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Make music part of play time

July 31, 2009|By LISA PREJEAN

"Mom, I don't think I can take any more of this music."

We were having dinner with friends at a local restaurant, and my 10-year-old was ready to go. The food was great, the company was even better, but the screaming instruments and screeching vocals coming from the sound system were overpowering.

It was loud. It was annoying. It made us want to leave.

Dessert? No thanks.

Whatever happened to melodic sounds drifting through the air, soothing a tired body and calming a weary mind?

My daughter lamented that she couldn't even understand the words.

What good is a song if you can't understand its message?

Perhaps it is an acquired taste.

Or, perhaps people don't know what is available, so they listen to whatever a radio station or restaurant sound system puts before their ears.

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I think many children today don't appreciate good music because they don't hear it often enough. It's not only the responsibility of our schools to introduce children to various styles of music. Parents should take an active role in guiding their children's ability to appreciate music.

In the home, children should be taught several basic concepts. This should start during play time at a very early age.

  • Music has rhythm. Try a follow-the-leader tapping game with your child. Using your fingertips, tap a tabletop. Instruct your child to do the same. While keeping a steady beat, move your hand to your shoulder, elbow, etc. Tell your child to mimic whatever you do. Switch places and have your child be the leader while you follow. Then play some music and tap along.

  • Music uses patterns. Some notes are short. Some are long. The way they fit together and are balanced is very similar to the patterns used in math class. Math patterns are visual. Music patterns are heard. Challenge your child to listen for and identify the patterns in music.

  • Music has dynamics. This goes beyond turning the radio up and down. Some notes are played or sung quietly. Others are intended to start softly and build in volume. Some start loudly and gradually diminish. Introduce musical terms such as crescendo (a gradual increase in loudness) and decrescendo (a gradual decrease in loudness).

    Musical notes can be smooth and connected or short and detached. Children love to sing the song "Pop, Goes the Weasel." Sing or listen to the smooth part of the song: "All around the cobbler's bench. The monkey chased the weasel. Monkey thought 'twas all in fun ..." The musical term for this part is legato. The next part of the song, the word "Pop," is short and detached. This is a staccato note. Challenge a child to listen for legato and staccato notes in music.

  • Music moves at different speeds. Tempo is the term musicians use for this concept. A march moves quickly. A ballad moves slowly. Encourage children to think about tempo and how it sets the mood for a particular piece of music.

    These are just a few concepts parents can teach with a little effort. The next time you're listening to the radio or a CD, strike up a conversation with your child. A few minutes of instruction can go a long way.

    You might be surprised at how your child responds to music as he grows older.

    Truly good music never goes out of style. Let's help our children be able to recognize that.

    Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com .

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