Friday, June 22, 2012

Musical Skills for Toddlers - Loud and Soft

The fact that a musical education is virtually being ignored in most schools, does not make music any lesson important.  I don't know any one that does not enjoy music of some sort.  It can have a profound impact on our moods, provide an outlet for stress for those who create music as well as those that listen and is a form of self-expression.  It has been proven that kids with early exposure to multiple genres of music and musical awareness are also more likely to learn to play an instrument and those that learn to play an instrument and read music typically do better in math.

Believe it or not, giving your kids some early musical awareness can be simple and doesn't even require that you know how to read music.

Skill number one was "Identify Tempo".

Skill number two is Identify Loud and Soft

Discuss Loud and Soft with your child. Play the "Loud and Soft Game" by grabbing any musical instrument you might have around (even a child's toy instrument can work for this) and demonstrating the concept.  Drums work particularly well.  Then have your child identify whether you are playing loud or soft a couple of times.  Make sure to give your child a turn and even see if he or she can find a "middle" volume as well.

You can also try a children's song like John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,  For this song, you do the "loud" during the "Da da da da da da da" part.  You also lead your child or group of children by example for the rest of the song singing the verse in nearly a whisper to at the top of your lungs and anywhere in between.

Of course you can also introduce musical concepts with a little help from Bert and Ernie too!

Set something on the top of a drum (yes a toy drum will work) that will bounce somewhat on the drum while you play.  A large bead, Lego, pieces of fabric. . . and then let your child experiment with loud and soft and how playing loud or soft affects the item's height on the drum.  After he/she has concluded that loudest makes the highest bounce, see if you can be loud enough to bounce the item right off the drum.  Ask your child to see if he or she can play softly enough to make it so his her item doesn't change position on the drum.

Watch "The Soundtrack" from Fantasia.

Listen to some Loud and Soft Music, create a movement to do when the music is soft and another to do when it is loud.  Dance to your song.  Revisit this part of the lesson frequently with multiple songs, genres and locations (for example, try a seated version in the car on a long road trip)

One Fabulous piece of music for this lesson (and one of Alice's favorite classical pieces) is Hadyn's Symphony No. 94, commonly referred to as the "Surprise Symphony".  Joseph Hadyn, or "Papa Jo" was a composer at the beginning of the Classical Era and actually had a hand in teaching both Mozart and Beethoven.  He was known for his wonderful sense of humor and wrote this symphony to play a joke on those concert attendees that might start to drift off to sleep while listening.  Just look it up and listen - you'll get the joke and your children will learn a little something about Loud and Soft.  After you've heard the song a couple of times, can your child begin to predict when "the surprises" will come?  If your child is particularly advanced with tempo, see if he or she can count the beats between "surprises". 

More Great songs to teach Loud and Soft:
Morning from Peer Gynt - Edvard Grieg.
This is Berk - John Powell
The Tuilleries from Pictures at an Exhibition - Mussorgsky
I am the Lion - Neil Diamond
Africa - Toto
Lightening Crashes - Live
Shout - Isley Brothers did the original but it is the version by Otis Day and the Knights you need to use for this lesson as it is the one with clear differentiation between quiet and loud.
Wade in the Water - This is a Jubilee and there are many beautiful versions out there.

I highly suggest that any song with lyrics be listened to carefully before hand - particularly if your child is likely to pay attention and remember the lyrics.  You can also choose a soft song and a loud song and have a child compare the two, but having both in the same song is somewhat more challenging and significantly more interesting.  There are plenty of songs for kids that are designed to teach about loud and soft - John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt comes to mind immediately as an example.  Using children's songs with kids teaches them a lot and the simplicity offered by these songs is helpful to training their ears to help them match tones for singing.  However, teaching with only children's music robs them of exposure to a lot of wonderful art while they are young so I suggest using a little of both.

PLEASE add to the music list! I'll love hearing your suggestions - just add a comment.

Skill Number Three is: Identify High and Low

Skill Number Four is: Learn Crescendo and Diminuendo

You might also be interested in Fairy tale Classics and Animal Action Replacement

For ideas about ways to find great music NOT for kids, click on the link.  If you play some of their favorites as well as introduce them to a variety of genres they'll get the best of both worlds.  Jazz resources for kids

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