Are you seeking to enrol your child in musical classes? Or perhaps you’re a tutor responsible for primary and secondary aged students – be they private or in school.
Learning music for kids can be challenging. Boredom, other pursuits, the digital world and an absence of a sense of progress can all cause the process to stall. This is why it’s so important to keep things interesting when teaching children music notes.
In this article, we look at the best ways to teach and provide plenty of tips on making your lessons fun.
Learning music for kids
Music is very important. A two-year study at the Brain and Creativity Institute in California found that “exposure to music and music instruction accelerates the brain development of young children in the areas responsible for language development, sound, reading skill and speech perception”. So would listening to music be enough, or are lessons necessary? Playing music requires fine motor skills, whereas listening uses only part of the brain. Music lessons can take money, time and commitment, so is it worth the effort? Maths, grammar, science, language are subjects which are considered to be essential but the arts, including music, provide a well-rounded education and reach the parts other subjects may not reach.
Learning music requires commitment and a good work ethic which is valuable for future life. Very young children typically don’t have the attention span and skills for lengthy in-depth lessons, but starting off with fun musical games, capturing the imagination and taken at the right pace for a child’s age and development, it’s clear that music lessons can be very beneficial.
Teaching children music notes
Children love listening to music. From the start babies react to music, bouncing up and down, being soothed, and smiling. Toddlers love to dance around, swaying, spinning, and soon start to sing little songs, making up tunes and words. As they develop, children quickly recognise different melodies and songs, and before long will be singing along with a homemade “mic”, often a hairbrush, followed by a real microphone. Into the pre-teen and teenage years music can be a form of expressing emotions and dreams, frustrations and anxieties and can be very empowering.
Music increases attention span, promotes emotional well being, calms and focuses the mind, reduces stress, provides joy, brings out personality, strengthens listening skills. Whether music will become a career or a hobby, or just for fun and enjoyment, there is no doubt that the advantages and huge. As part of a group, choir, orchestra or band, it will also bring bonding, social skills, shared goals and experiences and friendships. Music is a world within itself, it’s a language we all understand. When we can’t find words to express ourselves, it’s often the music that speaks. It’s never too early to start.
At what age should a child start music lessons?
Music is part of life from birth, lullabies, background music, music games for toddlers, and more focused learning from the age of three upwards, depending on the child’s interest. Fifteen minutes of easy music lessons can be delightful, and many children have started to learn an instrument at the age of three or four. But it should never be forced, some children are not ready until a few years later, although there are very few who wouldn’t enjoy trying out a piano.
There are many good programmes and methods suitable for children, such as the Kodaly method, Orff, Suzuki and others, but it should be a light-hearted, unpressured lesson. There are many online resources and videos which are helpful and many examples of musicians who started at an early age, Mozart began composing aged four. Stevie Wonder learned to play piano, harmonica, drums and sing in early childhood and began recording aged 12. It’s never too early to start.
How to teach music to kids
Is it possible to make music lessons fun and keep boredom at bay? Even young children are fairly familiar with technology and there are plenty of online exercises and ideas. One to one lessons are often more relatable if the teacher has an encouraging, positive attitude. Bringing fun into the lessons lightens the mood, as children can tire of repetitive dull scales and music exercises. Vocal lessons can be more inviting if they include some of the pupil’s favourite songs.
When learning an instrument, using videos of performers playing that particular instrument can add interest. It’s good to try different instruments. For example, if learning percussion on drums it’s fun to try other sounds such as tambourine, maracas, cymbals – even castanets. Not all children will progress at the same rate so patience is vital. At first, lessons should be fairly short, depending on age, and build slowly to an hour.
How do you explain music to a child?
Many performers say that all through childhood and teenage years there was music playing in the background at home, and this influenced their musical tastes and knowledge. Children are naturally receptive to music and by singing to them and encouraging them to sing will help to give them a natural ear for music. Encourage listening skills by introducing different sounds, watch and listen to birds singing, and ask them to describe what they hear. Explain and show how different instruments look and sound, using books, videos, pictures or the actual instruments. Research and tell stories about singers, composers, instrumentalists from different backgrounds, eras and genres. There is a rich and vast history of music to draw on which can be magical and fascinating to children.
Learning music notes for beginners
Learning the basics of reading sheet music opens up a whole new world. The symbols on a sheet of music represent the tune, the speed or tempo, the volume – louder, very loud, quieter, and what sort of expression the music needs. There are lines (the staff) with spaces between. Notes go on the lines or in the spaces and each note represents a letter (A-G). The notes in the spaces are F-A-C-E and on lines EGBDF -an easy way to remember is the phrase ‘Every Good Boy Does Fine’. #
There is also a Treble Clef and Bass Clef, representing higher and lower registers. It can sound rather confusing at first but it soon becomes easy to remember. The notes are little black or white dots on a stem which can go upwards or down. There are other symbols and dots but by taking one step at a time, the meaning of each will become familiar, and it will feel like reading a book.
Teaching music notes to students
When teaching it helps to say each note name (A-G) out loud during practice. Repetition helps to memorize the note – so play the note then say the note. Or for vocal lessons – play the note then sing the note, then say the name of the note. Learning to read music is a process just as learning a new language or learning Morse code, it takes time but it’s a great feeling when you crack the code.
It’s also useful to draw the lines and notes, some students find it more interesting than just trying to read the sheet music. Manuscript paper is pre-printed with staffs (lines and spaces) and is a useful tool for practising drawing the notes. It is also available for guitar and drum notation. Once the basics have been covered little tunes can be devised very simply. This encourages creativity and experimentation which in turn leads to the next steps in a more advanced understanding of music.
Music theory for kids
Teaching music theory is more than just about the notes. It covers melody, harmonies, rhythm, tempo, chords, intervals and more. This is what makes the music fascinating. It’s tempting to skip some of the theory. But it’s really valuable to learn and understand all the possibilities. Melody is the tune; chords are how notes work together, rhythm is the pulse or beat; harmonies can turn a simple tune into something beautiful.
Scales, vocally or on a piano or other instruments are vital. Learning to read and understand musical notes is one of the first basics, all of which can be helped by finding a good music teacher. There are online tutorials which are helpful, but a teacher can guide the lessons and pace to suit each individual learner. There are also books such as Music Theory For Dummies which serve as a reference. Music theory provides the processes and understanding to make music.
Music lessons for kids
There are plenty of options to suit all ages and interests when it comes to music lessons. Some prefer to attend a stage or theatre school at weekends, some prefer one to one teaching at home, and there are plenty of educational videos. There are also many successful musicians who are self-taught. Whether it’s singing, instrumental, writing and composing music or just wanting a better understanding of all music has to offer, lessons are widely available for all stages of learning and abilities.
It’s also good to join groups, choirs, music societies, all of which provide valuable learning opportunities and social and performing skills. Lessons should be fun, but hard work also pays off. Learning about different styles and genres of music and some of the history of music can enhance lessons and knowledge. Listening to a wide variety of music is always worthwhile. And enrolling in a music school may be an option.
Learning music games
There are many games which help to learn rhythm, musical notes, how to start composing tunes and learn musical terms. Everyone knows the game Musical Chairs, but how about What’s That Sound? A parent/teacher/friend puts together a recording of different instruments, a couple of minutes of each, which then have to be identified. The person with the most correct answers wins a small prize. It can be adapted to different levels of difficulty, age-dependent. Or a music trivia quiz, karaoke competition, or Name that Tune?
Music lessons for toddlers
For younger ages, Musical Statues is always popular, but by using different genres of music it introduces compositions that may not normally be heard. Mood music, where a collection of songs depicting emotions, happiness, anger, silliness, shock, excitement is played and the listeners have to act out the song mood, can be fun and educational at the same time.
How do you make music fun for kids?
Informal activities with music can be great fun. Babies respond well to music and as they begin to develop, new ways of self-expression can be found through music. Playing music and singing to little ones can be joyful and calming. Using toy instruments, or anything that can be adapted to make different sounds will start to develop skills.
Making and listening to music can help develop social skills and boost happiness. Little ones don’t need formal lessons, but learning easy songs and dancing along to lively tunes will lay some early foundations. Action and movement songs encourage creativity and physical development. Marching along, bouncing up and down, finding head and shoulders, knees and toes, clapping to the beat, all give confidence and help to explore different sounds and coordination.
A child’s imagination can be sparked by being introduced to different types of music. As a teacher, you’re responsible for opening up a whole new world for them. And who knows where it could end up leading in the future…
- Why do students quit music?
The main reasons for this are: becoming involved in other activities and no longer having time for music, not clicking with a teacher and getting bored. Prevent your students from quitting by relating to them and keeping lessons fun, goal-driven and varied.
- Is music a good tool for health?
Making music is excellent for both mental and physical health. Different types of music can be used for different purposes, whether it be to calm the nervous system or to lift the spirits. Both playing and singing are good for memory and vocal exercises can strengthen the lungs.
Have you tried teaching children music notes? Perhaps you’re learning music yourself. What tools and exercises work best for you? Let us know in the comments below.