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Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Lesson Warmups to Practice Solfege/ Pitch

I've been using student-led warmups at the beginning of my elementary general music lessons for years now and I am a big fan! I've gotten a lot of questions about the warmups I do and how I do them, so today I'm sharing my favorite warmups to practice solfege and pitch concepts.

In this post I'm focusing on general pitch concepts and solfege practice, not note letter names. If you want ideas for practicing treble and bass clef (or any clef, really) letter names, I've already written a post on that hereMost of my warmups are focused on practicing/ reviewing a basic skill or concept I want my students to practice regularly. Solfege has always been one of the areas my students have struggled with the most, so it's an important one for them to review often.

You can read more about why I do student-led warmups and how I manage the logistics of warmups in general in this post, but essentially I have a small group of 2-4 students who are assigned to lead the warmup / opening activity / do now at the beginning of class. The idea is to keep it quick, easy, and low-pressure so everyone can be successful right from the beginning of the lesson.

1. Draw the line

There are several easy ways to get students to do some quick vocal exploration- for this one, I have the warmup leaders each take a turn drawing a line on a whiteboard, and then the class sings the line as I (or the student leader) point. It's a great way to get kids connecting abstract visuals with music, and picturing melodic lines in a way that eventually can translate to the staff.

2. Show the line

The second vocal exploration warmup is similar to the first but instead of actually drawing a line with a marker, the leader "draws" the line in the air with their finger for the class to follow.

3. Solfege pointer

I've experimented with lots of different ways to make it easy for students to lead solfege warmups and this one is by far the most successful: I have noteheads showing each of the solfege notes they know on the staff (color coded like our classroom instruments to help differentiate) on the board. The leader points to different notes and the class sings the note while doing the hand sign.

4. Solfege pattern selection

For this warmup, I put several short solfege patterns on the board and number them. Each warmup leader chooses a pattern for the class to sing on solfege with hand signs. Sometimes I write the names of the notes (like "mi sol la"), sometimes I draw noteheads on the staff, and sometimes I just draw noteheads with the color coding and note names underneath, depending on what they've been doing in class. It's a great way to get the class sight-reading at a basic level without being too intimidating.

5. Solfege composition

I only use this one with my older students, 4th-6th grade, because it puts a lot more pressure on the warmup leaders: I have a "bank" of solfege notes at the bottom of the screen, showing where they go on the staff, and each leader takes turns notating a short pattern using those notes for the class to sing. 

There are so many fun ways to put students in charge and practice solfege and pitch! These only take about 3 minutes at the beginning of class and they really help keep a skill that really needs to be "drilled" regularly feel less like a chore. You can find my post on warmup activities for steady beat in here, my post on activities for rhythm here, and my post on activities for pitch letter names here. I'll share more warmups for other skills and concepts in a future post- if you have any questions or more ideas please leave them in the comments!

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