Music, which is usually an ‘extra-curricular’ subject in other schools, is fully integrated into the Montessori classroom. A child may choose to work with the tone bars in music, or the notation boards (another post later) while other children work with math, geography, history, or any other materials. Music is very close to my heart, as I was a music teacher for many years (violin, piano and flute), but what I am really excited about is how music becomes accessible to all children in the Montessori classroom, not just the lucky few.
As with all other areas of the curriculum, first the foundation is presented to the children upon which they can build, and the tone bars are used for this purpose – to build a foundation in the language of music. Although the set up of the tone bars replicates a piano keyboard, the difference between the tone bars and a regular piano is that each ‘bar’ is movable!
This allows us to pull out the bars needed to make a major or minor scale, starting on any note. This also allows us to pull out the bars of only one key, giving us only the tone bars needed for that great song we want to play or compose!
In this picture, the major scale of C is pulled out. This is the first set that the child works with – all white notes, no sharps or flats – and from here we build in complexity, as we do in all areas of the curriculum.
Have a listen to how the tone bars of the Montessori Elementary Schoolhouse sound!