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choosing repertoire for students in Kindergarten through fifth grade

Look for:

  • Melodic Elements:

    • Lower elementary (kindergarten through 3rd grade) range: place the melody between C4 and D5, ideally. Full range (including harmonies for older students): Bb3 to F5.

    • Upper elementary (4th and 5th grade) range: place the melody between Bb4 and E5, ideally. Full range (including harmonies for older students): A3 to G5.

    • Look for key phrases and measures that students can read at their level of notational literacy (Appendix Item 1). For example, key phrases composed of only two note values (eighth, quarter, or half notes) would provide students with the opportunity to put their rhythm-reading into practice for the purpose of performance (Appendix Item 2). Pentatonic, step- and skip-wise phrases and ostinato patterns would benefit those following methods such as Kodaly and Orff (Appendix Item 3).

  • Voicing: Unison or two-part

  • Range: Pieces that engage head voice and encourage its healthy use (e.g. tall vowel words in higher register).

  • Harmony:

    • In unison pieces, optional splits into two parts give younger students experience with part-singing.

    • Contrary motion is much preferred over parallel, similar, or oblique motion.

    • Ostinato, descant, and canon, with root singing for upper elementary students (Appendix Item 4).

    • Motion within the tonic chord, scaffolding up to more advanced harmonies.

  • Form: Look for clear structure in a simple form. Songs with A and B sections are a great starting point for teaching form and building up to more complex structures.

  • Text and Content:

    • Pieces should connect musical elements to text.

    • Ensure that correct syllabic stress and phrasing are observed in pitches and rhythms.

    • Foreign languages are completely accessible to children, but avoid overwhelming them with verbose lyrics.

    • Be sure to respect cultural authenticity (Appendix Item 6).

Avoid pieces that:

  • Hold notes much longer than four counts, unless strong harmonic support for intonation is present.

  • Ask the ensemble to count very long rests unless an interlude is clear and easy for students to follow.

  • Give the students tricky entrances without educational value (e.g. pickups, syncopation).

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