You’ve probably heard the saying, “Music is a Universal Language”.  While not exactly true (Indian classical music’s rhythm system, tala, is conceptually very different than Western classical music’s rhythm system, meter, for example), this common saying does lead to a important point that is very true in many ways: music is like a language.

Researchers have found that kids learn music a lot like they learn a language.  Talking and reading to your child provides the phonation and inflection patterns they need for speech.  Similarly, singing and playing music for your child provides the pitch, rhythm and expression patterns they need to make music.  Amazing, isn’t it?

Let’s get started!

Feel the Beat

Whenever you get the chance, help your child physically feel the beat of music by rocking, gentle tapping and wiggling their toes and fingers (think: This Little Pig Goes to Market, a classic “wiggle” rhyme).  If you’re holding your kid and “Pumped Up Kicks” comes on the radio, or your’re singing in church, bop along with the beat.  Extra credit: bring more varriety into your kid’s musical world and find some classical, folk, jazz, music and bounce to the beat.  A great resource for ideas of important classical pieces that are easy to love for everyone is, click the Top 100 at the top.

Hear the Notes

Why limit the complexity of music your child hears when there are so many modes of music to enjoy?  Most pop music, hymns, and kids songs are great, but most of these are pretty simple songs.  You can expand your child’s music vocabulary with listening of more complex tonalities–here are some places to start:

The Crabfish — This is a songtale in mixolydian mode.  If you want, you can buy the book and either sing or play the recording of the song that goes along with it.  Or you can learn the tune and put it to a rhyming book you already have.  Listen to the free mp3 of the songtale here:

Music Listening Experiences by Dr. Edwin E. Gordon — This is a very achedemic approach to exposing kids to various music tonalities.  Listen to the jolly oboe tones in the background during play, or move together to the beat.  These aren’t necessarily intended to be sung, especially by kids, because they’re pretty complex–this is high art, guys, high art.

Keep in mind that a few seconds of silence before and after each example is supposed to be ideal for sound retention.  Dr. Gordon recorded himself stating the number of each tune (why, Dr. Gordon, why??).  You can just let the track run, if you want, but I’ve listed the times just before each tune in case you want to skip past the speaking.

Brief Tunes-Track 1

0:01   0:12   0:30   0:46   1:00