How To Cultivate Musical Children
As a piano teacher, I have potential students come to me all the time who are still too young for serious piano study. Their parents never fail to ask me the same thing: How can I get started now to prepare my child for musical success in the future?
Not surprisingly, cultivating a musical sense and the tools that will help your student be successful in the study of a particular musical instrument involves giving them no-brainer tools to succeed in general study. I will discuss the benefits of private music study in greater detail in a later post, but for now, notice the similarities between preparation for musical and academic study.
Tip No. 1: Create Musical Habits
An excellent musician is one who moves carefully and is interested in both details and the big picture—someone whose thoroughness helps them learn difficult things and address challenges. These musicians think about all sides of a problem and have creative solutions. Care and thoroughness are habits of an excellent musician.
Encourage your child to draw and write carefully. Give him instructions and teach him to work independently to fulfill them. Cultivate bravery by demanding good results without an unrealistic demand for perfection. Stimulate your child’s growth in wisdom by helping him find answers to his own questions. A student that will succeed in private music lessons is a student that thinks through each problem, finds a solution, and sticks to it until the remedy has become natural—a habit of excellence.
Tip No. 2: Listen Carefully
Listen to music with your child! Even very young children can recognize tunes and patterns, and they are always excited to find their favorite instruments in a piece of orchestral music.
Speaking of instruments, explore them together any chance you get. Help your child recognize pitches that are high and low on every instrument you find. Many children confuse “high” (in reference to pitch) with “loud” (as in turning the volume up high), and you can begin to counteract this confusion in your own child with precise language and kinesthetic experience.
Make music and singing a part of your life and daily routine. Sing as you work, sing along with your favorites in the car. Your voice is your very own instrument, and it can be used anytime!
Tip No. 3: Love Beautiful Things
Whenever I ask students to listen to something like opera or the slow movement of a symphony, the response I get is often “that’s weird” or “it’s boring.” In this country, we are working against the main flow of culture when we ask our students to love things that are difficult to understand. However, I am continuously amazed by the natural affinity young children have for these “boring” beautiful things—as long as I allow them to have the experience.
Never preface listening to serious music with negative comments. Don’t apologize for the music. If you remain positive, you are teaching your child to mirror your positivity and love these beautiful gems of our culture! Let your child’s pure joy and love flow unhindered by your own misgivings, and you may have my experience and learn to love more deeply yourself!
Tip No. 4: Tune Up Motor Skills
Of course, honed motor skills are vital when learning the technique of a musical instrument. Begin when your child is a baby and expose them to steady beats and simple rhythmic patterns with their hands and feet. Continue to encourage relaxed clapping and marching in time as your child grows. Home percussion instruments are perfect for your own family parade or band!
Teach your student the numbers of the fingers when playing piano (fingers are numbered one through five, beginning on the thumb of each hand and ending on the pinky). Practice wiggling and tapping the fingers independently together. Children seem to really enjoy figuring out how to work their fingers, and this can easily be made into a game! Keep a piano available to your child at all times, and always encourage him to use his fingers when “playing” at the piano. Musical instruments are not toys, but must be treated with respect, and even children under two years old can be taught to use their fingers instead of hands or fists.
Benefits of Musicality: True Learners
Once your child is a careful student who has a passion for beautiful things and the beginnings of dexterity with fine motor skills, amazing things can happen by adding the study of a musical instrument, particularly piano. Learning will be accelerated, and your investment will be put to the best use possible. This kind of wise student is indeed a true learner, and one that we hope to make the heart of The Saint Constantine School.