Friday, September 09, 2011

Why So Many Echoes?

As you've no doubt gathered from my vlogs & suggestions, I view "The Echo game" as a great way to introduce many musical concepts.  This game is very simple:  seat the children around you, and instruct them to watch & listen first (very important!), then do what you did.  So many concepts can be introduced this way:  3-pitch patterns, phrases of songs (solfege syllables or words), clapped/tapped rhythms, beats of varying tempo (slow, quick, etc.)...

You could incorporate music into your morning circle time or afternoon post-nap activity.   Start with familiar games & songs (like "Such a Makin' a Circle" or "Tell Me Your Name"), do some pitch echoing with familiar pitches, then add in a new one.  Practice 3-pitch patterns with the new pitch(es).  Reinforce it with a new song.  Then you can move to echoing rhythmic patterns, or to another musical activity.  Close with singing the new song or clapping a new phrase together, you with the children, proving to them that they can remember and use the new skills relying on their own memory.

Why, though?  If you think back to how children learn naturally, you'll understand why; they are natural sponges, learning by copying-- by echoing, by imitating.  Far too often we make the mistake of starting off musical education with labels and symbols-- but who learned to talk by reading?  No, kids learn best by hearing & watching, then copying, practicing, and later on, down the road, being told what they are doing (being given a label), then being shown the symbol, and finally using the symbol themselves.  Think of learning to speak:  for months a baby watches & listens as his parents make all sorts of noises.  He soon tries to copy the sounds, without knowing their meanings. Next he learns what words go with what (labeling).  A few years later, he learns that words can be written down using letters.  Yet another year or so later, he learns to make the symbols himself and is on his way to writing.  Watching/hearing, imitating, labeling, symbolizing, replicating.  Imitating this process with musical learning is the most natural, meaning the least frustrating for everyone involved!!  "The Echo Game" allows children to focus on imitation first, then they are given a label & a context, all in a safe setting.

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