There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that there is a developmental sequence in children's singing, with certain singing behaviours having developmental primacy over others. The research literature indicates that, when learning songs, children first focus on the linguistic features, then rhythm, and finally the pitch and melodic attributes. This theorised hierarchy was examined as part of a larger study of singing development in early childhood in which a longitudinal sample (n=184) were assessed on a variety of vocal pitch matching tasks during each year of their first three years at school, i.e. at age five, six and seven years. In each year of testing, the assessment protocol embraced a specially-designed test battery and two sample songs. The protocol was constructed so that the test battery items (pitch glides, pitch patterns and single pitches) were deconstructed features of the two test songs, thus enabling an analysis to be made of the effects of the task on vocal pitch matching performance. The results suggest that children enter school with a clear disposition towards learning the words of the songs. In general, this ability is not matched by an ability to learn and reproduce the melodic components of the test songs. It is only in the third year of schooling that vocal pitch matching in song singing improves, but this particular ability is still significantly less well developed than that for learning and reproducing the words. 'For singers are given honour and respect by all people on the earth, since the Muse has taught them their songs, and she loves the race of singers' (Homer Odyssey).
1998. Vol. 10, no 1, 67-74 p.