**advice from a musician and mum (not a scientist haha)
- Play music at home.
Plain and simple, but often forgotten. I’ve met heaps of kids who don’t have music playing at home, and those that do, gel with and understand music so much more. Instead of turning on the TV in the morning, pop on a playlist or a CD (if you still listen to CD’s…I do). Sing while you eat breakfast. Surround them with music and it will soak into their brains as they grow.
- Play a broad variety of music.
Yep, even “freaky deaky” jazz. Whatever you play to them as they grow becomes the musical norm for them. They’ll have a greater understanding of different musical ideas, structures and sounds if you mix it up. Play lullabies, blues, pop, rock, gypsy jazz, French folk tunes, New Zealand funk – whatever you can find. Make it a challenge to find something completely different each day to play in the background.
- Encourage your kids to use their body while listening to music.
Encourage them to clap their hands, bop in time, dance around, sing to it – absorb the music right into their tiny little bodies. It’s amazing to me how many people cannot FEEL the music they listen to, and it’s a really easy thing to counter. Help your kids find the beat – stamp their feet in time and count loudly as you do it.
- Let them be loud.
Especially if you or they want to be a singer. Loudness is a parents worst nightmare – you’ve had a long day at work and the last thing you want is to come home and listen to your kids’ loudness. One of the best things I learnt during a vocal course was that in our culture of ‘shhhhh be quiet and listen’, we’ve cut off the opportunity to use parts of our voice that are loud. If you want to belt a huge note when you become a professional singer, you need practice in being loud. Obviously not in peoples faces and in the middle of the night – go outside and encourage them to yell and scream one afternoon. Go to a park or a paddock or a big backyard and belt it out!! Use the muscles that create loudness in their voice. They will learn not to be afraid of loud noises, and it gives them a better chance later down the track to learn how to control those muscles. Then maybe have the chat about when it’s appropriate to be loud…
- Encourage them to experience music in analog form as much as digital.
A lot of music is consumed and created in digital form now (streaming, online music apps, iPad music games etc) but it’s important to make music REAL. Create a musical box full of instruments (doesn’t have to be top quality), or let them strum a ukulele, or play an old piano, or sing – they need to hear sound waves coming from non-digital music items to help their learning. Take them to see a violinist, go to the markets to see a local musician play, or hang out with a friend who has a harp (someone might!). Without getting too technical the sound waves from an analog instrument are different to digital sound waves, and it has a different effect on the brain. You don’t need the best quality instruments when they’re young – cheap and cheerful is the way to go.