Music Literacy in a Snap with Colors and Handchimes

A great New Year’s resolution for any teacher would be to introduce music literacy to more in 2018.  If you have handchimes at your disposal, teaching music reading with the help of colors couldn’t be simpler! At ChimeWorks, we have developed tools for teaching young children to develop eye-hand coordination using colors and symbols and then, systematically moving on to colored-coded notes on the staff and ultimately reading handchime/handbell notation.

We begin by using colors that are closely correlated to those used in Boomwhacker® and KidsPlay® systems.  Therefore, one will be able to use our lesson plans with handchimes and/or Boomwhackers and KidsPlay bells to teach music literacy.  Sensitivity is given to the use of colors alone due to the statistics that 1 in 12 males and 1 in 200 females suffer from color vision deficiency.  Along with a select color for each pitch we have allocated a shape modeled closely to those used in shape-note singing.

Coupled, these symbols are referred to as Icons – non-traditional symbols used to notate music.   They allow students to quickly “read” music without the worry of not knowing standard musical notation.   They also allow students to quickly express themselves at an early-learner stage with known symbols rather than struggling with music notation.  The use of icons develops eye-hand coordination rapidly allowing students to quickly adapt to numbers, pitch names, solfege and then standard music notation.

ChimeWorks has developed Colored Bands which can be wrapped around the handchime tube so that each student can identify a pitch with a color.  In the case of vision deficiency, the shape may also be drawn on to the band.  These bands are available for Malmark, Inc. and be found by clicking here.  Colored bands can be an effective tool in the classroom when denoting pitches and chords.  Using the ChimeWorks Icon Chart, each pitch is assigned a color.  By wrapping the appropriate colored band around the shaft of the handchime tube at the base, you can effectively indicate which handchimes are assigned to pitches or chords.

Since icons are used with non-music readers, they can be utilized with younger children.  These same children may not yet be literate and understand how to track from left to right.  We suggest that great success will be met when the icon chart is presented through a computer-generated slideshow presentation or interactive whiteboard so that the teacher may point to each shape tracking for the students in tempo and rhythm.

Once the students master the melody using icons, they may continue with the Chroma-note® (colored note head) score. Older students may meet success by just having the location of the pitch on the staff on the note designation label which is standard on all brands of handchimes and may be able to move quickly to the handchime score which is in standard music notation.

Icon lesson plans may be found here on the ChimeWorks website.  By introducing these easy to teach lessons, your students will color their world with music through handchimes.

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