Teaching Your Child to Be Musical

by woodleywonderworks (used by Creative Commons license)

Music emerges from children … . Music is on their minds and in their bodies. It is evident in their conscious musicking alone and together, and in the various musical expressions they produce. … Music appears to be everywhere in the lives of children, and they love the musical parts of their lives. … Music, then, is a childhood constant, patterns of rhythmic and pitched sound that may or may not be fully intended by children as music. Yet intended or not by them, these patterns often are music.” —Songs in Their Heads, by Patricia Shehan Campbell, p. 168

Wow!  That just says alot for me because the first and most important thing to me for you to know is that children are musical.  They are, we all are, musical beings from birth.  And yes, just like in any other area, some are born with more aptitude or talent than others.  However, I am a firm believer that much of what we consider musical talent or aptitude can be taught.  Two of the biggest pieces are beat competency, or the ability to keep a steady beat, and inner musical hearing, otherwise known as audiation.

Audiation is an interesting thing worth it’s own post, so for now, I’m just skipping straight to Steady Beat.  So, where do we start?

Rhythmic Awareness

We start with rhythmic awareness.  Rhythmic awareness is simply being aware of steady beat and meter in music and in our surroundings. The
most fundamental property of music is beat, the underlying, unchanging, repeating pulse that occurs in song, chant, and rhyme. Your child was first exposed to beat in the womb. She heard her mother’s heartbeat and then, after birth, her own. Exposure to steady beat—hearing it, feeling it, being moved to it—is important for your child’s developing sense of steady beat.  So, in class, we move to the music – a lot.  We clap, we pat, we bounce, we march, we tiptoe, we jump, all of which encourage your child to match the beat with his body.  We listen to steady beats in the recordings.  We listen to them played by grownups in the room on instruments.  We immerse ourselves in the beat.

Steady Beat Competency

As early as 8 months a child can begin to keep a steady beat, and by the time they are toddlers, many children have a well developed sense of their own, internal steady beat. Sneak a look around the corner at your child and watch him beat on the floor as he is playing or banging on pots and pans with a steady beat. Keeping a steady beat with his arms is necessary for your child to be able to use a toy hammer, saw, or (before too long) scissors. Steady beat competency in the legs and feet is a key factor in your child’s learning to walk and is necessary for playing sports, especially dribbling and shooting basketballs, as well as for dancing, skipping, running, and even walking easily. Total body beat competency even emerges in the ability to speak and read with a smooth cadence, thereby enhancing communication abilities.

Once an internal steady beat is secured, children are ready for experiences in which they are invited to match the steady beat of an external sound source.  This occurs, for example, when your child taps the beat to a song in his Kindermusik class or sways to the rhythm of a
song on the radio or your At Home CDs.

How Do We Encourage Beat and Rhythmic Development?

  • Help Entrain Beat: Move your child to music.  March, jump, bounce, and clap together as you sing or listen to favorite CDs.
  • Watch as Your Little Own Begins to Match His Own Internal Beat: Encourage it by matching the tempo he sets as you play and sing together.
  • Encourage the Ability to Match Beat to an Outside Sound Source: Play your fun new summer camp instruments along with your favorite songs on your new CDs.  As your child moves on to preschool and school, he will begin to be able to match the beat of the CD.
  • Encourage Rhythm Pattern Exploration: For preschoolers and early school-aged children, you can begin to encourage rhythm pattern exploration by creating a rhythm pattern and encouraging them to copy it.

You can have a lot of fun as you play, plus you’ll build great musicianship along the way!

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