Music is interwoven throughout the Waldorf grades school day. Younger children sing and play pentatonic or diatonic flutes, while older children sing, play soprano, alto or tenor recorders, as well as play a stringed or wind instrument. The pentatonic, or mood of the fifth, meets the young child’s soul configuration through melody, rhythm, and harmony. In the older grades, the diatonic meets the children’s need for a more grounded, rooted melody centering around a tonic note, and their capacity to hold their own part in the presence of other sung or played parts helps them to learn to be an individual within a group, contributing to a harmonious whole.
In first and second grade, the children sing many songs throughout the day in unison with their teacher. They also learn to play the pentatonic flute. Songs reflect the curriculum, the changing seasons, and the festivals of the school. All music is taught through imitation. In second grade, call and response singing and playing are introduced and rhythm patterns are explored.
At some point in third grade, often after winter break, the diatonic flute is introduced. This meets the nine-year old child by offering music that is grounded around a tonic note (usually C major). Musical notation may be introduced and they practice beats, rhythms, the musical staff, the treble clef, and the C scale. Two-part singing is introduced through rounds. Music is still interwoven throughout the day and the week, often related to the curriculum or seasons.
In fourth grade, the children continue the work of the third grade and also begin a stringed instrument, either the violin, viola, or cello with classes twice a week with the Strings teacher. The focus is learning to handle the instrument, fingering, and learning to read basic music. The class teacher often incorporates musical notation as part of the fractions study. They also begin true two-part singing this year.