Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bells and Tonebars


Due to their expense and the excuse by some adults that they have no musical talent, the bells are often overlooking or intentionally passed over in the Montessori homeschool - and in new or small Montessori classes/schools.

I can't do much for the price on the bells...

black notes in the back to hold their places,
but the movable brown bells are not in place yet. 
But I can say this: as a *sensorial* experience for the children, the adult does not have to know a lick of music or have iota of musical talent. The adult can be entirely tone deaf and still provide a rich experience for the children. 

I can't emphasize that point NEAR enough.

The control of error is in the child's ear - and it is the child's ear that needs to be trained. The adult can also learn from this material and let the children help be a control of error.



When in doubt, the black/white bells (that sit in the back and should NEVER be moved) can be numbered in pitch order, underneath their bases - so the adult can quickly put those ones back in place if they get out of order.

Only the brown ones should be moved and it is a matching exercise to the non-moved black/white bells.

The work of the child?

  • matching single pitches
  • listening to single pitches
  • listening to steps
  • grading in various stages (from simple to more complex)
  • naming the notes
  • additional naming systems
  • repeat all with the sharps/flats
  • composing music
  • playing written music

But even if all they do is LISTEN while striking and dampening - their ears are being trained. 

We always begin and end our bells work with playing the C-Major scale up and down - talk about ear training! This could be heard by the children several times a day and they will start picking up on the steps between the notes, just through consistent exposure. 




As for the money, there are a variety of cheaper options. The concern with the cheaper options: 

  • you'll want C to C (or G to G if that is all you can find)
  • you'll want the sharps/flats or you won't get from the material what the children need to get - and what any musically-needy adults need to get, sensorially-speaking. 
  • experientially, the children will be able to do SO much more with a full range of notes. 
  • however, if you have older children already and you know you are moving into the tone bars, you might be able to leave out the sharps/flats for now. 


I paid $350 for the set photographed, but through a company that was closing out of selling Montessori materials. They DID sell the bells for $500. Not perfect (if right next to each other, some of the bells touch each other and ding when the next one is struck - I keep meaning to widen the bases a bit), but certainly better than Nienhuis price. 
Adding sharps and flats
These are on the bell boards, but fully cover it,
so you can't see the spaces I painted on. 
If you can find a school selling theirs for a newer set, perfect!



The elementary tone bars definitely have more inexpensive options, particularly picking up a Suzuki tone bar set. This range is 2 octaves and you can do ALL the same work as with the bells, except the matching - unless you purchase an additional set in one octave specifically for matching (still ends up cheaper than the bells alone). 

For primary, they really should be housed in a way that only the pitches differ - not the appearance. 
For elementary, they CAN remain looking different, but it is so nice when they are the same size (more concentration on the part of the children). 



Some ideas here on the music materials: 




1 comment:

  1. You're certainly selling the importance of bells to me! And I have to say, they do look absolutely lovely.

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