Teaching Your Kids to Sing In Tune

From the most classic playground chants, to the songs from the latest Disney movie, kids love to sing.

But as quick as your kids might pick up the words to the latest Disney hit, teaching children to sing in tune can be a bit harder to practice, especially if you’re not musically trained yourself.

That’s why today we’re sharing 8 free & easy activities that you can do at home (or in school) with your kids to help them start singing tunefully today!

And just in case you’re not so sure about helping your kids sing in tune, check out this 2.5 year old sing some pretty impressive Solfege with the sheet music for Minuet in G.

1. Warm-up with Some Call & Response

Usually in my music classes, we do some movement and some high-energy shaking to kick things off and burn off some of the music-time sillies.

After that, we sit down and I pull out my resonator xylophone for some vocal warmups. I play simple 3-5 note patterns on a xylophone and sing either the colors, the Solfege, the numbers, or the letters names.

Singing about the notes in different ways helps kids to start differentiating the pitches as individual characters and not as some longer string of sounds.

While you’re warming up, you can also…

  • mimic cartoon characters to illustrate high and low sounds
  • make animals sounds to talk about high & low sounds as well as long & short sounds
  • remind everyone that his or her voice is a musical instrument
  • mimic a siren to warm up the voice (from low to high, back down, back up, etc.)
  • practice yawning, as it expands and then relaxes the muscles around the face
  • practice lion face yoga (essentially holding a silent “roar” for 15-30 seconds)
  • sing arpeggios (broken chords), scales or nursery rhyme melodies using any of the mentioned note vocabulary (letters, colors, colors, scale degrees)

I remind them to try and match their voice to the sound of the xylophone and we jump into singing arpeggios, melodies and scales nice and slow. We do mostly call and response, but after a few weeks of the same routine (i.e. all the chords in C Major arpeggiated, the scale up and down, 3 note runs, etc.), many kids will try to sing-along the whole time.

But when it comes to getting kids to sing really in tune, it helps to connect the abstract idea of pitch with something more kinesthetic. That’s where the hand-signs come in!

2. Learn the Solfege Hand-Signs

The Solfege (Curwen) Hand Signs help kids to develop a strong sense for pitch, which in turn helps them sing more tunefully.

One of the most essential parts of learning to sing in tune is being able to communicate about the different musical notes. We love doing this by not only singing about the colors, numbers, Solfege and note names, but also with hand-signs! This brain-based vocabulary method gives students another way to understand, reference and see the musical pitches they hear.

These Solfege Hand-Signs, or Curwen Hand-Signs, connect bilateral and kinesthetic motions to the idea of pitch.

Adding a concrete idea like a hand-sign to a more abstract concept like pitch makes it much easier for kids and adults to develop their sense of pitch.

Plus, they also give you an instrument free way to get your kids involved in the singing process (which is good for busy bodied kids and anyone they’re sitting next to).

For shy singers, the hand-signs can help bring them out of their shell. By having the hand-signs to focus on, kids will feel a bit less vulnerable when they sing in front of other people.

For overzealous singers, adding the hand-signs in will guide them to becoming more deliberate with how they sing (and force them to take things a bit more note-by-note). That way, they’re more focused on hitting their intended pitch instead of showing off their Beyonce vibrato!

If you’re not familiar with the Solfege hand-signs, the video below in an excellent introduction to singing with Solfege!

For more information about the Solfege Hand-Signs and more videos like this one, check out the Prodigies Music Curriculum.

3. Combine Call & Response with The Solfege Hand-Signs

Combining our call and response exercises with the Solfege Hand-signs is another excellent way to help your kids sing more tunefully.

As a good example, you can check out the video activity above where I’ll lead you and your kiddos through some colorful call and response with a nice & easy melody.

This video is from our Melodies series that’s entirely focused on this kind of short call-and-response hand-sign work!

4. Give Your Kids Meaningful Exposure to Individual Notes During the Critical Period for Auditory Development

Meaningful exposure to individual notes during the critical years for auditory development helps kids develop a life-long sense for pitch and music.

Did you know that children who grow up speaking Mandarin Chinese perform 7-8x better on absolute pitch tests than children who grow up speaking English?

It’s because Mandarin is a language based on pitch, which means that infants and toddlers grow up with consistent & meaningful exposure to pitch.

By being regularly exposed to pitch as a source of meaning and language, native Mandarin speakers inevitably develop a MUCH stronger sense for pitch (and therefore, music).

Research has shown that the once elusive skills of perfect or absolute pitch can be taught to children at this age. The key, again, is the idea of regular and meaningful exposure to pitch.

In short, that means that our families, preschools and homeschools need to start teaching Do Re Mi the same way we start the ABCs. It needs to be universally taught and practiced regularly by families, teachers and kids during the formative (preschool) years.

That’s why at Prodigies, we do a lot work with songs like “Hello C,” where we’re focused on singing and playing with just one musical note.

This helps make your child’s musical play more error-proof, and allows kids ample time to lock on & begin to memorize the sound of that specific note.

This in turn helps develop your child’s sense for perfect (absolute) pitch!

Here Michal & his Dad are using the Prodigies Bell App to practice Pitch:

5. Listen to High Information Music

There is also research and evidence that exposing pre-natal babies, infants and toddlers to high information music helps develop your child’s sense of pitch.

The video above is a classic example of high-information music, and it’s one of the absolute best improvs on the web. My daughter and I watch it every day!!

Inspired by David Beato and his amazing son Dylan, we also use an app called NURYL to give our daughter exposure to lots of High Information Music.

If you’re wondering what high information music is, it’s music like bebop, or Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. In other words, it’s not easy listening! In short, they’re complex, rapid-fire, tonally amibogous romps.

In some ways, it’s the counterpoint to the idea of “meaningful play with individual notes.” Instead of deliberate exposure to one note, it’s kind of uncontrolled exposure to lots of notes with zero context. Still, if you grow up on high information music diet, it makes a lot of sense that you would have a much more acute sense for tone and music (cue Dylan and Rick Beato).

The folks from NURYL have shown some pretty remarkable benefits as a result of playing babies (2nd trimester through the 1st year) this type of music. Their app NURYL contains curated playlists and original compositions that make this is a no-brainer. Check out some of their research here about the many brain benefits of exposing your baby to high information music every day the first 1000 days of her life.

You can try NURYL for free, or you can also YouTube “High Information Music” for some free playlists and suggested listening. Some of the music might seem a little dark and intense for your baby, so feel free to skip around (a little bit at least).

6. Sing with a Well-Tuned Instrument

Making sure you have a well tuned instrument to practice with helps kids sing in tune much quicker.

Don’t get me wrong… I love singing out loud without an instrument in the grocery store as much as the next music-nerd, but singing with a well- tuned instrument to guide you is guaranteed to help you sing more in tune.

It takes some extra effort to play and sing at the same time, but having that strong reference to guide you will really help develop your sense of hearing and singing.

If you’re the one playing the instrument, there’s also going to be a physical connection and vibration between you and the instrument (especially if you’re sitting at an acoustic piano, holding onto an acoustic guitar or playing a wind/string instrument).

Looking for beginner instruments? Check out these colorful, durable & Prodigies-approved instruments below! U.S. Orders ship free.

7. Develop Proper Vocal Technique

A lot of the tips above focus on the “in tune” part of singing in tune, but the actual singing part is going to require some serious work of it’s own.

Developing a good vocal technique involves

  • good posture
  • good air control
  • deep breathing
  • understanding your vocal registers
  • knowing when to switch between your registers (bridge)
  • staying hydrated, not eating salty foods, and much more

To learn a bit more about vocal technique, check out the video above or read some of the tips below!

Posture: Good posture will help improve your airflow and your ability to project. From VocalTips.net:

“Find a wall and stand with your back to it. Place your head on the wall so that your chin is parallel to the floor. Open your shoulders and roll them back to the wall. Without allowing your spine to touch, slowly move your back towards the wall to straighten. Arms to your sides. Feet shoulder width apart, find your balance. Try to relax. The only tension you create should be in your abdominal muscles that are supporting your singing. It is more effective if you do this in front of a mirror. This can especially help you to visualize your stance after you see and feel proper posture.”

Deep Breathing: You’ll need a lot of good breath control and deep breaths to really sustain longer notes and project for your audience. Take deep breaths while you sing to make sure your body is fully oxygenated!

Understanding Your Vocal Registers: You also need to understand the difference between your head voice (higher/falsetto) and your chest voice (lower/normal/brassy), and how/when to switch between them. For more about this, check out this post from RamseyVoice.com

Lots of Water: Keeping your vocal chords hydrated is important to your singing; however, you need to drink A LOT of water to really hydrate your vocal chords. The water needs to go into your stomach and then disperse to other major muscles before it finally gets your vocal chords.

8. More vocal practice with Funky & Fun Vocals

For more vocal work, especially something you can take on the go, I used to use Kim Chandler’s “Funky ‘n Fun” Vocal Training Series to practice on my way from gig to gig.

Her YouTube videos are good, but the best bet (IMHO) is to get her CDs or MP3s to sing-along with.

And of course…Have Fun Singing With your Kids!

Singing with your kids is a fun activity and the more you do it, the less shy they will be about performing later on in life.

Research has even shown that families who sing together communicate better and have kids who are more social.

If your kids have positive musical experiences at home, they’re much less likely to feel shy, embarrassed or afraid to sing.

In other words, don’t put a ton of pressure or a strict time frame on your child’s musical development. It’s true that the earlier you start with some of the activities above, the more impact it will have, but don’t kill yourself cramming every thing into a weekend. Just keep practicing, enjoy the process, and your kids will start singing in tune in their own time!

More Free Music Lessons from Prodigies

If you’re interested in more music lessons and videos from our curriculum, check out our Free Trial at Play.Prodigies.com/Join.

Inside you’ll discover over 550+ video music lessons for kids ages 2-12, and you can learn more at Prodigies.com/Curriculum.

80 thoughts on “Teaching Your Kids to Sing In Tune”

  1. I totally agree. Using solfa and handsigns really help children to understand the musical intervals and sing in tune. I start with descending minor 3rd and children as young as 20mths can sing this in tune. Keep up the good work!!

  2. Judy Sellman-Hrybyk

    We have noticed a difference in our 7 year olds ability to hit a range of note when singing since starting prodigies this fall.

  3. Thanks for the tips! I’m a non musical mom with a 3 year old who has a passion for music. In the short time that I’ve used Prodigies, he’s learned how to ID colors and hand signs in relation to Do Re Mi. I hope that he can learn perfect pitch as a foundation for anything he chooses to do in the future.

    1. Just wondering if non-glowing comments, such as there is a lot of research out there that suggests that perfect pitch CANNOT be learned, will be published here. Let’s see.

      1. The research we reference indicates that pitch perception can be learned much like language is learned in the early years of development. There are studies that indicate perfect pitch can be lost over time, or that the absolute pitch can change later on in life.

  4. Great info! We love Preschool Prodigies! Not sure I’m sold on NURYL as it seems to be basically based on one musician’s children…but interesting.

  5. I have been using this curriculum with my daughter for over a year now. She absolutely LOVES everything about Prodigies – the singing, signing, playing, worksheets, but particularly Mr Rob.
    Before my daughter started she was very off tune with her singing. A year in she is now singing in tune most of the time.
    I could not recommend this curriculum highly enough.

  6. My son and I love music! Especially prodigies music.

    It’s great when we can’t attend music class in person. We supplement with prodigies on his days there are no music class or the weeks music school isn’t in session. He has such great rhythm and a LOVE for music.

    Thanks Preschool Prodgies for making this possible

  7. My son and I love music! Especially prodigies music.

    It’s great when we can’t attend music class in person. We supplement with prodigies on his days there are no music class or the weeks music school isn’t in session. He has such great rhythm and a LOVE for music.

    Thanks Preschool Prodgies for making this possible!

  8. The links are fantastic! Thank you so much for all of the information and also for the free trials so that we can check things out before we purchase!

  9. Thank you for the great ideas! I’m looking into buying Prodigies Go so I have access to your melodies videos for my 1st and 2nd grade students.

  10. Thank you for your wonderful program and useful tips. I had never heard about the solfege hand signs before PSP and now I see how helpful they are.

  11. I am a teacher and I have noticed how much fun the students have in my class. Some of them even notice they are singing better. All I do is focus on the on the steps and the rest happens on their own.

  12. Love this! As an elementary music teacher, it’s awesome to see what could possibly done even before they get to me! And now that I have a son of my own, I love this guidance!

  13. High-information music is a totally new term for me! Always learning something (along with my 4 year old) from Prodigies.

  14. We have been using Prodigies all of two weeks and already it is changing the culture of our home. Yesterday my husband made ‘do’ hand signs and sang “C ya, C ya, C ya later” as he walked out the door. It is just so fun and catchy.

  15. I just discovered preschool prodigies and I’m so excited for my boys and I to start doing the exercises and songs together!

  16. LOVE this article. I’m so glad I found this program. I love music time with my Pre-K classroom and plan to introduce my students to High information music!

  17. Brittany Franklin

    I can’t wait to start this with 3 of my kids in a few months. The oldest is 7 and has begged to start piano (which we are doing slowly) but I would like something they could do together. A friend recommended I check this out and I am so excited!

  18. I don’t know why I’ve never thought about just singing individual notes with my girls before. This is such a helpful post. We also follow Rick Beato and it’s amazing what his son can do!!!

  19. This is a fantastic blog post and I’ve actually incorporated a lot if this in my classroom. The kids love finding their sibgjnh voice and since introducing the curwin hand signs it’s really helped them link pitch (sound) with a visual. Love your work!!

  20. This is exactly what I need to teach my children. I was always “off” from the other children when clapping or singing and didn’t really get it until high school. I wish preschool prodigies was a thing when I was little.

  21. Britney Tifft (Harris)

    I hope to have the opportunity to use this program, I wish we could afford it! My kids (especially my tot) are naturals with music, but I would love to have some better structure to our lessons. Right now I’m just teaching them from my training as a musician. I am not a teacher in the sense that I don’t have a teaching degree, so programs like yours are a blessing.

  22. Wow, this program looks so amazing! Not only would my homeschooled kids learn a ton from it, I would as well, as I have no musical background whatsoever, other than my car and shower sing sessions, of course! I have already learned a lot just from this article! I never knew about the hand signs! My daughter seems interested in instruments and singing and she and her little brother would adore this exploration of music, the arts and self confidence and relating to others in new ways!

  23. I use solfege hand signs at home with my little ones, as well as my classroom. I like the call and response idea! I find “sol-mi” to be very effective in getting children to sing in tune.

  24. This program is simply amazing! I teach k-5 general music and my students absolutely love Mr. Rob and the activities that we do through prodigies. I would highly recommend this program and even though my school does not pay for it, it is worth using your own money to have access to this program!

  25. I wish I could sing in tune! Is it too late for me at age 61? 🙂
    I hope this helps my grandsons…they love to sing, but it makes the dogs howl…bless them for trying though!

  26. Tiffany Rose Ibarra

    I was so excited to learn about this product at TMEA! Teaching our children to become tuneful singers opens so many doors for them.

  27. My four year old and two year old can sing and sign do re mi after just watching Campfire Song lesson a couple times! They are very excited to get their xyliphone and start the lessons.

  28. Excellent explanation of the Curwen Hand signs. We do them in class, but I didn’t have a clear reason to back up the practice.

  29. I have just recently stumbled across your website, while searching for ideas with teaching my 4th – 6th grade music class, how to play recorder. I’m so excited to have found so much MORE! I also teach K-3rd music and am finding wonderful resources, for them as well! Your LOVE of music and all of the knowledge you pour out on how to teach the little ones, in our lives, is GREATLY appreciated!!

  30. I have shared a video from Prodegies with some of my younger students and they really loved it! Thanks for sharing all your great advice.

  31. Thank you for these tips. As someone raised with no musical training I appreciate all of the help I can get with my children.

  32. I love Prodigies Music, and so do my students! Sweet Beats makes learning rhythm easy & fun! My students actually beg me to play it!

  33. Wow! This post is great! I am using the program with my 3 year old and my 2 year old twins. We have had it for about a month now and they love it. They call it bells as in we are going to watch bells. Thank you all!

  34. Pingback: Month of the Young Child - Free Resource Roundup - Prodigies Music Curriculum

  35. Pingback: 10 Boredom Busting Musical Activities for Parents & Kids At Home - Prodigies Music Curriculum

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