Teaching Your Kids to Sing In Tune
From the most classic of playground chants to the songs from the latest Disney movie, kids love to sing.
Young children make up songs as they go in an uninhibited way that most adult songwriters envy.
But as much as kids loves to sing, it’s pretty rare to find a kid who naturally sings in tune. While most kids can grasp the contour of a song enough to sort of sing together, it’s pretty easy for a class of singing kids to turn from a cute little spectacle into a cacophonous nightmare.
And if you’ve ever prepared young singers for a performance of any kind, you know how difficult it is to walk the line between getiting kids to sing loud without yelling.
There are also those kids out there who don’t like singing! Maybe they’re shy, maybe they’ve been scared into not singing by some recent life experience, or maybe they can’t wrap their head around singing and therefore right it off as lame.
With all of that in mind, we’re going to look at a few tips and tricks for getting kids to sing in tune. These tips and tricks will help you manage your music students, encourage the shy singers to step out of their non-singing shells, and help your future Rachel Berrys develop an awareness for singing in-tune!
Before we sing, we shout!
When you sing with young kids, you have to understand the differences between singing, chanting and shouting. In a practical sense, this means allowing your kids to do a little of each!
When it comes to shouting, I usually do something in the early part of class that gives kids a chance to roar, growl, yell and screamto their hearts content! we all cover our ears and then we go for it!!!
By giving them the opportunity to shout and yell (usually to the point where they’ve had their fill), when we move on to singing, it’s very easy for me to say something to the affect of, “We’re done shouting for today! Let’s focusing on singing with our beautiful voices!” Then we move on to singing!
Singing In Tune: Step 1 – The Voice as an Instrument
When I really want my kids to sing in tune, we get our ya-ya’s out a bit, and then we sit down and sing some call-and-response along with a xylophone (that I play).
The resonator bell xylophone is great for this because it’s long and rich tone provides nice strong reference for everyone in the class singing! Singing with a set of bells or a piano is obviously a huge plus, as you are singing with a reference!
I remind everyone that our voice is a musical instrument and that we can make all kinds of low and high sounds with it. Sometimes we’ll do some sirens real quick to warm up the voice. Yawning is also a great pre-singing ritual as it expands and then relaxes the muscles around the face, or you can do some lion face yoga as well!
The I ask everyone to imagine that their voice can be like the sound of a bird singing or a flute playing, which helps to keep our volume down and gets them kids thinking more about tone than about volume.
I remind them to try and match their voice to the sound of the xylophone and we jump in singing arpeggios, melodies and scales nice and slow. We do mostly call and response, but after a few weeks of the same routine (i.e. all the chords in C Major arpeggiated, the scale up and down, 3 note runs, etc), a lot of kids will try to sing-along the whole time.
But when it comes to getting kids to sing really in tune, it helps to connect the abstract idea of pitch with something more kinesthetic. That’s where the hand-signs come in!
Step 2 – The Solfege Hand Signs
Using the Curwen hand signs, which we call the Solfege hand signs for simplicity’s sake, allows your kids to attach a concrete motion to a particular note. This helps develop a better sense of memorized pitch for everyone!
For kinesthetic learners, this might give them the confidence and the prompting they need to start singing! For your Frozen-belting little girls, this will help them reign in some of their enthusiasm with some more context!
Not only do the hand signs help develop your sense of memorized pitch, kids LOVE to hand sign. There’s just something about it that’s fun, natural and engaging.
If you’d like to learn how to sing and hand-sign with the Solfége Hand Signs, check out the video below!
If you’re not familiar with the Solfege hand signs, the video below will introduce them to you and your child!
Once you complete the video, you should definitely sign-up for the Preschool Prodigies starter program, so you can get even more practice singing some popular kid songs with your new skills! You can find the sign up form at the bottom of the page!
Step 3: More Activities and Resources
There are lots of ways to facilitate more in-tune singing for your kids!
Below are some links to select pieces of PsP content as well as other non-PsP content that will help get you and your kids singing more in tune.
But before we get there, as I mentioned before, definitely join the free PsP starter program (using form at the bottom of the page) to get some practice singing and hand-signing with more video music lessons! There is a Solfége Hand Sign compliation video in the program that will put what you learn in the above video to good use!
Besides that, you can also try
- Singing and hand-signing with “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring,” which is a three-note Mi Sol La song.
- Carnatic Music Lessons on YouTube. Carnatic music comes from South India, and it uses the syllables Sa Re GaMa Pa Da Ni and Sa in very interesting call and response patterns than are as sonically very enchanting
- Kim Chandler’s Funky and Fun Vocal Exercises. These .mp3’s are AWESOME for warming up the voice and challenging your vocal dexterity.
- This Wiki-How-To article that has some great graphics and visuals for singing in tune!
- Theta Music Train’s Vocal Match game (for assessing just how in tune you really are). It’s also available in the app store.
Definitely don’t forget to join the free starter program below to get some more practice with the Solfége Hand Signs!
And if you’re really serious about giving your kid a musical upbringing, be sure to invest in the Preschool Prodigies Playground! For less than a month’s worth of private music lessons you can get a years worth of musical activities, videos and guidance that your child will enjoy, repeat and master to their hearts content!
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Plus, get access to 6 Lessons and worksheets and song sheets directly from our curriculum, the Preschool Prodigies Playground.