Music for the Musically Illiterate Mom
- Monday, March 09, 2009
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.” Psalm 100:1-2
Maybe you memorized this rich psalm as a child, as I did. But then, perhaps you were pretty convinced that your “joyful noise” was more noise than singing. Many adults are convinced they can’t sing. Often this is based on the thoughtless words of an adult who told them at a young age that they couldn’t carry a tune. So they have spent a lifetime thinking they can’t sing. The fact is, most children can’t sing on pitch alone until they are at least 8-10 years old. Younger children can sometimes sing in tune if someone else sings or plays along with them. It is the exceptional child who sings well without support during the early grades.
Regardless of their own perceived talent, most Christian parents are eager for their children to experience the joys of music. Making music opens the way for artistic expression, develops physical coordination, provides social benefits, and teaches self-discipline. And most importantly, music is a gift from God—one that we can take with us into eternity. Martin Luther wrote, “I truly desire that all Christians would love and regard as worthy the lovely gift of music, which is a precious, worthy, and costly treasure given mankind by God . . . next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in this world . . . This precious gift has been given to man alone that he might thereby remind himself of the fact that God has created man for the express purpose of praising and extolling God.”
But many homeschoolers have trouble fitting music into their school days. Time constraints, expense, and lack of confidence all contribute to the problem. Some choose private lessons or enroll their children in a choir. Both are wonderful experiences. But there are many ways you can bring music into your homeschool, even if you can’t carry a tune or read music.
Our Musical Heritage
Don’t let your children grow up without knowing the patriotic and folk songs of our country. Explore www.weesing.com to find recordings of well-trained children singing such old favorites as “Billy Boy,” “Little Red Caboose,” and “O Susanna.” Be sure they know the words to “America the Beautiful,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and “This Land is Your Land.” Sing them in the car or when taking a break. Talk about the lyrics; help them see the humor in “the sun so hot I froze to death” in “Polly Wolly Doodle.”Research the stories behind the songs. Learn a common song in several languages.1
• Dynamic markings are the means composers use to communicate how loud the music should be played. We use Italian terms for them, because the concept of writing music, as we know it today, was developed in Italy. Choose a song you know well, such as “Are You Sleeping, Brother John?” to teach the concept of dynamics in music. Make signs with cartoon figures demonstrating words such as pianissimo or mezzo-forte. As one child holds up a sign, everyone in the family must sing the song at that dynamic level.
• To develop volume control, hide a small object while one child is out of the room. The family helps him find it by singing louder when he is close to it and softer when he is further away. Carry the learning over into daily life as you remind your boys that their inside voices should be mezzo-piano (medium soft) and to reserve their forte (loud) voices for outdoors.2
• Tempo means time in music—how fast the music is played. Teach tempo markings while taking a break from your schoolwork. Sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” very slowly, touching each body part as you sing; this tempo is called largo. Gradually work your way up to presto, when you will be moving so fast everyone will fall to the floor in a pile of giggles.3
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