How to Make Ear-Training Attractive to the Young Student

By Mabel Lee

In all my classwork then children I find that the more you can relate their musical life to their everyday life – the more gladly will they cooperate with you; the more you can turn the process of your training into play, the more you can hold their enthusiasm. Two illustrations of the above statement is my pleasure to offer here.

The Letter Game

The first – the “Letter Game” – was originated by a San Francisco teacher. The game is this:

  1. cut out large letters of colored cardboard representing the seven letters of the scale
  2. affix a small loop of tape to the top so that they can be pinned upon the child

I choose orange for the color, as it would be sure to stand out against any background of dress. Seven pupils are chosen who pin on the letters and are for the time being those letters. A large sharp and flat of cardboard or put in either hand, and thus a pupil can be G, or G sharp (by raising the hand with the sharp) or G flat as the key or core demands. With this human scale you can work out intervals, scales, chords, positions of cords, and the children see in front of them the verification of their mental image. To give this game its full value I have one pupil read what is barred by the letters and another play on the piano what is red. In this way, if there’s an error, their ears will often correct it. To illustrate: you call for the G major scale. The children leave their seats and stand in line facing the class so that the letters read from left to right. Supposing the child who is F forgets to raise his sharp – the one at the piano plays what is read to her, and the children hearing F natural in a G major scale immediately protest.

The different positions of triads is a valuable object lesson. For instance – if an F major triad is asked for, the first position F A C is presented. When the second position is requested the child who represents F simply go to the top. In this way the children realize that no matter what position the triad has the letters that form its makeup remain the same.

The game offers limitless possibilities and is thoroughly enjoyed by partakers and onlookers.

Bugle Calls

A second way to interest the class, especially in these warlike times, is to teach by here the different bugle calls. The boys are eager to play them, and often know several from Boy Scout experience. By doing these indifferent keys the children get quick practice on the interval sol – do, which may be useful later in resolving the dominant or the dominant seventh to the tonic.

The Harmonium Orchestra

The third game is what we call our “Harmonium Orchestra.” One was investigated the harmonic possibilities of the “mouth organ” knows there are two – the tonic and the dominant chords. There are a number of familiar songs whose underlying harmony consists of these two cords – for example, “O du Lieber Augustin”. We begin our work by first learning to hold the mouth organ so that the lower part of the key is at the child’s left, corresponding to the piano we then decide on the rhythm for the accompaniment – in the above song the children play their cord on the second and third beats. The teacher plays a melody on the piano (with court accompaniment); and since my classes learning also to conduct, one pupil is chosen as director. The value gained in your training must be apparent, for it is the year which must tell when a change of harmony is necessary. Even songs that contain the sub dominant harmony can be used – as “Holy Night,” for when the children here the fourth court, they remain silent and wait for return to I or V. The classes are very enthusiastic about their “orchestra,” and unwittingly receive at the same time your training, practice and rhythm, and the self-control needed in following a conductor.

In this way the air training lesson becomes an hour to be looked forward to buy pupils and teacher.