Q: [School-Aged] My son just started second grade and will be learning an instrument for the first time. I help him with his other schoolwork, but I have zero experience when it comes to instruments. How can I help him with his music and theory?
A: My son just started second grade and will be learning an instrument for the first time. I help him with his other schoolwork, but I have zero experience when it comes to instruments. How can I help him with his music and theory?
Flashcards are a tried-and-true strategy for learning any bite-sized pieces of information, including music theory. Music teacher Janice Tuck recommends the “Hi & Low Flashcard Game”, which not only fuels musical understanding, but also provides an outlet for young children’s excess energy. Put a treble clef flashcard at one end of the room, a bass clef at the other, and middle C in the center. Play different notes and challenge the children to move to the right flashcard to identify whether they are high or low.
The Importance of Percussion
Percussion instruments such as drums, tambourines, maracas, and castanets are very inexpensive to buy and very valuable in what they can teach. Young children will improve their rhythm while having fun and releasing some energy. If you still don’t have the budget for these instruments, or simply want to get creative, why not have your children build their own percussion? Common household products like empty cans and containers, boxes, toilet rolls, and string will all do the trick.
Food for Thought
Food is always a great motivator for younger students, so why not combine tasty treats with music classes? They’ll try harder at the games and you’ll be able to reward them with a healthy snack.
Try hiding musical phrases of a few notes in plastic eggs for a different take on the classic egg hunt. Once the kids have found the phrases, they have to assemble them and play them in the right order. Different-sized berries can also be used to illustrate the types of musical notes. If the student can clap out a “phrase of fruit” with the right timing, then the tasty treat on the table is theirs.
Music Learning for Kids in the Middle
But what if your kids are somewhere in between? They’re not little children anymore, but they’re not ready for more advanced exercises either.
For those children who are too cool for clapping games and not old enough for a more complex study of musical theory, digital may be the way to go. Midnight Music suggests taking advantage of children’s natural abilities with video games. Online games like “Staff Wars” and “Whack a Note” provide educational fun in a more familiar format to today’s youngsters.
Television is another option which might appeal more to children at this stage. Music theory programs such as “Schoolhouse Rock” can also teach children how to read music and make up their own exciting games. Easily accessible and non-threatening, these shows can inspire your child to move on to the next stage in their music studies. What’s more, these episodes are an excellent and far more useful alternative to what your children might usually watch on TV.
Creating Kid-Friendly Music Classes
These ideas can be hugely successful because they teach dry music theory through interactive activities.
Think about it: how many children do you know who enjoy algebra? How many children see its relevance to their lives, either currently or as future adults? Knowledge that seems to have little practical application risks disinterest and dismissal.
Music theory must show relevance to be embraced. Make it interesting and show your enthusiasm to keep your children’s attention. They’ll learn without resentment at any age.
Jennifer Paterson is the Founder and President of California Music Studios. Jennifer, A.R.C.T., Master’s of Music. Her dedication to voice and piano has made her a definite asset to the musical community of Southern California. www.californiamusicstudios.com/music-lesson-locations/orange-county/