Practicing the pitch section of musical aptitude tests
For the pitch recognition part of a music aptitude test, the student is required to discern the difference between two notes and say whether the second note was higher, lower or the same. For a child with little or no music educational experience, the most important element to understand first is what is ‘high’ and what is ‘low’. As a parent or teacher this is best done first using your voice and the child’s. This is described in the exercises below in progressive order.
For a child with some musical experience this may be more straightforward with notes that are far apart. However, it’s still beneficial to hone the student’s understanding with the below exercises for notes that are closer together. This is often an area where they can be caught out.
Musical Aptitude Practice Exercise #1: The Voice
Voice is your natural musical ruler and should be used as much as possible by you and the student. On hearing two pitches it might not be clear at first which is higher or lower, but as soon as you try to sing them, your muscles feel which is higher. In this exercise we are getting familiar with this vertical way of thinking by using the voice.
Start by making ‘sweeps’ with your voice; going from the bottom of your range to the top and back down. Make sure to do this smoothly and slowly. As you do it, move your hand UP as you go UP with your voice and DOWN when you come DOWN with your voice. Encourage your student to do this with you and on their own.
Once familiar with this, start drawing patterns in the air from left to right and going up and down. Make your voice follow these patterns. Copy each other’s patterns
Musical Aptitude Practice Exercise #2:
Put your hand at one height and make a pitch that represents how ‘high’ your hand is. Stop singing, and then then move your hand to a different height and sing where you think that pitch is. Encourage your student to do this on their own. Then swap and test each other by holding your arm out at different heights and making the other one sing.
MAT Practice Exercise #3:
You can then go to a piano and start to be more precise. Start by placing your finger on one note and playing it. Stop playing it and then play a note higher (right) or lower (left). Make sure to use white and black notes so that you’re not sticking to a diatonic scale.
(If you’re unsure about how to use the piano checkout my school where I’ll take you through the simplest of exercises at the piano that you’ll need to test musical aptitude).
With large intervals (spaces between the two notes), you’re child will obviously not be able to sing along as their range is very small compared to a piano’s. However, when doing intervals that are closer together, encourage your child to sing along to determine the space between the intervals.
If you don’t have a piano, you can download an app which replicates a piano. Here’s a video tutorial showing you how to do this.
MAT Practice Exercise #4:
Finally, sing or play a note to your student and then wait for 10 to 20 seconds in silence. Then ask them to sing it again. This will work really strongly on their internal tonal memory. It will force them to have to hold a pitch in their mind and strengthen their perception of where pitches are.
To find out more resources and tips on musical aptitude + all the other sections of the exam checkout our school.