The Elements of Music: Preschoolers Learn "Forte and Piano"!


I've found that little children love to explore making music that is LOUD! and also music that is why not give them the actual symbols and vocabulary used in music notation!

                     (All photos are by Jeri-Jo Idarius Photography, from Carolyn's Archives)

When I introduce these symbols and their names to Preschoolers, I always say the word "Forte" in a loud voice and of course, "Piano" in a quiet voice. 
I use this classic approach from the Montessori method called The three-period lesson (read more at this link)

First period: Show the "Forte" symbol and say, "This is the music symbol (or sign) for when the music is LOUD and it is called "FORTE!" Can you say "Forte" with me in a loud voice?

Second period: Show the "Forte" symbol and say, "Which way would you say the word "Forte"? In a quiet voice or a LOUD voice?

Third period: Show the "Forte" symbol and say, "How would you say this?" "How would you sing or play this way?"

Next, comes the "Forte" & "Piano" Game!

I made a double-sided sign that has the "Forte" symbol on one side and the "Piano" symbol on the other side. You can also download a music font and print it out if you like. Then create your sign. I always laminate these, of course!

I invite the children to pretend like we are in a band and they will be the singers and I will be the band leader (or "conductor"). I tell them that, as the band leader, I will show them whether to sing LOUDLY or quietly by which sign I hold up. 

Then I show them the "Forte" side of my sign and ask them, "If I hold up this symbol, would you sing quietly or LOUDLY?" (And, I do likewise with the "Piano" symbol)
It's important to remind the children, "The challenge of this game, is to watch the conductor while you are singing, because I might be changing my sign!"
We start with a song everyone knows (my favorite: "The Itsy-bitsy Spider") 
Then the fun begins...and the children have a really great time with this "challenging game!" Even though it seems simple, it does sometimes take a little practice for the youngest children to get the hang of not only adjusting their singing voices, but watching the conductor at all times for the card-change "cues." So, we usually sing at least one other song to get some practice! (Yet another great developmental activity for refining attention skills and body/voice control!)
In a later lesson, or right away with the older groups, one of the children can be designated as the band leader or "conductor". 

In the Orff-Schulwerk music approach, the children use their bodies to spontaneously move to loud and quiet music. I love the Bushfire Press, The Music Room Primary Curriculum (find more info by clicking on the link) because there are several music selections from the cd (or mp3) that offer loud & quiet music for fun movement. 
Then, of course, the children will want to explore playing rhythm instruments in a "Forte" or a "Piano" way!
Sandblocks are great for this, since they can be scraped together in a quiet way and then tapped together in a loud way.

I like the sturdy sand blocks at Kindermusik International. Here's the  link:

Rhythm sticks are another great instrument for playing "Forte" and "Piano". I like this set with one ridged and one smooth stick: 
These can be found on Amazon or at the West Music site. Here's the link: Basic Beat Combo rhythm sticks from Westmusic

The children can play rhythm sticks quietly (for "Piano") by rubbing them together or even tapping together very lightly. And, they can play them loudly (for "Forte") by tapping them together loudly or even pounding on the floor as if playing a drum!

I hope your Preschoolers enjoy "The Forte & Piano Game" as much as we do!

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