Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bells Album

Welcome back to Montessori Music Week here at What DID We Do All Day? !

I purchased the above album from Nienhuis to go with our "bells music signs and notes."  It is written by Jean K. Miller and titled "Montessori Music Sensorial Exploration and Notation with the Bells."

If you plan on only doing the bells and not the notation materials and you have the Gettman, the presentations in the Gettman should be fine.  His presentations cover many variations of the two main activities done with the bells:  matching and grading.  Miller's album contains more variations and games but they cover the same ground.  The extra variations are very similar knobbed cylinder extensions.  Once the child can place all the cylinders do it:  from two different rugs, from across the room, from across the room but walk in a circle before getting to the other side, etc.,  If you have the cylinders extensions somewhere apply those to the bells and you'll have it all.

The Gettman does not have the notation presentations however, and that is why I chose to buy this album.  An extra bonus is that Miller's album is heavily illustrated with photographs.  I'm not the type who feels that every album or presentation needs to be illustrated.  I will say that the bells are one thing that is very helpful to have an illustrated album for.  You don't get all twisted around in all the explanations like this one: "take 3 contrasting bells, widely spaced (but not the lowest bell and the highest bell) and place in reverse order in front of the bells at the right end of the bell setup."

Here is a photograph of a pair of pages with a bells presentation:

Here is a photograph of one of the pitch notation pages:

The illustrations are extra important when you plan to make all your own staff boards and print materials.  There are nice illustrations of the front and back of every card in a set so you don't have to guess what is on the back, or guess what a whole set contains based on what you can see on the top card.  I haven't made my print materials yet but will share when I do.

I am very happy that I purchased this album.  I will point out that it has one major limitation.  It is very clear upon reading the album that is intended to be the first of a pair of Montessori music albums.  The album abruptly stops halfway through the pitch notation exercises before flats and sharps are introduced.  On page 9, the author states, "See the next book in this series for a presentation of sharps and flats."  As far as I have been able to ascertain, there IS no "next book in this series."  I asked for help on Montessori Online and received one reply (thank you Cara!).  That person didn't believe a second book existed but gave me a list of all Jean K. Miller's books that she could find.  There is another music book written Music Theory with the Bells in a Montessori Environment.  That book was published in 1970 and 1989 whereas the album I own has a 1999 date.  I am guessing that either a second book was planned and never written, or that the album I own is a "prequel" to the other book.  It's also equally possible that the 1999 book is a spruced up and retitled version of the 70/89.  I am trying to get my hands on that other book, but it is out of print and I don't want to spend a crazy amount of money on it...particularly when I don't know what's in it! The Keys of the Universe album program I begin in February may contain the needed presentations in the music album.  If not, I have seen the table of contents from Elizabeth Papandrea's music album and it appears that the presentations might be included there.  If a reader has either of those albums and could comment, it would be much appreciated!

Does anyone have access to a copy of Miller's other book?  If so, can you leave a comment and let me know what's in it?  There are some copies in college libraries a few states away.  I'm going to talk to our library and see what they can do for me.  I am missing my PhD candidate days when I could get any book I wanted, for as long as I wanted, ASAP.  Miller also has another book "Montessori Elementary School and its Curriculum" that I would love to read.  Has anyone read that and would you recommend it?

Gotta run!  Kal-El just finished reading Me Too a book and now they are fighting about which of them is the most "funky."  (As in "funky music," not as in "smells funky.")

If you are looking for the rest of my series on Montessori Music, there is a tab at the top of my blog under the header, or they can be found here!

Home of: The Ultimate Montessori Blog List The Ultimate Montessori Search Box The Ultimate Montessori Homemade Materials Collaboration


  1. Ask if your library does superloans. I was able to borrow some books that was from a different state via this loan that requires you to pay five dollars...

    love your music posts!

  2. I am also loving, loving, loving your music posts. They are so helpful and the only thorough information I've been able to find online about Montessori music. I have a question for you.

    I am blessed to have an entire set of Nienhuis bells and all of the boards and all of the notes, discs, etc. I do not, however, have any musical background. I would love to use this work with my children (4 and 2), however, until now it has sat in our garage in a bin.

    I'm wondering if you would tell me if this book would be useful for someone like me?

  3. Ack! Shelley!

    It's a crime to have that sitting in the garage! YES! You could absolutely use this album. It is scripted, it is thorough. It is much clearer than what I wrote in this post (which assumes you have a musical background). It covers every teeny tiny step, even as simple as "this is a mallet." The children would start by knowing nothing, of course, so there has to be a presentation for all of it. There are a ton of photographs on every page. I think you'll have fun learning along with them! If you EVER get confused by something in the album, don't hesitate to ask me.

    This is the clearest album of bells presentations I've ever seen!

  4. Becky,

    Thank you for the suggestion! I asked my librarian today if there was any way to get an out-of-system book and she instantly said "no." If you hadn't sent that comment I might have walked away. Instead, I asked "What about for a fee?" and a light went on and she sent me to the reference desk. Woohoo!

  5. Thank for the quick response. I AM GUILTY of not using this beautiful material but because of your blog (that motivates me regularly) I am going to now.

    Thanks for the information and I look forward to your future posts (especially on music).

  6. I have Elizabeth’s very nice music album (more thorough and explanatory than the music write-ups I received in training). Her album has a 5-page write-up with illustrations on identifying sharps and flats, as well as notation—using the bells, the black and white discs, the green staff board with clef, and moveable sharp, flat, and natural signs. Her write-up is succinct and clear. Sharps and flats are explored in more detail in the tone bars lessons, starting with “Naming and Notation of the Tone Bars.” I feel the music area is only cursorily introduced in a lot of trainings, unless you have a trainer who is also a musician. A lot of Montessori teachers get a much deeper understanding of and comfort level with the bells and bars by attending workshops. Two fairly renowned Montessori music experts who conduct workshops are Sandford Jones ( Matilda Giampietro ( I can’t find where either has published a Montessori music album :-(

  7. I was just browsing your music posts because I read somewhere on your blog that you have a background in music :)

    I have been recommending Miller's book sold at Nienuis for a few weeks now, and have been surprised how low the price is. Now perhaps you have solved the mystery!

    The book that is utilized in AMI Montessori trainings for the music presentations was shown to us and the listed price at the time was in the $70s. Turns out it is indeed a different book. The "full" book is called simply *Montessori Music*.

    It seems the book you have (sold at Nienhuis) is a "primary geared" book (just my guess based on the table of contents and the word "sensorial"); with the other as the "elementary geared" portions.

    Now I get to go back and find all the places I've recommended this book as both primary and elementary and correct myself! Oops!

  8. Jessica,

    SO FRUSTRATING! I wish the other one was available. Although I think I read on your blog that all of her lessons are in your music album? I got of hold of Miller's "Music Theory with the Bells in a Montessori Environment." Which has a handful of extra presentations in it compared to the album I have from Nienhuis, but neither cover the tone bars.

  9. I'll agree with the word frustrating - I can't even figure out all the pieces for Jean Miller's work; I just remember what I saw at my training center and what we were told. I cannot find that book anywhere for purchase at any price, though. I just remember thinking, "If my albums are going to coordinate with this, I just want the book!"

    With that said, the albums are set up in an easier format - each lesson starting on a new page. I think the book I saw had nicer photos (as you indicated) but was otherwise wordier than a typical album page - still excellent in content! And yes, the albums I have (primary and elementary) pretty much mirror each other in content; minor differences, mostly in presentation so that the presentations coordinate with the style of other presentations.

    The music album is the very next thing on my recovery list :) Yay!

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Keys of the Universe offers a comprehensive inexpensive Elementary Montessori Music Album for $30 download or $50 print. It includes Bells, Notation, Listening, Movement: control and expression, Rhythm, Tone bars, History and Instruments, printables etc. IT does include sharps and flats.

  12. I know you wrote this a long time ago, but thank you so much for writing it all the same!