The ability to sing in tune has often been regarded as a distinguishing characteristic of general musical ability. While the most compelling and encouraging findings of research in singing indicate that children can be taught how to sing in tune, research is essential for clarifying the strategies that are most effective in developing the abilities of young singers in an elementary music classroom setting.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the pitch-matching strategies that select Kodály music specialists employ when working with their students. More specifically, this study identified common practices and techniques utilized by the study participants in group and individual singing experiences, vocal exploration, and the use of manipulatives to develop singing accuracy. Common themes that arose through the interviews were also examined.
This study examined the practices of nine Minnesota Kodály music specialists in developing the pitch-matching abilities of their students. Through structured interviews, participants were asked to share their opinions, techniques, and strategies in developing singing accuracy of students in kindergarten, and first and second grade. In the main category of pitch-matching, the data were presented under four sub-categories: 1) background information; 2) pitch-matching problems found in the classroom; 3) the Kodály approach; and 4) techniques and strategies employed to improve pitch accuracy. Two themes emerged from the data. The first theme, “Every one can learn to sing in tune”, and the second, “Feedback from teacher to student is vital,” are the foundation of each of the interview participant’s teaching philosophy. Strategies and techniques, which the interview participants found beneficial in developing the child’s voice, were collected and described in detail. These practices may be helpful to music specialists in guiding their students on the journey of vocal development.
Implications for the elementary classroom included the following: 1) students come from varying degrees of musical backgrounds which presents a challenge to the music specialist in providing the singing opportunities that develop singing accuracy for every singer; 2) the music specialist should provide feedback without intimidation or degradation because young children are very impressionable and are easily influenced by the teacher’s response to his/her singing; 3) music specialists need to reinforce good singing by celebrating successes and encouraging progress, no matter how small; 4) it is the responsibility of the music specialist to provide a trusting and comfortable classroom atmosphere that results in enjoyment of music and children wanting to sing; and 5) planning a curriculum requires the knowledge of weaving materials and lessons together that create a sound musical experience for the learner including singing opportunities that promote the acquisition of music skills, motivation, and enjoyment.