfage in college, and now trying to think about singing fixed Do solfage seems like too much work!

Once during a lesson I missed a note in the music I was playing—it was supposed to be a “B”. My teacher at the time stopped me and said play “Si”—which of course in a Fixed Do system is a “B”—but I was quite confused when, upon playing “C”, she kept saying “no! Si!”. Didn’t dawn on me until about an hour after the lesson (it was not a good lesson) that Fixed Do users can say “Si” instead of “Ti” for the seventh solfage syllable….

said: Nov 22, 2009
 8 posts

Yes, this is for violin, so we would have it in A Major, and start on La. I need to sit down with a piece of paper but I can work that out.

Thanks so much!

said: Dec 11, 2009
 145 posts

if you have pretwinkle songs like the pickle song and monkey song that should be enough.

Just wondering what the ‘monkey song’ and the ‘pickle song’ are :mrgreen: ?

Deanna said: Dec 12, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
90 posts

The pickle song is a pretwinkle song:

Do you want a pickle (A string)
on your ice cream sandwich? (E string)
Yes I want a pickle (E)
On my ice cream sandwich. (A)

It’s really just tuka tuka ti ti.

Monkey song -fingers up and down. I teach it on E then A then on the other strings once they’re through the twinkles.

I’m a little Monkey (E—or 0)
climbing up the ladder (F# or 1)
climbing to the top to (G# or 2)
pick a pink banana. (A or 3)

I’m a little monkey (A or 3)
climbing down the ladder (G# or 2)
climbing to the ground to (F# or 1)
eat my pink banana. (E or 0)

Again the rhythm is tuka tuka ti ti. I don’t know who made these up—they were passed on to me from another Suzuki teacher.

With both songs I teach the kids to sing them first with actions. For the pickle song on the A string parts we tap the rhythm on our toes and for the E string parts we tap the rhythm on our heads.

For the Monkey song we start crouched down and tap E on our toes, F# on knees, G# on shoulders and A on head. I also use it for teaching the letter names. Hope that makes sense!

Laurel said: Dec 12, 2009
Laurel MacCullochViolin
Langley, BC
120 posts

I use the Monkey Song all the time—but I’d never heard the Pickle Song! looks like a fun one, especially for the youngest kids!


said: Dec 13, 2009
 145 posts

Thank you dbmus, i love the pickle and monkey song. I’m going to use the pickle song tomorrow with my new 4 year old pupil. it’s so cute! Nelly :D

Sue Ellen Dubbert said: Feb 5, 2010
Sue Ellen Dubbert
Suzuki Association Member
Madison, WI
13 posts

I have been using solfege syllable cards that are made by Music Mind Games (available on the MMG website), though you could easily make your own. MMG also has a handbook which includes the “Daily Do” song which is a way to start singing different intervals.

The really cool thing about them is that they are in corresponding “rainbow order” (i.e do=red, re=orange, mi=yellow, etc.). We also use the Curwen hand signs as we sing. This combination allows for engaging the child visually, aurally, and kinesthetically and along the way they practice singing on pitch! With the cards around it feel like a board game and my students love to make their own little melodies too. They gladly do it over and over.

At some point I teach them how to arrange the cards to show the relative “height” of the pitch by sliding the high pitches farther away on the floor and the lower one closer to the student and how to write it on the staff using little note chips (we start in the key of G). This is also a great beginning for taking dictation—they really can do it! I have experimented with doing this with pre-reading students and it has been so so helpful when they go to read at the piano.

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