Thursday, July 10, 2014

Montessori Bells: Developing auditory discrimination for pitch (Age 3)

These are an identical series of 13 bells, from middle to high C. One series is black and white, and the other is brown. The brown series are movable for pitch matching. It is good, when setting this in the classroom, to set the bells against something a little higher, so that it creates an acoustic chamber. Against a wall is a good place, or against a high shelf. The plastic mallet, in this unusual case, produces a softer sound than the wooden mallet.

The direct aim is the development and refinement of the auditory perception for pitch.

The indirect aim is preparation for music education.

This activity can start when the child is 3 or 3 1/2 years old, whenever the child has the coordination of movement and enough control of the fine motor skills to strike gently, with the pendulous pincer grasp. The guide takes great care in demonstrating the care of the bells. It takes a good deal of time to learn the looseness of grip, as an aspect of visual motor coordination. Initially, they will strike the bell and hold it with a stiff grip, but it will emerge over time with practice and refinement. For the child, this is a developmental activity.

When the child has a facility with grip and control, they can practice the skill of pairing, to see if the child hears the difference.

Finally, when that is mastered, usually over a period of three or four months, the child may do the more complex pitch matching exercises with a few different bells.

The control of error is in the child's acoustic sense.

To care for the bells, take a very soft cloth and wipe the dome. Never polish them or wipe them with damp clothes, because it will damage the acoustic quality. They go out of tune if dropped, as well. We proceed very slowly and ensure that the child's movements are ready before presenting this material. 

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