Reply To: Chime choir

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I LOVE doing handchimes with my kids. I consider it a pre-reading activity, as I color code the notes for the kids. They have to follow along in the music, tracking left to right, and counting to stay together, but their notes are identified by a designated color. I typically put two or three colors on one score and have three kids (three notes) sharing a stand. Here are the steps I follow to get them started:

1. Basic playing technique: All students learn the motion with imaginary hand chimes, then add the instrument, all playing together in unison (pentatonic or cluster, whatever works).
2. Students echo simple rhythms all together (penta or cluster).
3. Students play individually, left to right, “down the line,” trying to make it from one end to the other, keeping in time, all students playing 4 quarters or a simple 4-beat rhythm. Then backwards down the line! The kids love the challenge of it! I like to have them create the scale or the tone set for the piece we are working on.
4. Count out loud and track with a finger on the music. See if we all end each line together. This is an opportunity to figure out the “road map” of the music.
5. Track again, teacher counts, kids say “ME!” when their color comes up.
6. Go for it! (Slowly!)
7. I usually isolate and practice stand by stand. I also give the stands a chance to work together independently as a collaborative group while I go around and check in which each group. This gets a little noisy, so I move each stand to a corner of the room and set a “whisper voices” rule.
8. Put it back together and rehearse as an ensemble.

This has worked for me in the past. Even in a camp setting, I can usually pull one song together with brand new beginners in just four 40-minute rehearsals. I love the hand chimes and think they are wonderful for reinforcing beginning reading skills and providing an opportunity for children to be involved in an ensemble without the pre-requisite of fluent music reading. Also, it sounds fantastic and provides a meaningful music-making experience for all students, since you can strategically choose who gets the more or less active parts. Hope this helps!

Sarah Bartolome
Council for General Music, Member at Large
Baton Rouge, LLA