What Should My Child Listen To? And Will It Drive Me Crazy?

Many parents are trying to find music that will keep their children entertained, help them to grow musically and not drive mom and dad crazy. Good news! I’m here to help! Below are my guidelines for selecting great music, including some specific recordings you may want to consider to fill out your library! Please remember, these are just guidelines, and most music will not “obey all the rules”. What’s important is to keep these ideas in mind when picking out music for your child. Of course, your Musikgarten recordings take all of these things into consideration, so make sure they get a prize spot on your device!
Choose music in a range children can sing. Children have very small vocal cords, which is why their whines and screams are so ear-splitting! If you want your children to sing well, they need to hear songs that are in that high register. I really like Steve Songs! His natural tenor register is perfect for children to imitate an octave up.
Choose music played by real instruments. Your child will learn what a flute sounds like by listening to a flute. A synthesized flute will not give them the same experience. Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals is a huge hit with our Musikgarten kids!
Choose music with a proven track record. Traditional and folk music has lasted for so long for a reason. It’s good! Besides, grandparents love singing songs they recognize with your children! Elizabeth Mitchell chooses fabulous mix of old and new. I adore her.
Choose music YOU like. If it is annoying, it will not teach your children to love music. My kids and I all loved singing “Ob La Di Ob La Da” by the Beatles when they were little. Now Caspar Babypants (aka Chris Ballew from Presidents of the United States of America) has put out this gem of covers. It’s 2015. No one should have to listen to Barney or Elmo ever again.
Choose a wide variety of styles. When children are exposed to a wide variety of music (not just “children’s” music) the more comfortable they will be with different styles as they get older. Wouldn’t it be awesome if your child’s favorite musical group was Ladysmith Black Mambazo? The answer is yes, yes it would. And you are welcome.

 

Along this vein, My husband would also request I pick a great jazz album for your children. This album begins with Ella Fitzgerald and ends with Louis Armstrong. You cannot go wrong with those two.

 

Keep it simple. Children cannot discriminate through a lot of different sounds. A lot of loud, synthesized, music is very difficult for young children to process. I just discovered Justin Roberts, and, so far, he gets a thumbs up!
But, don’t be afraid to pass on your own musical heritage! If you love U2, Taylor Swift or Tim McGraw, your children will associate that with you, and hearing that music later will connect them to you. Just, no Miley for a while, ok?
The most important thing, though, is for your children to see you enjoying music. So relax! Enjoy some tunes together!

Again??!!

Sometimes, in the baby class, it can feel like we repeat activities and songs SO MANY TIMES!!

This is on purpose. Babies learn through repetition! When an adult hears something new, it is generally pretty easy for us to figure out what is going on. We take cues from our past or our environment and interpret what is around us.

Babies don’t have that context for new activities, though! It may take them 3 repetitions of a song before they even realize something new is going on. Then it may take another 3 before they decide if it is fun or not. THEN, once they decide it is pretty fun, it takes another 3 or 4 times before they can recognize the pattern and anticipate what is coming. It’s so fun to watch, but it takes a lot of patience!

As we repeat activities ad nauseum throughout our class and week to week, don’t worry! Realize you are on “baby time”, slow down and enjoy this unique time before they switch focus every 15 seconds.

You can also really help your child this week at home by repeating your favorite class activities. Try singing “Pop! Goes the Weasel” or “Diddle Diddle Dumpling” after every diaper change and watch how your child grows to anticipate that time!

Cheers!

Elizabeth

 

6 Tips for Improving Your Singing Voice


Unknown-1Do you ever feel like bursting into song, but are nervous about subjecting others to the noise? Here’s some help!

1) Listening when you sing is just about the most important thing you can do. Take time to deliberately use your ears to hear if your voice is matching pitch. This may mean you need to sing softer.

2) Don’t forget to breathe! Take deep, controlled breaths when you sing, and try to regulate how much air you are letting out at a time.

3) Find your “high” voice. Next time you are playing with your child, make sounds like you are a fire truck, a ghost or a dainty princess. Any of  these can help put your voice in a higher register. Once you are there, take some time to explore those notes. If you can get your voice there easily, you are well on your way to a pleasing singing voice.

4) Practice! Sing along to the radio, join a choir, sing songs with your children. You will find that the more you sing, the easier it will become to find your way.

5) Relax! First, tension does really bad things to your vocal cords — so please don’t strain when you sing! Second, you don’t have to be a great singer to enjoy singing. We live in an age of Simon Cowell, where people who don’t sing like a professional feel like they will be laughed off stage. Music is meant to be made as a community, not to be the art form of an elite few. Enjoy the voice you have and don’t worry about a few glitches you don’t like. Your positive example will have a strong impact on your children.

6) Take lessons. Yes, they are for adults too! If you would really like to work on improving your voice, I can put you in touch with any number of quality voice teachers in the area. Anyone can learn to sing and anyone can learn to improve their voice. Send me an e-mail for a referral. Try it!

I Love You, You Love Me…

When my oldest was born, I swore Barney would have no place in our house. Ever. (I also swore off Disney and the color pink — but that’s another story) Perhaps you made a similar vow against the big purple dinosaur — or maybe there is another children’s program that grates on your nerves! I will confess, I failed (very quickly) on all three counts. My children have all enjoyed the saccharine sweetness of Barney, the mind-numbing Teletubbies imageand don’t even get me started on Caillou.

Admittedly, there are a lot of annoying things marketed towards children. And it doesn’t get any better as they get older! Our children will definitely have their own tastes! And it really is important to allow them the freedom to express their own opinions — in music and other things.

The trick to developing good taste, however, is to make sure children are exposed to high quality art along with the fluff. Please make sure that when YOU choose a movie, music, book or show for your child, you take the time to consider the quality of what you are giving them. Children who are exposed to great literature and music learn to tell the difference. They will eventually gravitate to art that engages their mind and heart. Imagine a teen who loves Debussy, Dickens or Alfred Hitchcock! It’s not an impossible dream, but it’s up to you to help your child along.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

A Good Value?

I get it. Families these days are financially strapped! Every parent wants the best opportunities for their children, but it’s hard to know where you can get the best value! Time and money are precious resources.

Because of its holistic nature, Musikgarten classes are a great value. Take a look at this checklist to see if your child’s activities are as all inclusive as the Musikgarten curriculum. Does this activity address your child’s:

  • Social Development?
  • Gross Motor Skills?
  • Fine Motor Skills?
  • Language acquisition?
  • Imagination?
  • Creativity?
  • Coordination?
  • Concentration?
  • Musical Intelligence?
  • Confidence?
  • Body Awareness?
  • Instrument Readiness?
  • Literacy?
  • Love of nature?

Many children’s programs address some of these important developmental areas, but music classes are the only activity I have found that addresses them all. Musikgarten has been working for over 20 years to develop a comprehensive, holistic curriculum to address the needs of the whole child. In fact, many dance and sports teachers love our program, because our alumni come to them better prepared with natural grace and coordination.

A Nine Year Plan Towards Musical Literacy

One of my favorite parts of the Musikgarten curriculum is its sequential nature. Musikgarten has a nine-year plan for your child, starting at birth, which can help them develop into musically minded people at a very young age. Because the curriculum is so stable, songs are repeated year to year, with new musical elements added as children mature.

In future posts, I will explore the highlights of each of our different classes for you. But for today, I wanted you to have a general overview! Many parents don’t realize that your child can attend our classes for a full nine years without repeating any particular class!

Music for Babies (0-12 months or walking well) 

Our babies classes focus on fingerplays, rocking, bouncing and bonding time. In this year you will gain the tools you need to interact musically at home with your little one, and they will begin to form important brain connections building the blocks for later music making.

Music for Toddlers (1-2 years)

Music is very connected to movement, and toddlers love to move! In this class we harness their abundant energy with bouncing, spinning, clapping, jumping and rolling games. We isolate sounds for them so they can practice using their ears, and we give them opportunities to explore their singing voices.

Music for Preschoolers (3-4 years)

Preschoolers love to use their imagination, so in this class we begin telling musical stories. Children take on the role of rabbits, the wind, a carpenter or a cat. We begin to develop very simple ensembles with the children, and they start to really use their singing voice.

Pre-Piano (Kindergarten or 1st Grade)

These students love to be independent music makers, so we give them the power to succeed! We develop age appropriate ensembles, dances and songs where they will have quick success and learn the joys of making beautiful music. At this level we begin to reading and writing of simple rhythmic and melodic tonal patterns.

Keyboard (1st-3rd Grade)

Our keyboard classes are the culmination of 6-7 years of training for many children. The songs they bounced to as babies, danced to as toddlers, sang as preschoolers, and read in kindergarten are simply and easily transferred to the piano. Piano classes are not overwhelming for these children, and they love coming.