Reply To: Theory in the Choral Classroom

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Hard to tell if this is too little too late…and your paper is long done, but here is my take on teaching musicianship in the choral rehearsal/classroom:

Teaching Sight Singing to Beginners
(Task Analysis)

First…be sure they can sing and audiate the major scale with solfege hand signs. Do this every class for several minutes. Then…

1. Select a short unison excerpt from the current literature. Write it clearly and accurately on the board. Make it look like printed notation if possible. (prepared and notated before class begins)

2. Establish the key and have students sing the scale using hand signs. Emphasize the range and leaps and steps in the sight singing excerpt. (1 min.)

3. Teach (or re-teach and reinforce) the rules for finding “do” in any music. The last flat is “fa” and the last sharp is “ti.” If no sharps or flats appear, then “c is do.” Write in the syllables for the scale on the staff.

4. Teach or (or re-teach and reinforce) the clef. Each has two names: Treble or G-clef, and bass or F-clef. Now students can name all the scale degrees. Write the note names on the staff.

5. Identify and label the syllable names in the excerpt. Use capital letters and place these under the staff. Have students involved by showing the hand signs and/or naming the syllables out loud.

6. Re-establish the key and sing the syllables out of time. Help them find leaps and tricky parts.

7. Teach or (or re-teach and reinforce) the meter or time signature. Write the counts in above the staff. Have the students count and clap the rhythm. Drill rhythm and subdivision of the pulse out of context if necessary.

8. Have the students speak the syllables in rhythm and also show the hand signs.

9. Sing the excerpt on syllables, in rhythm, at a slow tempo. If successful, sing at a faster tempo. Fix any major errors as you hear them.

10. Sing the excerpt on a neutral syllable, possibly showing the syllable hand signs while singing.

11. Count-sing the excerpt, possibly showing the syllable hand signs while singing.

12. Sing the excerpt on nonsense words generated by the class.

LAST STEP: Have students open their music to the literature that contains the excerpt. Sing the excerpt on syllables while looking only at the literature. Then use the words from the literature in context of the piece, using accompaniment or any other reinforcement (playing the other parts).

I hope this helps anyone reading this. Musicianship is something that you MUST teach. It saves more time in the bend than it costs up front, and it makes your teaching WAY more fulfilling. Be Well, Chris Peterson