If the order given in Somervell’s Fifty Steps in Sight-singing be followed, the question of complicated time will not be forced too early on the attention of the children. Pupils trained on other systems have sometimes been found incapable of singing melodies written in complicated time, even though they can beat time to the notes, giving the time names, without mistake. The same thing is noticeable in their instrumental work. This is due to the fact that one side of their training has been developed at the expense of the other—time at the expense of pitch. There seems little point in teaching a child such time-values as
[Illustration: (crotchet tied to first note of a quaver triplet, followed by four semiquavers and another crotchet)]
when it can only read at sight in the key of C major!
In taking an exercise in sight-singing for the first time with a class at an elementary stage the following practice has been found beneficial:
1. The children sing the tune straight through at sight, without stopping, the teacher beating time. Mistakes are then pointed out and difficult phrases practised.
2. The children stand and sing the tune straight through again, beating time as they do so.
3. Individual children then stand and sing the tune by themselves, beating time. In this way the child gets to know the sound of its own voice, and the teacher can correct any individual faults of intonation, voice production, &c. Some children will always have an inclination to shout when they sing with others, partly through excitement and partly because they cannot hear their own voices in any other way. If this be permitted the quality of tone will rapidly degenerate, and the effect of the whole class work will suffer.
Nothing is more delightful than to hear young children sing quietly, and without in any way forcing their voices.
THE TEACHING OF DICTATION
So long as the work done in ear-training is in the very elementary stages the best form of dictation will be:
1. Ear tests, consisting of two to three notes at a time, which should be written in staff notation as soon as possible.
2. Monotone time tests, which should be quite short, as the constant repetition of the same note in pitch is irritating to the more sensitive ears in a class. This point is sometimes overlooked, with the result that only the less musical children get any real benefit from the tests.
By the time that children can sing at sight in the key of D major they will be ready to take down from dictation short melodic phrases in time and tune. A useful plan is for the phrase to be played over three times, the children listening carefully and beating time. They should then sing the phrase once through to lah, and write it down.
This method of dictation is more satisfactory than that of dictating a bar at a time, as it draws attention to musical phrases as a whole. Later on it will be found possible to dictate in the same way longer and longer phrases. Incidentally the memory is being trained as well as the ear.