Thursday, March 19, 2009

How Can We Raise A Musical Kid?

We try to instill in our son the love for music and experimentation with instruments. I recently read Raising Musical Kids by Patrick Kavanaugh and while the book is a little dated, it still gave me some new ideas we could work on at home to benefit a music loving little boy.

The Benefits of Music for Children: perseverance, confidence, responsibility, identity and self-esteem, discipline, a love of music, art, culture and history, teamwork, identification of talents, using time wisely, following directions, precision and motor control, overcoming fears in public speaking and service, intellectual and social development, commitment to excellence, creativity and self-expression…
Parents, Kids and Music Together: How can I prepare my child for a love of music?... if we want to see the fruit of our children’s musical involvement, a certain amount of preparation is necessary… I like to think of this musical ‘seeding the ground’ in two broad categories: 1. The parent’s role as the children’s model, and 2. musical interaction between parents and children… The bottom line is this: Your children need to feel that when they enter into learning music, they are doing something completely normal – not something strange and foreign to their home life.
Interact musically with your children:
For Infants: play music in the background, sing to them, imitate their sounds, let them experience many diverse sounds, allow them to experiment with instruments, furnish them with musical toys, encourage their singing, play games singing a known song faster or slower, play games showing loud vs soft, encourage clapping along to music, roll a ball back and forth with a beat, incorporate movement when listening to music, pretend to play various instruments along with music, play various types of rhythm instruments.
For Preschoolers: play listening games, through recordings begin recognition of different instruments and instrumental groups, play games recognizing the different instruments on recordings, explore the differences between singing and speech, play ‘freeze’ with music, play games trying to match the pitches you sing or echoing short musical phrases, encourage the child to experiment with instruments, play games clapping a variety of simple rhythms, encourage creative movement to recorded music, begin to teach musical form by singing songs that alternate between versus and a chorus, show how notes go up and down in [music books], show them books that display a variety of musical instruments, read short anecdotal stories about different composers and compositions.
For Children in Elementary School: listen together to short pieces of recorded music, watch short music programs together, make up simple songs together, take them to concerts, give them short books about music to read, through recordings begin recognition of different periods of music history, celebrate birthdays of great composers, have children guess how old a certain composer would be if he were alive today, encourage improvisation on instruments, make home recordings of their musical efforts.
For High School Students: encourage them to help select new CDs, encourage them to read about music and the great composers, related the history of music to the events occurring at the same time in non-musical history, give them a recording of their favourite composer for special days, give musical gifts, encourage true composition, have their improvisations written down and polished, take them to serious concerts, take them to see and even meet with famous musicians, arrange to meet with a living composer.
Take Your Children to Concerts:
  1. which concerts should we attend?
    1. Check newspaper for events
    2. Listen to radio and TV for adverts and info
    3. Get on mailing lists of any performing organizations near you
    4. Buy subscription seats each season to your favourite group
    5. Check with local music schools or the music departments of local colleges for their performance schedules
    6. Seek out music teachers and local amateur music groups
  2. what preparation is helpful beforehand?
    1. Performers/type of ensemble in the concert: make sure child recognizes instrument and sound of instrument
    2. Composer: country of origin, anecdotes, culture
    3. Music itself: hear the music beforehand so the child recognizes the music during the performance
  3. what should we be doing during the performance?
    1. Top priority is to make it a fun, positive experience
    2. Discuss what they are about to see and hear
    3. Did you hear the…? Did you notice…? Could you tell when the music did…?
  4. what can I do afterward to confirm the positive experience?
    1. Try to meet the performers
    2. Ask ‘favourite’ questions: what was your favourite piece/music/instrument/composer
    3. Review concert and ask other questions
Earliest Ages for Most Children to Begin Music Study:
Vocal (private study): Girls 12 – 14 years old, Boys 15 – 16 years old
Piano: 3 – 4 years old
Strings: 3 – 5 years old
Woodwinds: 8 – 10 years old
Brass: 9 – 11 years old
Percussion: 9 – 11 years old
Harp: 10 – 12 years old
Guitar: 8 – 10 years old
Another book to read: Raising Musical Kids: a guide for parents by Robert A. Cutietta - more recent book with resource lists included - but I preferred the book above.


  1. In order also to raise a musical kid, you have to undergo kids in music education class to make him/her learn at least the basic in music.

  2. Absolutely. We find Music Together to be a GREAT introduction to music for young children. We would recommend it.