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Home Music Education Series: Sounds Going Higher & Going Lower

This is Part 2 of 10 of our Home Music Education Series, designed to empower parents to foster their children's musical development at home. Today we'll be exploring how to further improve auditory descrimination between high and low sounds by exploring sounds going higher and going lower.

Home music education is most effective when paired with purposeful play during everyday activities.

In Part 1, we discussed the steps necessary for helping your child develop auditory descrimination between high and low sounds. There are many different levels of competency students will need to work through as they attain this listening skill.

The competency levels are as follows:

  1. Listening and noticing: Simply notice and sounds and provide your child with the vocabulary needed. "Wow, listen to that high bird sound!"

  2. Vocal imitation: Keep providing the vocabulary, and vocally imitate the sound. "Let's make a high sound like that bird we heard!" or "Let's be silly and talk in a high voice today." Internalizing and producing sound vocally is the quickest way to make these connections.

  3. Auditory Discernment: Ask your child to match the vocabulary to the sound. Provide a reference point, like "Was that sound high like a bird, or low like a bear?"

  4. Auditory Comparison: Once all of the other steps are solid, move on to comparing two sounds by asking questions like "Which sound is higher?" or "Is this sound higher or lower than the first sound?" This is a more advanced skill that will require building a firm foundation, so don't rush to get here until your child is very secure on all the other steps.

Once, these steps are completed, the fifth step in this sequence would be learning to listen for musical contour or direction in sound.

Here are some quick ideas for developing a sense of musical contour with your child:

  1. Vocal imitation: Play around with vocal slides (glissandos) - make your voice slide up from a low sound to a high sound and have your child imitate you. Then try sliding your voices from high to low. This is an easy game that can be done anywhere that can do the most for helping your child hear the difference between the two. Vocalizing a concept helps internalize the sound.

  2. Pitched percussion: Encourage your child to play with pitched percussion instruments like xylophones. To help your child understand higher/lower, turn the xylophone vertical with the short (high) bars at the top, and the long (low) bars at the bottom. Left and right as down and up respectively can be confusing for beginners, so turning the xylophone to reflect the terminology used can be helpful in the beginning stages.

  3. Large muscle movement: Combine vocal imitation with large muscle movement to represent the sound. Try moving from a crouched position to standing with hands over head to represent low to high sound while making a vocal slide, and vice-versa.

  4. Walking up stairs: As you encounter stairs in your daily life, sing notes going up or going down. For bonus points, incorporate solfege (do - re - mi.)

  5. Identify real-life examples: Think of things that move both up and down like airplanes, birds, the sun, elevators, escalators, etc. It's easy to think of things that are either high or low, but a little trickier to think of things that do both. This can be a fun game during a longer car ride.

  6. Sound stories: Start adding sound effects to your regular story time. As a character moves up or down, add a vocal glissando in that direction. Children LOVE sound effects - the sillier the better - and you'll probably find they'll start adding their own or imitating yours as they learn to read their favorite books on their own.

  7. Echo and repeat: Use snippets of familiar songs that change pitch going up or down. Sing just that part and have your child echo it back. Make sure to help make the connection between the song and higher/lower by providing the terminology.

Remember, for best results, keep these activities low-pressure and part of your child's everyday activities. It will take time to make the connection between sound and vocabulary, but there is no rush for this to happen. Follow your child's lead and move through these activities as they're ready.

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to comment below with any questions. Have a musical week!

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