During or prior to Unit 1 you will have introduced the musical alphabet. The student should be confident finding all of the Fs and all of the Gs. If you haven’t already done so, you should now introduce finding all of the Cs. They are easy to find because just as the Fs are just below the sets of three black keys, the Cs are just below the sets of two black keys. Play as many games as you can think of to help the students identify these notes. The only limit is your imagination and their attention span! Make sure you tap into THEIR imagination. Some of my best games have been invented by allowing the students to explore and create their own rules.
Some of my students need weekly practice on this. Even after they are well into Book 2 we still come back to find all the Fs or Cs or whatever. One of my younger students loves starting every lesson by putting Puzzle Erasers on all of one letter. Then they play each one. Next he closes his eyes and I remove one of the erasers. He then has to play them all again but not forgetting the missing one. We repeat that until he can play all of them with no erasers. It’s a stepping stone for him. Just asking him to play all the Cs caused him anxiety, but with his friends to help he does the entire thing independently.
Finding MIDDLE C
So we already know where Bass F and Treble G are from Unit 1. We place a finger on each and jump inwards towards C. Both hands land on C at the same time. C is in the middle! Let’s call it Middle C! On a whiteboard or paper, draw the Grand Staff and show them that Middle C on the page is also in the middle. It’s in between the Treble Clef stave and the Bass Clef stave. Ledger lines were introduced in Book 1 but it’s important to point out that Middle C also has its own line. Cue badly drawn pictures of cats with whiskers! C is for cat! Find some Middle Cs in the book and show that they can be positioned near the Treble Clef stave for the right hand to play, or the Bass Clef stave for the left hand to play.
Flashcards and Theory Books
At this point I usually start using flashcards for these three landmark notes. Including the two versions of Middle C. As the book progresses I will introduce more landmark notes, such as Treble C and Bass C. Also I will have started most students on Music Theory for Young Children Book 1 by Ying Ying Ng where they get to practise naming the keys, learning the time names crotchet, minim and semibreve and eventually note spelling on the stave.
Pease Pudding Hot
Unit 2 contains a mixture of known and unknown songs. First up is Pease Pudding Hot from Book 1. Remember to always sing the song first, then clap the rhythm and sing the solfa. If they need to they can play the piece on the black keys. Can they spot Middle C? That’s their so. They may want to use puzzle erasers to select which white keys they will need. They also need to choose the correct hand to play the piece. If so is C then where does the do end up? On F? Let’s double check, is our do on the F line? It is, then we must be in the right place! There’s a blank keyboard at the top of the page to mark C and F if needed.
This is a new song, and it needs to be prepared. If there’s a spinning chair in your teaching room then you could get them to spin on it like a spinning top (think risk assessment!!). Maybe you have a spinning top you can bring in to show them. Some of my students do know what a spinning top is, others don’t and I have to describe the action, colour and sound. I sing the song several times and then ask them which of the colours is their favourite. Depending on their ability they try and sing their favourite colour at the right time. Sometimes I stop singing and sometimes I sing with them. Or we both sing in our thinking voices, while tapping the pulse, and only sing the colours. Sometimes I do this a week or two before we reach it in the book, in which case I wouldn’t use the score. However some students can learn it at the start of the lesson and we will often have the score in front of us.
Solfa echoes Sign and sing random so-mi-do patterns for the student to echo. If they’re confident, they can create some for you. Start by always passing through mi and then include some so-do jumps. This prepares the student to succeed when they find the interval in the song.
With the book Sign and sing motives from the song and see if the student can find them on the page. For example can they find so-so-so or do-do-do or do-mi-so or so-do? Can the student now sing the song in solfa?
Finding Middle C Again the song starts on Middle C but this time it’s do. Which solfa have we used? So which keys do we need? Which hand? Which fingers? Now it’s time to play on the keys. This sounds lovely when you press the sustain pedal.
Transposition Can they play this song starting on G or F? Can they play with the other hand? Can they play hands together? These extension activities will clearly depend on the confidence of the student.
The purpose of this known song is two-fold. Firstly it has been notated in three different ways. Starting on Treble G, starting on Bass F and starting on Middle C. Illustrating that even though the starting note is different, it is the same song because it has the same solfa. Make sure you revise this song away from the book by playing the game and singing in solfa. Secondly the final arrangement uses both hands and shows that Middle C can be played with the right hand or the left hand. We can practise this alternation of hands by tapping the rhythm with the correct hand and signing with the correct hand.
On A Log
Another unknown song although some students might recognise the first line as Mrs White from Book 1. The purpose of this song is to show next door neighbour notes. The first version is simple enough, with some revision of slurs and accents. However the starting note for the second piece is not one of our special landmark notes. Can they work it out? They might notice that the new starting note the same as the second note in the first version. If not, is it higher or lower? (Higher) Is it one higher or lots higher? (One higher) So what’s one higher than C? (D!) Can they move the whole song one higher?
A fun extension to this song is to play the Glumphs all over the keyboard so instead of just Bass F for their do they play any four Fs with either hand. Changing the starting note changes the do. Can they play it when do is G or even C?
If they liked this extension, how about making it more difficult again? Go back to Here Sits A Mousie in Unit 1. Play one bar and then on any so for four beats before playing the next bar. This is not only fun, but if you use both hands for your improvised bar then you have to return them quickly to the correct place for the next bar. What a skill!
As always the unit finishes with 5-a-day Sight Reading exercises. We have a mixture of melodies all containing Middle C as either so or do. Remember to clap first, then sign and sing and finally play.