Saturday, November 21, 2009

Year 0 Music

On a message board I frequent, there was a question on what a mom can do about music instruction with their Year 0 (and Year K) children when they can't afford lessons and don't feel confident enough to teach them themselves. This mom did intend their children to do Piano when they were older. Here is my response.

What you can do at home on your own may depend a lot on what music skills you (or other family members) already have. Listening to good classical music is a HUGE part of music education, even if you can't do anything else. That can make a huge difference when the child later learns an instrument. Find quality recordings by good artists. (I'd buy the Suzuki CD's for the Piano, or whichever instrument you are thinking of for the future - even if you don't plan to do Suzuki.)

And as hard as it can be for an adult - for year 0 kids, I would say that repetition can be more important than a huge selection. (My 18 month old "sings" the notes to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "Allegro" because she hears them so often. (My older kids do Suzuki violin, and the oldest is doing home-taught piano based on Suzuki Piano. So we listen to the CDs for Violin 1 and 2, and the CDs for Piano 1 and 2 every day) (As violin has 6 different rhythm variations of Twinkle on the CD, and Piano has 8 Twinkle variations on the CD - my 18 month old hears a variation of Twinkle 14 times a day at least from the CD's - and then hears it at least a couple of times from daily practice of the older kids.))

I know that not everyone can afford lessons..... but look into bursaries. A lot of programs out there do have bursaries or scholarships for people that need it. Sometimes deals can be worked on a barter system, if you have a skill that the instructor could use.

For older kids, some Orchestra's have programs to help teach kids musical instruments that aren't as "popular" - ones where there tends to be a shortage of players for the orchestra... (Things like Bassoon, or Oboe, or Tuba - I'm not sure which ones but there are ones out there...)

Back to what you can do now - besides the listening a lot - I would say that rhythm is a major thing. (If you do get the Suzuki CD's, you will here the Twinkle Variations that are different IMPORTANT rhythms in classical (and other styles) of playing. They were selected for a reason. I don't know the reasons for all of them, but as we go further in music, I see the rhythms over and over. Clap these, or other rhythms. Get some cheap rhythm instruments. We have used plastic coffee cans from Mike's for drums... we have real maracas, as well as some toy ones. Cheap tamborines from the $ store. Shakers. Some of this can be homemade - but I think that if you can get quality real ones, the sound is noticable. Practice "marching" to the beat. rhythm is SO important in music.

If you have a piano at home - start singing some of the notes. (make sure the piano is tuned!) Play a C key, and sing "Seaaaaa (C)" do the A key and sing "Aaaaaaa" (try to match the key). If you start doing this young enough, your child is very likely to develop "Perfect Pitch" which is loved by choir directors and music teachers of any instrument. If they don't develop "Perfect Pitch", they will probably still have a very strong "Relative Pitch", which is also very helpful. Note that you are not trying to teach the child where those keys are on the piano - you are teaching them that that tone or sound has a name, and this is the name.


  1. I loved this post. I'm not musical but have a gifted musician & this would have been so helpful when she was younger. Common sense meant I naturally implemented a lot of your suggestions but it would have been so reassuring to know I was headed down the right track. I wish I knew then what I know now because the child learns 3 instruments, is teaching herself another & is part of a singing company ~ & if she had her way it would not stop there but my finances will only stretch so far.

    Every child deserves the chance to develop a musical appreciation.

  2. I love the idea of teaching 'Perfect Pitch'. My aunt had it and it was such a skill!!

    What do you think about recorder for youngies?

  3. Thanks for the comments! I agree that musical appreciation is important.

    I think that recorder is good once a child is about 6 or 7 or so... and was recommended as an inexpensive choice in my other music posts. To play well, you do need to have fairly good air, and it takes a bit to learn to cover the holes properly - so it isn't a big recommendation for Year 0 or Year K kids. That said - we do have a few that the kids play with during our music fun times....

  4. Thanks for submitting this to the CM carnival! :)

  5. Thanks Jamie - I hope that everyone at the carnival enjoys it! It is challenging to come up with articles to match the quality reading at the CM carnival.