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I am just going to say it right away: I’m a musician and also teach music, but I’ve never been able to teach my children to play an instrument. As soon as they feel that I want to teach them something, they drop out. On the other hand, with their music teacher, it is quite different, they are of course attentive and interested. It taught me that sometimes it’s better to outsource some portions of my kid’s education.
However, before I could enroll them in music classes, I tried to develop their music knowledge in many ways. There is something I like before outsourcing some ”teaching parts” of my children: I like it when they feel they know a little about what they are going to learn. I like activating their prior/related knowledge on a subject. This is a way to make them more active in their learning afterward. If they have some basic knowledge on a subject, they will feel they are building knowledge on pillars rather than collecting information and organize it randomly.
To illustrate this, let’s pretend you are told that you have to learn Chinese. If you have never heard Chinese language and don’t have a clear picture of what you can learn from it, you might be a little lost. If you have some knowledge of what your teacher is showing you, your level of involvement will necessarily be higher, and you will be more efficient at storing the information in your long-term memory. If also, you know a few words, maybe your brain will be more alert to decode some words you might recognize in the teacher’s speech.
It’s the same with music. What I’m talking about in this case is called musical awakening. It sounds babyish, but it can be interesting for anyone, even adults.
Often, I will talk about the goals or approaches I use with the parents of my students. I get answered: ” bah I know nothing about music, I’m really bad, I stopped at 8 because I didn’t want to practice ”. I hear the same thing with teenagers in special education setting, for whom music is often left aside for school support. I sincerely believe what Auguste Gusteau said in the film Ratatouille: ” Everyone can cook ”, Well, everyone can play music too! However, our image of the traditional music class is sometimes scary or worse: recalls bad memories. You do not have to use this type of approach. There are others. There are more “creative” and ”intuitive” ways to learn music.
The Orff Schulwerk or the Kodaly methods, for example, are based on musical improvisation music and movement. These pedagogies are not perfect but are engaging people actively. You can look online for trained teacher with these approaches, or you can learn about them and inspire yourself from the components.
For the Orff Schulwerk method, the idea is basically to create music using melodic, rhythmic and vocal patterns. You would eventually develop concepts according to the musical nomenclature. The pedagogy we know in several schools is based on the opposite: notions first, creativity afterward. Maybe that’s why it is scary.
When we start using color pencils, it is perfectly acceptable to try to draw something before learning the technique. That, even if at the beginning the sketch is difficult to interpret. This is how children usually learn how to hold their pencils, control their movements, and so on. Can you imagine if we would do the opposite and learn the technique before, how intimidating drawing would be?
Here is a link for more information on the Orff approach:
I will present you some activities you can do with your children to develop their musical skills … and maybe yours too! Nevertheless, I will have to explain some of them into more details in my next article because otherwise, it would be too long. That way, it will give you some time to get instruments or to make them.
I suggest you get some instruments. Real ones, not those bought in a toy store.
It depends on the age of your children and your budget I admit. Why wouldn’t you buy musical instruments in a toy store? Because these instruments are often expensive and badly designed. I have a wooden xylophone from a very famous and respected toy brand for children … and also very expensive. Whenever I use it, it annoys me so much because it does not follow the notes of the scale. There is a note that is untuned. You’re saying it’s not that bad if my child is two years old? I think it could be bad since musical ear training is something very intuitive.
It’s like as if a child encoded the word “resturant” globally every day because you pass a restaurant poster missing a letter. You do not know how many links your child will make with this word to build other knowledge. It is a pyramid of things that he will have re-analyze when he gets that the word restaurant is written with ” au ” which makes it sounds ” ao ”. It does not matter that much, but it is not necessary.
Also, baby maracas also don’t resonate enough. A baby ukulele costs almost the same price as a real ukulele, and you will be able to change the strings if necessary. Convinced?
Here is a list of fun instruments you could have at home because they are easy to learn and because there is a way to have fun without spending hours practicing.
For example, I have a drum set that cost me about $ 50. There are three drums in the bag, and it’s great because we can play several percussion games.
A djembe is always a good idea. Moreover, you will always have guests playing with it.
A glockenspiel (a metallophone) or a xylophone. A real one with real notes. If you can remove and put back the tiles, it is even better.
Egg shakers and hand percussions such as a woodblock, cabassa etc. There are several sets of Orff instruments that you can get, or you can even buy them individually. Also, I’ve personally never really understood the interest, but I have a set of jingle bells, and it always have a huge success with kids.
A lamellaphone (malimba)
A harmonica. It sounds difficult to learn? Nope!
A recorder. I guess it depends on your tolerance for noise, but it is a good way to learn and read music to children from five years old.
A Ukulele, because everyone can play the Ukulele.
In several music schools, it is also possible to rent musical instruments for a predetermined period. This is a good opportunity for children to try several instruments to see if they get attracted and motivated to one in particular.
I will share some activities you can do with these instruments if you do not have much musical knowledge. You can ”google” some of them and find many examples. By clicking on the following hyperlinks, you will get an idea of what I mean. I have written another article with some of these activities such as improvisation, chords singing and the drum circle, in more details. You can read it there.
So, What to do?
23 colored piano sheet This one in particular worth its price of 10$ and is super user-friendly.
These kinds of methods have been very popular recently, so you usually need to pay to get the music sheet with the colors. But there is an alternative. Since the colors of the notes change from one method to the other, I suggest that you download this music sheet of famous nursery rhymes and you color the notes yourself based on your color scale. It could be something like:
A= Blue, B=green, C=yellow, D= red, E= purple F= gray G= pink
If you are unable to recognize the note of the staff, just ask someone who can do it for you. It takes a maximum of 15 minutes to the complete job.
Piano (if you are lucky enough to have one at home)
this video lesson is also interesting
I have to say that If you browse the Internet for online music lessons for kids, there are plenty but seriously I can’t believe how boring or ”too enthusiastic” some of them are. I hope someone will come with an alternative…soon.
Personally, I love singing songs that my children enjoy, traditional or popular ones. Before sleeping it is a little pleasure that we all love. Moreover, my son is in Kindergarten now, and he loves to read the lyrics because they are usually redundant and predictable. It is, therefore, a good reading practice as well.
I love this moment of music with my family because without talking we feel an intense connection between us. I wish you to feel the same. However, if it is your desire, you can delegate another person to take care of the musical education of your children, but endeavor to do the most important part.