Friday, January 27, 2012

Pitch Notation with the Bells, Part One

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

I finally had time to stage a little amateur (very) photo shoot of some of the works that can be done with the Bells Music Signs and Notes material concerning pitch.  Last week I wrote about modifying this set to create some rhythmic notation works.

Disclaimer:  This is only a blog post.  It would be a lot of work and too much typing to recreate full presentations here on the blog for all of these works and for the works I haven't included.  I am not trying to provide full presentations or, for that matter, all of the presentations.  I'm just trying to demonstrate the general types of things that can be done with these materials.  There are a lot of little presentations before and after these works that I haven't mentioned at all.  So, please don't get upset if it seems like I've skipped a step or ten.

Sometime after the child has demonstrated the ability to match the bells (Miller states that "This shows that the child can hear the pitches and can distinguish one from another."), we can introduce the names of the pitches. This is similar to introducing the sandpaper letters to the child after they can hear the letter sounds and can distinguish one from another.  Just as in the sandpaper letters, you only introduce two or three at a time and use a three period lesson as necessary.  Basically, you strike or ring a bell and then say "This is c." or "This is g."  White discs with the appropriate note names can be placed in front of the bells.

Other notations lessons involve a set of chalkboards with the staff drawn on them called "green boards" or "staff boards." I have been waiting for mine (on backorder) to come from Nienhuis for several months to no avail.  I made my own temporarily out of 11X17 construction paper and a permanent black marker.  You want these to be at least 17 inches wide.  If you can find something the right size, you could make your own from a white board or chalkboard by drawing the lines on with a permanent marker.

The first board that is used is a simple board that features only the five empty lines of the staff (and sometimes a leger line).  If yours can be written on and erased you would use this board to introduce the word "staff" and demonstrate how to number the lines and spaces:

Just in case you don't know the numbering, I snapped some photos of portions of the page in my album:

You can also get a glimpse on those album pages (right hand side) of how a blank piece of paper, chalkboard, or white board will later be used to name the "ledger line" and give a "verbal way to describe the lines and spaces created by the use of ledger lines" (Miller, 18).

Another kind of staff board that is used has numbered noteheads printed directly on it.  Its purpose is the "Association of the note names with their proper places on the staff that uses the G-clef" (20).

I made mine from 11x17 construction paper again.  I glued on 1" cardstock circles I dug out of the package of collage materials in the boys' art closet.  The numbers are stickers from the scrapbook section of the craft store.

A set of 8 black discs are needed with the letters on one side and the number on the other (c=1, d=2, etc.,)

Note:  You could make discs like these by spray painting the 1" wooden discs sold in packages at the craft store and applying adhesive numbers and letters from the scrapbook section.

The child first labels their set of bells with the white discs shown earlier.  The adult places the eight black discs near the staff board in a cluster.  The child chooses any numbered disc and places it on its corresponding number on the staff, turns it over,  says its note name, then plays the corresponding bell.  They continue in random order until all of the discs are on the board.

numbers up

letters up

Another activity I think is pretty neat is the work involving note names on the unmarked green staff.  This work uses the green staff board with the ledger line and also a collection of homemade ledger lines (cut from cardstock and laminated).

The Bells Music Signs and Notes material came with 32 white discs (4 each of c, d, e, f, g, a, b, c) to use on the staff boards in addition to the 8 white discs with note names that are used with the bells directly.  Again, the child sets up the white discs with the note names in front of the appropriate bells.

The child picks a white disc, says its name, and looks it up on the c-major scale control strip.  Then, the disc is placed upside down on the appropriate line or space on the staff board.  I photographed two middle-c's so you could see a disc on both the printed leger line (right) and on the homemade laminated one (left).

Then, the child plays the corresponding bell and does a few more.  They could place all of the discs or choose to stop at any point.  The board would look like this:

As you can see, this work also requires that the child place the G-clef on the staff board.

When the child is done placing discs, per Miller's instructions, "pick a particular line or space.  Turn all of the discs on that line or space over.  They should have the same name." (22)

I think (although the presentation doesn't say) that you would turn the discs back over before you check another line or space.  If you didn't, the board would look something like this:

As with so many Montessori works, there are three-part cards , matching cards, description cards, and booklets that can be purchased or made to go with all of these works.  I haven't made mine yet. As I do I will share whatever downloads I am able.

I have labelled this post "part one" for several reasons.  One is that I would like to show you the "parallel exercises" for note names of the C-Major scale (both matching and grading) once I have made the materials.  Also, as we move into more advanced work I anticipate that there may be more posts with this title and that having them identified might be useful.

It looks like there will be a third week of "Montessori Music Week" here next week.  I have had some requests for information about our rhythm band activities, recorders, and music appreciation.  I'm sure some of you have had "enough music" and are ready to see some of our other work again.  I do have some projects completed that I would love to photograph before I forget all about them.  I also was able to photograph a few more sound bins.  Perhaps you'll see a mixture of posts next week.  My sister had a baby this week and I am sincerely hoping that my new niece's arrival disrupts our schedule somewhat!

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!

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  1. I love these posts!! I have been wondering about the bells for a long time but am a bit nervous to try and work with this material with no music backgroud...though this could be our chance to learn together:)) Could you poss paint masonite boards (or cut down cheap chalk boards)green and use automotive pinstriping tape to make the lines??? This tape is very durable. I used it on the constructive triangles we made. Do you think that would work??

  2. Cherine,

    I don't think it's very important that the boards be green. I think they are usually green because they are made from chalkboards (which are, of course, green). I used green paper to make my temporary ones to make the material more recognizable when our real ones come.

    With that in mind, I think the easiest way to make them would be to buy a whiteboard of the proper size. To keep it economical you could use the permanent marker to ONLY draw the five lines of the staff. When you wanted the version that had the number circles preprinted on it, you could draw them one with a dry erase marker. You don't need that particular version in your classroom forever. Or, make that version out of paper.

    The problem with the pinstriping tape is that you will eventually be writing or drawing on the lines and it will be hard to draw a notehead "on the line" that way. Your wooden noteheads, if you have them, might also rock on the tape.

    I don't see anything wrong with simply laminating construction paper ones like I made. I laminate mazes and word searches for the boys all the time so that they can do them with a dry erase and do them again in the future if they like.

  3. This is an absolutely amazing series! I've had parents ask about Montessori bells for homeschools, and you're the first place I send them now! I'm glad you made a Montessori music page, too. I featured it at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page.

  4. Hey a question for you. Not having read through all my album music bell materials yet, you were my first stop, do you write your notes noting the ledger line first? Or the note--type?? first? I always did the dot then the line, but this could be totally wrong. Just wondering because here it seems like the write the line then the note and that kind of seemed funny to me.

  5. One would write the ledger line first. The first reason is that the ledger lines MUST be the same distance from the staff and from one another as the lines of the staff are from one another. Secondly, you will eventually using several ledger lines below or above the staff and the notehead placement must be precise. So, for example, one of my medium-high notes on flute is a high-g, four ledger lines above the treble clef staff. The location of that notehead must precise which means the ledger line placement must be precise, as if the staff had an additional four lines. You can't eyeball the notehead and then squeeze in or spread out the other three ledger lines below it because it will cause reading errors. Sometimes in poorly handwritten music I will make an error because a high-E (third ledger line above the staff) is written too high (really where a high-G should be) and the writer just spread the ledger lines out below it or wrote the ledger lines further apart than they were on the staff in the first place. If I'm reading fast (and who doesn't) I'll play a G instead of an E because I eyeball the notehead height first. Which might make you think you should write the notehead first but then you would be eyeballing and the notehead height wouldn't be precise. Imagine if you were going to notate six or seven notes way above or below the staff in a row and didn't put your ledger lines in first. Your musical line would be floating all over.

    1. I was imagining your last phrase in my head and had to laugh at the awful roller coaster that would come about! Thanks for this. I think it is cool that even the montessori materials reflect this concept!