Cassette Tapes or CD's for Learning to Sing in Harmony

These tapes or CD's were produced by the homeschooling Lester Family of CA. The easiest is Traditional Rounds, Cannons and Harmonies. Once you get more advanced try Homestyle Harmony. (Cassette tapes are $8.50, CD's are $12.95)

Singing Rounds

-- Or beyond "Row Row Row Your Boat

by Susan Richman

I'd always wanted my kids to be able to sing rounds. I knew round singing was a first step towards singing in parts, and also just knew that singing rounds was a fun part of life, from campfire sing-alongs to family music parties. But the kids could only sing rounds if Howard and I both were participating, with each of us helping hold down a part. The kids could weakly follow along then, but couldn't keep their tune going for a measure on their own. Then we bought the tape, "Incredible Luminous Universal Musical Family Sings TRADITIONAL ROUNDS, CANONS AND HARMONIES." We found many songs we knew already-- "Make New Friends", "Frere Jacques", "Row, Row, Row Your Boat", "White Coral Bells", and "Hey Ho Nobody Home." Many others were new to us-- "Father We Thank Thee", "Canoe Song", "Horsie Horsie", and "Wind in the Willows." Everything turned around after listening to this tape. Within days we were trying out the tunes, and now because they had really HEARD what the rounds should sound like, the kids were able to keep their parts going. What a happy surprise for us after having had so much trouble in the past! We also enjoyed figuring out which of the children in the family were singing in which songs-- and enjoyed knowing that this was another homeschooling family sharing with us.

We then told a number of our homeschooling friends about the tape and all our children began learning the songs and soon we were all singing together at writing club meetings or after a group Spelling Bee or just any time we were together. Having the tape was a key, just as Cathy Innerst described with their Harrisburg area play, Sing America Sing! We didn't have to take time when we were together to learn the songs, we could just divide up parts and start singing. We were able to sing once for a local nursing home over the summer, and hope to do more sharing this year. Other homeschooling groups might want to look into this tape also as a good way to get group singing going, with beautiful harmonies and good traditional songs. We love it!


by Susan Richman

from Fall '89 issue of PA Homeschoolers

Have you been wishing your family could learn to sing together in perfect harmony??? Or at least make a start at it? We've found two of the tapes produced by the Incredible Luminous Universal Family (the Lesters, a homeschooling family with five boys, from California) to be so terrific for our family, we wanted to offer them to our readers. The first tape, Traditional Rounds, Canons, and Harmonies, will help your family learn to sing over 22 wonderful songs-- many are old favorites, but lots will probably be new to you. All are wholesome and uplifting-- and delightful. The parents and children (five boys, and beautiful voices) go through each song once "solo" and then as a round with up to 4 parts. You can hear how it should sound-- and soon you'll be trying the songs out yourself.

The second tape, Homestyle Harmony, leads you to true harmony singing, with thirteen songs-- and its lovely collection just for listening too. Again, they first go through each part separately, and then put it all together into beautiful harmony. These are harder to learn of course, but well worth the effort and time. In fact we vowed we wouldn't sell this tape until our family had learned to sing America the Beautiful in 4-part harmony (something we had never done with any song before...). And now we can do it! (Oh, not perfectly but we're having fine family fun!)

Each tape has the words to all songs right in the cassette box, along with good tips on how to use the tapes effectively in your family. We highly recommend them! Check out the order form in this issue. Happy Singing!!!

Learning to Sing Together

by Jodi Pender

from August '93 issue of PA Homeschoolers

About a year and a half ago I invited four families over to my house to sing. These were all families in which both parents and the children like to sing. This group consisted of 8 adults and 10 children (the children are now ages 6 to 14). My three goals were: to have families singing together, to progress from simple songs and rounds to harmonies, and to have fun. Since I have always enjoyed singing with friends, I thought it would be fun to get together once or twice a month to sing.

I had been inspired listening to the two tapes by the Lester Family entitled: "Traditional Rounds Canons and Harmonies" and "Homestyle Harmonies" which I had purchased from John Holt's Bookstore (and are now available through PA Homeschoolers) we used those as our guide. Later I purchased another tape from the same group, "Christmas Harmonies" (now also available from PA Homeschoolers). These tapes are great to just listen to, but they also are helpful in two ways. First on the traditional rounds tape each song is sung individually and then in rounds. On the harmony tape each part is sung separately and then the whole song is put together. Therefore, we can listen to and learn our parts. The words are also included. The words are small since they are on the small flyer that comes with a tape, but can be enlarged on a copier. We were impressed that these harmonies were made by not just a single family, but a family in which all the children are boys! My children were also impressed that after the last song on the rounds tape Baby Benjamin burped and it was left on the tape. (It seems the family was recording and holding their baby hoping he wouldn't make a peep. He didn't until the last song, after which he made a very small burp. The family burst into laughter and they left their spontaneous fun and love on the tape for all to enjoy. I should know; it's been replayed many times!)

Each family purchased the tapes and had listened to them, so we began with rounds and simple songs. We did progress from rounds to harmonies, and now we sing four part harmonies.

Our group conveniently had people who could fit into the parts of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, although I didn't know it at the time. We use no musical instruments other than a pitch pipe.

The adults had varying amounts of musical knowledge. One is a professional musician and a piano tuner. Another is a song writer and musician. However, neither of those two people could read music. On the other hand there were three adults who could read music, though so far, we've never had music to read. We have learned by listening to the tapes and practicing our parts. Most of our practice is done at the singing group. When we began our group none of the children played an instrument or had any specific musical training.

The way our singing group works now is this: We warm up our voices and then begin with some fun rounds or songs. I usually scribble down an order of these simple songs minutes before anyone arrives. I do take requests and usually the kids suggest some additional fun songs.

After we sing some easy, fun songs (either rounds or simple harmonies) we move to three and four part harmonies. We eventually work our way up to the songs we are currently working on. Then we have to really work on our parts and get serious. At this point some of the kids dwindle away, some stay.

The way we practice is to listen to our parts on the tape and then sing them, each part individually. Then we put them together , sometimes adding a part at a time, sometimes jumping in with all four parts. The hard part is when the song is over. Sometimes we all groan and know we didn't get our part. Sometimes we look at each other and say, "How did it sound to you?" That's the hard part, not having a director.

About a month ago I invited a friend who happens to teach the seventh and eighth grade chorus in our school district to come and give us suggestions. She listened while we sang and gave us some tips that helped us. She let us know she was impressed.

I can think of two things our group has done that have been particularly helpful. One is to find and list a starting note for each song. Once we find a comfortable range that we can all sing the song in, we don't want to forget it. Likewise, for harmonies we list all four starting notes. The other things that has been beneficial is that we each have our own sidepunch binder with songs (now printed out by a computer) so that we can make notations on our own song.

Our group has mixed feelings on the topic of singing in public. Some want to continue to get together for the sole purpose of singing and friendship. Others would like to work towards a goal of singing for an audience. We did go caroling down the streets of a small town last Christmas.

How have children fit into the group? My original goal was for families to sing. The youngest four boys (ages 3 to 7) are usually off playing. They do come sing some of the fun songs if we strongly encourage them. They also were very involved learning the Christmas carols to go caroling. The four girls (ages 9 and 10) usually stay for all the singing. Although mostly they sing melody, a few have chosen to sing other parts. The two boys (ages 13 and 14) have slowly drifted away, as their voices have become more unreliable. We hope to have them back.

Another important thing we make sure we have time for is to visit with each other. After about two hours of singing we take a break and have desert and talk. The kids have let us know that they need that time too. So, we make sure the kids and the adults have time to socialize. Sometimes we end the evening with a couple of light songs. Other times talk fills the last part. Either way, I feel light hearted and rejuvenated after an evening of singing.

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