Music brings rhythm, levity and entertainment into any home. And music education should be a critical component in your children’s curriculum. To help you understand both why and how to bring music into your children’s daily life, I’ve invited my brother-in-law, a multi-decade music educator, as well as musician in his own right, to guest post today!
Music Education for Little Ones
As a music teacher for almost 20 years, I’ve taught a lot of music classes including band, choir, guitar, jazz, music history, theory and even iPad music. I’ve taught elementary, middle school and high school students. Frequently, I’m asked about what instrument to buy, what apps to check out and at what age a child should begin music. The last person to ask me about music education was my fabulous sister-in-law, and I’m happy to contribute to her blog and hopefully, share some of what I know about learning music with you. Since this is my first post, I’ll start at the beginning with recommendations for kids aged 1-4.
To understand how music is a language, every parent should watch this excellent TED talk by Victor Wooten. Go ahead and check it out. It’s 18 minutes long. I’ll wait.
Tip #1: Play music!
As explained in the video, playing music in a child’s environment is very important. Most households do not have a family band jamming all the time, but playing some great recordings around the house instead of letting the TV drone on all day is a great idea. Do you remember music in your house when you were a kid? I do. I remember my Dad’s Beatles collection and my Mom’s collection of Irish folk music, Bob Dylan and John Denver records. They bought me some records of my own, but it was mostly kid stuff that I really didn’t like- until my Dad came home with the soundtrack for Star Wars that I would crank up every time I took out my action figures.
[bctt tweet=”Tip number 1: Put your child on a steady diet of quality music #musiceducation”]
Tip #2: Move to music
The next step in building a strong music education is moving and reacting to music. That means dancing, tapping your foot, clapping your hands and ultimately, singing and playing along. Model this for your child, and I guarantee smiles and laughter will follow. I’m not talking about elaborate dance steps here. I’m talking about simple movement – make two fists and shake them back and forth in front of you so your child can see you. Smile while you do it. Look her in the eye. She’ll probably start doing it too.
Tip #3: Create music
Now that your child is a fan of music, he or she will want to participate in some way. This is usually when a parent will want to buy a guitar or keyboard for their child. I find that instruments designed for adults don’t work very well for children, so it’s probably best to wait until later for formal music lessons. It’s pretty standard in public school to begin strings (violin) in 3rd grade and wind instruments in 4th grade (when they have their adult teeth). Sure it’s possible to begin earlier, but I don’t think it is necessarily better. You want to build a good foundation in music creating first, so I recommend singing to recordings, and playing with some kid friendly iPad apps.
[bctt tweet=”Music education for little ones tip number 3: create music! There’s an app for that! #musiceducation”]
For kids, I recommend some apps that sound great (headphones are a must to really enjoy the sound quality) and are easy to use. What I mean by easy to use is that the sound comes out when the screen is touched, and there are no “wrong” notes available (unlike a piano keyboard which gives you all 12 notes, some of which when played in combination don’t sound very good). You can touch anywhere on the screen and get a pleasing sound that is in the correct key.
I start my high school music technology classes with a 99 cent app called Figure, but my own elementary-aged kids love it too. I’m willing to bet that a few of you parents will have a good time noodling with this app as well. This is my instructional video on Figure that I show to my high school students. if you have 6 minutes, check it out and put together a little drum beat for your toddler to jam along with. One finger on the screen is all you need.
I’m also a big fan of Nodebeat. This app allows you to drag nodes around on the screen that launch a little bubble to connect with another node. When they connect, a sound is heard. All of the sounds blend together, and loop nicely.
Morphwiz is a bit pricey at $9.99, but for what it can do, it’s a bargain. Check out Jordan Rudess playing Over the Rainbow on the brilliantly designed touch screen interface. Again, one finger is all you need.
There is an app creating company called Smule that makes an app called Magic Piano (they make other great music apps too). The notes cascade down the screen and when you touch them, they sound. It’s great for developing timing and for ultimately real piano technique.
One last tip. When it’s time for a real instrument, consider the ukulele. I started both of my kids on ukulele when they were 6. The uke makes sense to me because it’s not a toy (scaled down guitars and mini-keyboards are notorious for being poorly built and difficult to maintain), not too expensive ($50-$80 can snag you a good instrument), and is sized to fit little hands.
Buy your child a ukulele!
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy My Pint-Sized Backseat DJ and The Noisy Paint Box Process Art – Painting to Music. You can find all of these, along with our favorite music education posts from around the web on our Music board on Pinterest!
Brian is a music teacher and fellow parent of two. As a music educator for almost 20 years, he has taught a lot of music classes including band, choir, guitar, jazz, music history, theory and even iPad music. He has also taught all range of ages, from elementary to middle and high school students. He introduced music to his own children before they were born and makes it an active part of their daily lives.