Singing note names to Twinkle etc

Celia Jones said: Nov 22, 2010
72 posts

I am teaching a pre-Twinkle group and I would like to have them sing the note names to the tunes. I am wondering which method to use:

Sol-Fa eg Do Do So So La La So
Open strings and finger numbers eg AAEE11E
Or note names eg AAEEF#F#E

I can see pros and cons to each method. Teachers, do you teach them all? Parents, do you learn them all? Any comments on which are more useful? Are there any that I shouldn’t teach, for instance is learning the finger numbers problematical in the long run?

How do you deal with the sharps in the note names? They disrupt the rhythm a little.

Diane said: Nov 22, 2010
Diane AllenViolin
244 posts

I only use A E F# E etc.

I prefer to have the most direct line of information going into kids brains.

I’ve been teaching for 25 years and this has never been a problem.

Have fun singing!

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Deanna said: Nov 22, 2010
Suzuki Association Member
90 posts

For sharps you can just substitute “sharp” for one of the beats instead of saying the note twice: AA EE F# E DD C # BB A

Danielle Kravitz said: Nov 22, 2010
Danielle KravitzInstitute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Violin
64 posts

When you have them sing, you’re starting to develop their sense of relative pitch. In other words, they are going to associate a certain sound with a “word.”

Because of this, I always use the AAEE11 for singing. It’s more important to me that they associate the correct pitch with a finger they place on their instrument. But in addition I will do other games like singing the A-scale or having them do a funny body motion to a certain note of twinkle where I do use actual note names such as F#.

I’ve never tried substituting the sharp as a beat. I guess that could work…? I would think it could be confusing for some kids though because you tell them that F# is one note but when they are bowing it would be two…? But, when it doubt, give it a shot and see how it goes :)

Deanna said: Nov 22, 2010
Suzuki Association Member
90 posts

I don’t actually have my students sing letters to twinkle. We just use the normal “Twinkle, twinkle little star” words. I do, however, use the letters on the Monkey song and on that one I just have the kids put the sharp on the beat. I don’t think anyone has ever noticed that we only say it 3 times instead of 6 like the other letters: AAAA AA BBBB BB C#C# C# DDDD DD

Jennifer Visick said: Nov 23, 2010
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

Why not teach multiple ways of referring to notes? You could choose whatever you think is most necessary out of 6 basic purposes…

  1. Absolute references. Ways of singing this would be either letter names or fixed Do solfage such as “La La Mi Mi…”, or if you’ve got a kid who’s interested, you could even teach them the frequency in Hz… though that’s not very sing-able)

  2. Reference to harmonic or scalar function: (scale degrees such as “1 1 5 5″ or “1st 1st 5th 5th”, or moveable Do solfage such as “Do Do So So”, or the not-very sing-able scale degree titles of tonic-supertonic-mediant-subdominant-dominant-submediant-subtonic/leading tone)

  3. Relative pitch (references to the direction the pitch moves and interval by which it moves): “A same up same up same down same down same down same down same doooown…”, Finger pattern: O-pen O-pen Whole step O-pen Whole-step Half-step Whole-step O-pen. Or the not-very-singable interval names—Unison—perfect fifth—Major second, etc.

  4. How to play the note: Finger numbers (o-pen o-pen 1 1 o-pen…), String names (A A E E), Bow direction (Down Up Down Up), Bow speed (quick quick quick quick quick quick slooow…),

  5. Rhythmic or Meter references: “quar-ter quar-ter quar-ter half…” or Kodaly syllables “Ta Ta Ta Ta Ta Ta Toe…” (or Tika Tika Ti Ti), or “short short short short short short long…” or words that naturally stress the strong beats, (such as the “real” words)

  6. emotional or intellectual significance: The “real” words or some other song and dance that creates a mood (any mood!) in which to play the music and not just the notes in order…

Barb said: Nov 23, 2010
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
685 posts

I haven’t done as much singing with my students as perhaps I should. They sing the Monkey Song words if they are young, and I encouraging saying or singing the note names on a scale, but I do use both fingering AND note names when I verbalize directions.
Either at the same time, “use the 3rd finger, F#” (this is cello), or alternately, “1-2-4-2″ one time, then “E-F-G-F” another time.

They need to learn both, I figure. A lot of literature uses standard fingering, and several of my students have already learned to number their fingers for piano, so they need to learn the difference between string and piano finger numbers. I was weak on knowing the note names as I went solely by fingers as a beginner, so I make sure to start using them early.

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Laurel said: Nov 23, 2010
Laurel MacCulloch
Suzuki Association Member
Langley, BC
120 posts

I teach them the finger numbers first, then later in the same year we also sing with letter names. We’re singing Twinkle Theme, so it’s not too hard to squish “Csharp” into one beat -and it gets the kids giggling because it does sound crazy.

At the same time, we are also playing pitch-matching games so that they are also truly learning by ear; I’ll play a few notes and they play them back. I’ve kept that up with some Book 2 and 3 students; now they can repeat a 4 or 5 measure phrase. Talk about direct!


Irene said: Nov 23, 2010
Irene Yeong160 posts

we learned AAEEFFEE, teacher omit the #.

Celia Jones said: Nov 30, 2010
72 posts

RaineJen—I do like that idea of teaching multiple ways. I’ve gathered together various lyrics, made up a few, and I’m going to start with those, then finger numbers, then note names, then Sol-fa—(when I’ve researched it a bit, I’m checking up on everything I think I know).

I think using those words Tonic, Dominant, sub-dominant comes a bit later, and I associate it closely with chords, so that’s fairly deep theory. eg in Twinkle the first two notes are in the Tonic and the second two are in the Dominant, the F#s are in the sub-Dominant (or are they? I’m trying to remember.

ROTFL at frequencies—but it will appeal to my DH. He’s just pointed out that the absolute frequencies are a red herring and what’s important is the relationship between the frequencies—he’s going to start doing serious mathematics in a moment…

Jennifer Visick said: Nov 30, 2010
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

I wrote those names in the order of an ascending tonal scale. If you were to refer to twinkle by those names, the first section would go:

Tonic, tonic, Dominant, dominant, submediant, submedient, dominant, dominant,
subdominant, subdominant, mediant, mediant, supertonic, supertonic, tonic tonic…

Talk about a mouthful! I think “moveable Do” solfege was invented so that people could sing the tonal relationships with one syllable. (E.g., Do is the tonic, Re is the supertonic, etc).

Although it’s just occurred to me that you could sing it to the Variation A rhythm. Slowly. And with lots of exaggerated enunciation:

We start on the to-nic
do-mi-nant is next and
then sub-me-di-ant and
back to do-mi-nant then
the sub-do-mi-nent and
me-di-ant is here and
su-per-to-nic wants to
go home to the to-nic.

BTW, those names make much more sense if you think of the tonic note as the tonal “center” (of a piece of music) instead of as the “bottom” (of a scale)—so dominant is a 5th above the tonic, subdominant is a 5th below the tonic, mediant is a 3rd above the tonic, submedient is a 3rd below the tonic, supertonic is one note above the tonic, subtonic/leading tone is one note below the tonic, etc.

And there’s nothing wrong with teaching little kids the names of these things, so that when they do finally get to theory, they won’t be intimidated by a bunch of new names.

P.S. I’ve just re-read your post and saw that you are thinking in chords—of course, that would be different. If you use the accompaniment from the Suzuki books, you’d stay on the I (tonic) chord for the “Twinkle, Twinkle”
and then move to the IV (subdominant) for “little”,
then back to I (tonic) for “star”,
V7 (Dominant 7th chord) for “how I”
and I (tonic) for “wonder”,
V(dominant) “what you”,
I(tonic) “are. Up a-”,
then change to V7 (Dom7) for “-bove the”,
I(tonic) “world so”,
I (Tonic) “Like a”
IV (subDom) “diamond”
I (tonic) “in the”
V(Dom “sky”

Then repeat the first section exactly. No reason not to point out the chord changes to kids, either. It should be fairly easy to get them to “feel” the changes—and it could make improvising easier for them. I suppose you can get them to sing the root note of each chord while the CD is playing the music…. maybe sing the leading tone (7th note) for the 7 chords.

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