At about the age of five, many children are ready for first experiences with a melodic instrument. Eye-hand coordination is improving, melodic memory is stronger, and the child has a keen interest in re-creating the melodies he or she sings and hears. Because of its size and delightful sound quality, the glockenspiel is an ideal first melodic instrument for young children and will be used throughout all four semesters of the program. However, the child’s success with this instrument is very much dependent upon careful preparation, a highly sequential approach to its use, and encouraging reinforcement at home.
In Semester 1 of the Young Child curriculum, long before the glockenspiels go home with the children, there are many experiences that nurture a level of beat competency and basic melodic memory that help to ensure success for each child at the glockenspiel. Of utmost importance in this process is the notion that children play from musical memory rather than by simultaneous reading and playing. This is not to say that children do not learn to read musical notation. On the contrary, children learn to read notation vocally and to commit to memory what they have read and heard many times. From this musical memory, the child approaches the glockenspiel with patterns so familiar that full concentration can be placed on the actual manipulation of the instrument.
Of course, learning to read and play simultaneously is a skill all musicians need to develop.
However, very few children at this stage of development are ready for this highly integrated skill. This skill will develop naturally in most children as the processes of sensory integration are refined, but this rarely happens before the age of seven or eight.
The preparation for glockenspiel playing takes place over the first thirteen weeks of Semester 1. Steady beat activities, simple ensembles, and a repertoire of songs provide the foundation for successful first experiences in Lesson 13. From Lesson 13 until the end of the second semester, glockenspiels will be used in each lesson.
Things to consider when working with the glockenspiel:
* The children should play the glockenspiel from a sitting position. The instrument must be at comfortable height for the child to avoid bending over it or reaching up uncomfortably.
* From the start, pay attention to mallet ceremony. Remind children of the rest, ready, and play positions learned earlier when playing the rhythm sticks. Encourage the children to hold their mallets appropriately whenever playing.
* To produce a good tone on the glockenspiel or any barred instrument, it is important to bounce the mallets gently on the bars of the instrument. However, be sure children do not pull too far away from the bars as this will cause them to lose their “place” at the instrument. Ideally, mallets should be held about three inches above the bars. The tone should be “pulled” out of the instrument rather than “pounded” into it.
The most important place the child will learn to play the glockenspiel or any of the melodic instruments presented in this program is at home. Here each child can work at his or her own pace. During Semester 2, many of the home activities are built around glockenspiel activities that involve other family members.
Enjoy this wonderful new instrument together!