Fun ways for kids to learn music at home, and ideas for teaching music to children – even if you are not a musician yourself.
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How to Learn Music at Home
I love music.
Since I moved all over the world, though, my childhood music education was pretty inconsistent. I started off playing violin, but we moved away from my violin teacher when I was 6. I took some violin lessons from a cellist in Guatemala when I was 8, and a few weeks of piano at the same time.
Then we moved to France and my parents couldn’t afford lessons for three years.
We moved again, this time to Bolivia, where lessons were more affordable. I took a couple of years of piano lessons and one year of French horn lessons.
I really liked the French horn, but we left Bolivia and my new school in Austria didn’t have one I could borrow. My parents found me a violin teacher, but it took an hour to reach her apartment on public transportation and it wasn’t sustainable with my school schedule. So they found me a piano teacher and I sang in choir – my favorite.
I went to college and started off as an organ major, because I was a decent pianist and I’d played organ off and on for our congregation all through college so sort of knew that too. But the organ teacher lost her job and I got caught in the politics and switched to voice.
I taught high school French for a year, then went to grad school where I studied therapeutic music programs.
My oldest daughter was born as I was finishing my Ph.D. I decided to take some time off work to spend time with my kids. I discovered blogging as a part time job. I use music a lot in my parenting, and I’ve made time for making music when and where I could.
What I know About Teaching Music
I taught music lessons all through high school and grad school. I got a music credential along with my French credential when I mastered in Education. I’ve spent a lot of time helping my children learn about music.
Last fall, I found out a local school needed a music teacher. All four of my children were in public schools for the first time ever and I had a credential gathering dust, and so I volunteered.
I just finished a hectic year of teaching choir, orchestra, band, ukulele, and guitar groups. The job was especially hectic when we had to move the last three months of school online thanks to shelter in place orders.
Teaching was hard, but it grounded me solidly back into the music world – and especially the world of teaching children music. Here are my top tips.
Listen to Music
This is the single most important thing you can do to teach children about music! Children need to hear music in order to understand it.
Expose your children to music from all over the world. Listen to ancient music as well as classical, popular, and modern music. Listen to the music of different ethnic groups and listen to popular musicians of all races.
Singing is a very accessible way to explore music. Don’t be afraid to sound silly. This is all about sound exploration!
Use Rhythm to Learn Music
Rhythm is the foundation of most music, and it’s a wonderful place to start exploring.
Did you know that your body makes an excellent percussion instrument? Here’s a fantastic demo:
Make Your Own Rhythm Instruments
Tuned Beginner Instruments
These instruments allow children to learn songs and create their own melodies without requiring a lot of technique first.
Make sure to read reviews whenever you buy an instrument, since some manufacturers are much better than others when it comes to tone and tuning.
Ukuleles come in all sorts of fun designs and colors. They are pretty easy to learn to play, and right now there are some amazing free tutorials on YouTube. I used the Rainbow Ukulele method with my students and it worked really well.
I bought my students Donner Soprano ukuleles. They weren’t the cheapest, but they got good reviews, came with nice gig bags, and stayed in tune. My youngest daughter really wanted a blue uke, and her Mahalo uke was inexpensive and works well. My three older children all play the slightly larger and slightly more expensive concert ukuleles.
If you are lucky enough to have a piano in your home, this is a great instrument to start off a slightly older child. Children under age 5 usually don’t have the hand span to play much, so I wouldn’t start a child before then unless they were extremely interested.
Of you are in the market for a piano and have a limited budget, you might want to consider starting with a digital piano. I owned a Roland digital piano with weighted keys for 16 years before upgrading to my Pearl River Baby Grand. We actually still own that piano; now it’s in my son’s room. This Yamaha digital piano even looks like a piano.
Some piano teachers don’t like digital pianos, but I feel like it’s a lot better for a child to play on a digital piano that consistently stays in tune than for them to play a beat up real piano that is out of tune.
Xylophones and Glockenspiel
Xylophones and Glockenspiels offer a full chromatic scale in a small package.
People think of xylophone as a simple instrument, but you can play some pretty fantastic songs on it. Like this performance of Flight of the Bumblebee:
Steel drums (also called Steelpans) make wonderful introductions to tuned percussion. You’ll only be able to play songs in a major key, but there are plenty of children songs that fit the bill.
I got a steel drum through Donors Choose for my classroom, and it was a huge hit with students and teachers! I did hear Baby Shark a little too often, though. So much that, when we wrote thank you notes for Donors Choose, one of my students clarified, “Is that the Baby Shark drum?”
Steel drum music gets very sophisticated, especially when you have a group playing. Here’s a fun example:
Boomwhackers are a fun choice if you have a group of people who want to try making music together. You’ll need to set some ground rules with children before pulling them out, though, or you’ll end up sword/light saber fights on your hands within seconds.
Harvard University has a fantastic Boomwhacker student group (THUD:
Bells are another fun tuned percussion instrument. They work well as a solo instrument or in a group setting.
More Hands On Learning Activities for Children
Today is the final day of my 10 day series featuring hands on learning activities for children. Click on the image below for the entire series.
What are your favorite ways for kids to learn music at home?
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