DM-K Mrs. S’s AM class 9-30-15

9-30-15: SOUND IS VIBRATIONS, and vibrations that are too loud, too often and for too long can affect our physiology by damaging our hearing.

We began class singing our DM song. I reviewed the Solfa scale (we sang it “up and down the mountain”–an ascending and descending scale) without handsigns, since I haven’t taught those yet. I put the pages up on the white board showing the colored notes going up and down (SONG SEEDS ASCENDING SCALE PDF; SONG SEEDS DESCENDING SCALE PDF). I pointed to each note as we sang. I taught them the handsign for Do, and we practiced it a few times.

We reviewed what sound is (“Sound is vibrations that travel to my ear that send a message to my brain to tell me what I hear”). They remember so well! We chanted it a few times to solidify their recall.

Then we spent the bulk of the lesson exploring vibrations and waves. I brought in three rubber bands that I stretched over a bread pan. We plucked them and saw how they vibrated. I reviewed that the vibrating rubber bands move the air molecules around them causing waves in the air, and these sound waves travel to our ears. Those sound waves travel kind of like waves in the water (when you drop a pebble in). I used a Slinky toy to show the idea of waves traveling through air. I pushed one end of the Slinky (that I was holding in the air) to see how they travel to the other side.

I took a large stock pot I had brought with me and stretched some plastic wrap across the top. I taped it on the sides so the plastic was taught. Next, I poured some little sprinkles onto the plastic. Then I took a wooden spoon and a large metal pizza pan and banged the pan. I did not let the pan touch the stock pot and pointed that out to the children, but had it close to the pan. The sprinkles “danced” on top of the plastic wrap, demonstrating how we cannot see the air molecules moving because our eyes aren’t able to see that small without magnification, but they still are there. I banged the pan for a minute and had them dance like sprinkles. They love that.

I told them that air molecules and sound waves are like the wind.  We don’t see the wind, but we know when it is there, because we can feel it, and hear it, and see the affects of its presence. I sometimes share this poem by Christina Rosetti (1830–1894) called “Who has seen the wind?”:

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.


Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
Before and After Loud Sounds – The top electron microscope photo shows the tiny hair bundle on top of a healthy inner ear hair cell. Compare it to the bottom electron microscope photo of a sound-damaged hair bundle again on top of an inner ear hair cell. Image and caption from

After these demonstrations, I explained how the little tiny cells in our inner ear , that are kind of like grass, can get ruined if we listen to sounds that are too loud too often or for too long. It’s kind of like trambling a path in grass when we walk over it continuously on the same spot. I encouraged them to be careful when they listen to music with earbuds/headphones on, to not have the volume too loud so that they don’t lose any of their hearing. (For more data on why and how hearing loss happens, go to the Dangerous Decibels website.)

At the end of the lesson, I taught them the song, “My Grandma Has a Green Thumb.” They love this song! It is just right for fall.

In closing, we sang our goodbye song.


DM-K Mrs. S’s AM class 10/23/15

ogden harp
(Photo courtesy

Today in Mrs. S’s class I brought in a small lever harp. Seeing it in it’s black zipper case, the children wondered what it was. Some children knew. “How did you know?” I asked. “Because of it’s shape!” a little girl volunteered. It is fun to see what music children have been exposed to in their young lives.

We began class singing the DM theme song, and then we sang our Solfa scale “up and down the mountain” (an ascending and descending scale, beginning with middle C as Do). I sang slowly, as they had just begun learning the hand signs two weeks before. I took one girl and one boy volunteer to perform in front of the class. If a child does a sign wrong, I sometimes take the time to correct it–just in a little way to help them learn it. For example, if their fists are up high, I’ll say encouragingly, “Move your fists down by your belly button. Good job!” Or if “Ti” is difficult, I say, “Make some glasses in front of your eyes with your hands. Now POP the first finger up! And then move your hands back out in front of you. That’s right!”

After our scale, I reminded the children how we talked about each note having it’s own name and it’s own voice, just like each of them have their own unique voices, like we talked about last week. Some notes are higher and some are lower. I picked two notes (starting with “Daddy Do” and “Baby Do”) and asked which sound was higher and which one was lower. Daddy Do! I pointed out that “Daddy Do” is taller than “Baby Do” and showed them this by pulling the individual bells out and standing them up next to each other in front of me for the children to see.

I told them that each note sings its voice and we hear different notes because of the vibrations. (One little girl reminded us that “sound is vibrations that travel through the air to your ear that sends a message to your brain.” (I am always amazed at how much young children can remember even with such few repetitions and so much time elapsing in between lessons.) I explained that vibrations can travel at different speeds. “What is speed?” I asked. I ran fast across the front of my teaching space, and ran back the other way. Then I walked slowly back and forth. We talked about fast and slow. I asked them if they had ever seen a speed limit sign (I forgot my visual of one). It shows how fast you can drive your car down a road. “Do you ever say to your Dad or Mom, “Dad! You’re driving too fast!” (I always like getting the children to smile.) We tell cars how many miles per hour they can drive. We can also tell how fast or slow vibrations are going, and that is what gives them their PITCH. I had them repeat that word two or three more times. Pitch is how fast or slow the vibrations are going per second. Middle C (“Daddy Do”) is 256 Hertz, or oscillations per second. So there are 256 sound waves passing by in one second. Wow! That’s fast! Some pitches are a lot slower, like 80 Hertz, or a lot faster, like 440 Hertz. Symphonies tune to A at 440 Hz or above (A above middle C).

I took the cover off of the harp and pulled it to the front. As some of the strings were out of tune, I got out the tuner and started to tune them. One of the children guessed that the red strings were Do (C), and she was right! I showed them how each of the red strings had the same pitch, except that some were lower and some were higher. I meant to show them that the longer strings had the lower pitches and the shorter strings had higher pitches, but I think I might have forgotten that! (You can ask your child.)

I showed them a glissando going up the harp from low to high and going down from high to low. I told them that harpists do not use their pinkies to play the strings–only their thumbs through fourth fingers. I had them all come up and play a glissando on the harp. Then they sat back down and watched Chanson dans la nuit” (French for Song in the Night) by Carlos Salzedo and played by Yolanda Kondonassis (video here). I told them that the song was describing sounds that you might hear at night, such as wind. I asked them what they hear at night. They answered crickets, ants, birds, trees, dear (“reindeer”), bears. So we listened and they loved it. “Can we watch it again?” one little boy asked. I wished! We were out of time, and we sang our goodbye song.

(Glissandos begin at 3:00. Lots of technique talk until then.)

Tip: If you don’t own a harp (what are the chances?!) or know someone who does, you can Google “Suzuki harp teachers” or “harp teachers locally” or “wedding harpist” and see what comes up! Or check with your local university to see if there is a harp teacher in your area. Inviting teachers or students to come demonstrate their instruments can be good advertising for them and good exposure for your students! (Plus, you don’t have to haul it around!) It is always so beneficial for the students to get to see and touch different instruments, because it influences them on future choices of what they might learn to play later.