Happy or Sad: Ear Training for Kids
Lesson 25: Happy or Sad: Ear Training for Kids
Playing the piano involves listening to oneself, and to others.Thus, one of the first fun tasks for a child is learning to listen. Ear training, as it is called in a music conservatory, is the first course a student must pass to be able to make use of all later courses.
For a child, this process must be simplified at first. Before ear training, we tend to listen unconsciously to music as it passes in and out, giving us pleasure, but not something we dissect and evaluate. As a first step in learning chords, I play various chords for children and ask them to assess the emotional quality.
Happy Or Sad
I play a silly, happy song and ask, “Happy or sad?” Some children answer right away and are certain, while others are at first baffled by the question. Most answer “happy,” but if the child is not sure, play another six happy tunes until they get the idea. Then play something slow and sad, in a minor key. Ask again, “Happy or sad?” Most kids will understand the difference, but you may have to work at it a bit.
One interesting peculiarity of the child’s ear is the range-specific evaluation they give to identical chords. If I play a sad chord in a high part of the piano, a child answers “Sad.” But if I play the same chord in a low register, 99% of children will reply “Angry.” You can’t beat a kid’s ear for honesty! I play rippling arpeggios based on various major and minor chords, and ask them to imagine rain. Is it happy or sad rain? Or birds, or fountains?
Games for the Piano
When they are secure with the difference between major (happy) and sad (minor) it is time to bring out the other two chord/emotional qualities, weird or mysterious (augmented chords) and scary or dangerous (diminished chords.)
Play a scary diminished seventh chord passage, low on the piano, and every child can immediately answer, “Scary! A monster!” Play it higher, and they will evaluate: “Scary but not so much.”
Different children have wildly varying abilities to make these finer distinctions. The principal job is to have them distinguish happy from sad and major from minor. With that skill in hand, they are ready to listen to themselves and to others, such as you.
COURSE ONE: TEACHING TOOLS
COURSE TWO: TEACHING BACKGROUND
COURSE THREE: PIANO GAMES