Advertise on ChoralNet 
ChoralNet logo
The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

Body-Signing for Sight Singing

Many years ago, I attended an ACDA event at Gustavus College in St. Peter, MN.  While there, I went to a session on using body signs as an aid in teaching sight singing.  This system was not Curwin Hand Signs, but incorporated full body movements that started with Do at the waist and moved up the body. Sol was at the top of the head and high Do was arms straight up.
 I have found this video on YouTube but have been unsuccessful in finding anything about who pioneered it, or suggestions for using.  My memories have altered the exact hand shapes - I remember La pointing to the ears as a mnemonic for listening carefully - but this video shows the method I have been using.
I realize most use the Curwin hand signs, but I a convinced that this method is far superior in that the relationship between the intervals is automatically represented in my students' bodies, whereas, with the Curwin system, those intervalic relationships are much more arbitrary and must be remembered by the singer. ( I have never had a student have to remember that their ears are above their waist.)
Is anyone else familiar with the method, and are successfully incorporating it with their sight sinnging instruction?
on September 15, 2013 6:33am
The gestures used in that video look like a cross between Curwen hand signs and Scalesthenics by the late Mary Jean "M.J." Milford.
If you're not familiar with Milford's system, here are some links:
on September 16, 2013 5:12am
I teach general music at a K-4 school, and also direct a 4th grade choir.  I use the Curwen hand signs, but also have experimented with having my students place their hands at various places on the body to reinforce pitch relationships.  One of the approaches I have used incorporates both the Curwen hand signs and placing the hands on the body.  When I am introducing mi-re-do to my first graders, I have them hold both hands in the Curwen hand sign position for mi, with the fingertips of "tall man" (the middle or longest finger) touching at the top of the head.  When we move to re, the hands move down to the sides of the head with the hands now at the angle of the Curwen hand sign, and the fingertips touching the top of the ear.  For do, the students make loose fists, placing them at the collarbone.  In this way they get more of the "full body" kinesthetic response, but also begin to learn the Curwen hand positions used by the choir directors in our school district at the intermediate and secondary schools.
on September 16, 2013 2:32pm
In the Kodaly approach, we use body signs and drawing the melody in the air as preparations for use of the Curwen hand signs.  This helps orient the child to melodic contour.  When children exhibit fluency with these, then the hand signs are introduced.  Also, I rarely use stationary hand signs.  My students mostly use these on a vertical plane roughly aligning with the placement of the body signs.  And, as for all tools in our teaching toolboxes, body signs and hand signs will be used less frequently as students become more fluent.
Also remember that the hand signs can represent the quality (and later, function) of the notes represented, while the body signs only represent their higher/lower placement. 
  • You must log in or register to be able to reply to this message.