Recently, Belinda was asked to contribute an article to Suburban Parent Magazine on ways to turn your child into an early music composer. We have republished the article below. Enjoy!
Parents don't need to be experts in child development to know that children and music go together like peanut butter and jelly. We've all seen babies light up and smile, toddlers shake and wiggle, and preschoolers get up and sing to their favorite songs. But, children can take their natural enthusiasm for music one step further by actively participating and making their very own music, becoming little composers themselves.
Creating original music is not only empowering, it can be a wonderful springboard into a world of creativity promoting self-expression, problem solving, good communication skills, teamwork, and an appreciation for the arts. As Leonard Bernstein once said, “Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.”
Most of the suggestions listed below can be practiced with the Juno Baby cast of characters in any of the Juno Baby DVDs, but the most appropriate DVD would most likely be Juno's Rhythm Adventure. Here are some suggestions to help your child unleash their inner composer! We'll add a few more over the coming days...
1. Taking a multi-discipline approach to music
Put on some music and have your child express their reactions through drawings or dance. Ask them to paint what they hear or dance in a way that best reflects the mood of the piece. Interpreting music through art and dance, areas they are most likely very familiar with already, will help them to become more thoughtful listeners and active participants in the musical experience.
2. Describing what they're listening to
Is their favorite song fast? Is it happy or soft? What types of instruments do they hear and are the sounds low or high? Deconstructing a piece of music will allow children to have a better understanding about the compositional process and serve to demystify it.
3. Telling a story about a piece of music
Put on a piece of music that does not have words. Have your child make up their own scenario or story based on the music that they hear. For example maybe the pizzicato strings are rain drops and the quick flute lines are butterflies flying from leaf to leaf. Maybe a low tuba sound is a hungry bear in a forest searching for food. Composition is about telling a story and expressing ideas through sound.
4. Having your child become part of the band
Break out the drums, pots and pans, or hum and sing. Put on a piece of music your child loves and have them pretend they're on stage performing with the group. They will feel more directly involved in the music making process.
5. Expressing words through music
Have your child come up with a word and have them express that word through music. For example, the word "cat" might conjure up a playful rhythm, the sound of a meow, or the quiet of an afternoon nap. Whether it be on a piano, tambourine, glockenspiel, kazoo, or even a wooden spoon and a pot, allowing children to express their ideas through sound is a wonderful way for them to communicate regardless of their instrumental abilities.
6. Drawing from their own experiences
Composers find musical inspiration from their own life experiences and interests and so can children. Maybe your child can hum a tune or create a rhythmic pattern on a drum about what it felt like taking a trip to the zoo or how they felt on their first day of school.
7. Playing or singing a musical pattern
start, have your child sing or play a three note musical pattern.
Repeat it back to your child. Continue with a new musical set,
gradually increasing the length of the pattern. This will help
re-enforce and validate your child's musical idea. You can also
reverse this and have them play back or sing your musical pattern which
will encourage thoughtful listening.
8. Creating music with others
Sit in a circle with a group of people, each with their own instrument. One person should lead by playing a brief musical idea alone. One by one, each person in the circle can add to the piece until everyone is playing simultaneously. See where this leads and decide how the piece should end. Encourage each player to listen carefully to everyone and build a composition together in a cooperative way.
9. Developing a short melody
You and your child can take an already existing melody or create your own. Then see how differently you can make that melody sound by changing the rhythm, dynamic, tempo, instrumentation, and/or pitch. The possibilities are limitless. What makes composition so interesting is what the composer does with an idea not just the idea itself.
10. Thinking outside the box
Like twentieth century composers, John Cage who believed that music exists everywhere and can be made from anything and Harry Partch, who created his own set of very unique instruments, encourage your child to be a pioneer and to start noticing the sounds and noises around her. Whether it be barking dogs, honking horns, rustling leaves, or even brushing teeth, sound and music are everywhere. Have your child become more aware of the patterns, dynamics, rhythms, and melodies that these sounds create and how they are woven together like a symphony. Continue by helping your child come up with untraditional ways to make music like flipping pages in a book, shaking a bean in a can, or zipping a zipper. These are ways for your child to create music without any training and to start them on the road to becoming little twenty-first century composers.