Posted in For The Love of Music

Farm Animals – Music & Movement Lesson Plan

Who doesn’t love to visit the farm and see all the animals there? There’s a whole bunch of fun songs that go with the farm animals theme and a lot you can do with your kids. Whether you learn the sounds that the animals make or learn the classic Chicken Dance or sing Old MacDonald, this music and movement lesson plan is a classic hit. Continue reading “Farm Animals – Music & Movement Lesson Plan”

Posted in For The Love of Music, Learning Music

Should You Do Music Exams?

“Oh, no – I don’t want to do music exams”, a student of mine would tell me. “I just want to learn to play the piano for fun.”

“Cool! Okay, which song would you like to start learning?” I (the music teacher) reply. I am slightly disappointed. Afterall, exams can actually be really fun to prepare for and the progress my exam students make is amazing. However, this is the student’s choice to make.

If you or your child have heard about music exams and are not sure about why it’s something you should consider,  read on and I will give you the low-down on all the pro’s and con’s of doing exams and vice-versa. Hopefully, you will be able to better decide if music exams are for you.

I admit, music exams sound scary, right? Why all the fuss about exams? Why not just learn for fun, as learning an instrument should be?

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No Music Exam – Playing for Pleasure

I can see it now: the student chooses some of their favourite songs – maybe one pop song they love to listen to on their phone. We tackle together the notes, technical stuff and rhythms (pop songs’ rhythms are generally a nightmare, like Adele’s Hello). It comes together slowly. A little too slowly, even? There’s no rush to perfect it or anything anyway, these songs are just all for fun. Although there may be a deadline for a talent show, someone’s birthday, or a piano concert, but at least there’s no examiner critiquing the way you play!

Pro’s:

  • No pressure/stress to learn songs to meet an exam deadline (but there may be a concert deadline, etc.).
  • Learn whichever songs you choose, at your own pace, for your own pleasure.
  • No potentially traumatic lessons or exam experience.
  • No exam registration fee (which is a bit pricey).
  • Lessons are all just fun and relaxed.
  • If the student is not old enough or mature enough for exams, playing for pleasure is a better option.

Con’s:

  • No exam deadline to spur on progress.
  • Songs chosen may not be the correct level (although the teacher will do their best to find a song that will suit the student’s level).
  • Many musical principles and technical skills are missed without a complete music grade syllabus.
  • Lessons are not always full of purpose, which may waste time.
  • No exam experience – which could have been a good growth opportunity.
  • Weak level of commitment – “I can do XYZ instead of going to my piano lesson today because there is no pressure to learn my songs anyway”.

You may have read the above points still knowing that exams are not for you. All the con’s may not sound that bad anyway. Everyone is different, so do whatever is best for you. Perhaps you would not enjoy learning the instrument if there was a bit of exam pressure, so you don’t want to ruin it for yourself. Or maybe now is not the right time for you. I myself only did my music exams after I had left highschool!

Music Exam – Playing for a Purpose

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Now I am not saying that playing for pleasure is not a purpose, because pleasure is a purpose. But when you know you have an exam to prepare for, you really are driven to learn the songs and exercises for a deadline-driven purpose.

Pro’s:

  • There is an exam deadline to spur on your progress.
  • You can choose your favourite songs (usually three) from a prescribed list of exams songs that are appropriate for your level.
  • Many musical principles and technical skills are learned, as there is a complete music grade syllabus that helps you learn a wide range of concepts and techniques appropriate for your level.
  • Lessons are always full of purpose, making efficient use of lesson time.
  • You may have a positive exam experience that serves as a growth opportunity as a developing musician.
  • You get examined by a highly qualified and expert music examiner who will score you in your exam, which serves as a yardstick in your progress.
  • You receive written commentary on your playing which serves as feedback as to what you need to improve on in your playing/knowledge.
  • You get a beautiful certificate (if you pass) to add to your achievements, depending on the College adds to your points for university.
  • In the UK, Trinity’s Grade 6-8 exams can contribute towards higher education through the allocation of UCAS points (The United Kingdom Universities’ and Colleges’ Admissions Service).
  • You need a strong level of commitment in order to prepare for the important exam.
  • You may be accepted to study music at university level if you complete Grade 8 music exams (theory and practical).
  • You can earn a good income teaching music lessons to beginners, even if all you have are a couple of exams under your belt. The income could definitely come in handy later on in your life!

Con’s:

  • Exam stress! Especially if you have not been diligent enough in practicing – yikes!
  • You may not be physically strong enough to play the pieces well, probably because you haven’t consistently practiced your Hanon exercises…
  • If you really are not prepared and you forfeit the exam, you lose your exam registration fee – no refunds!
  • You may not be emotionally capable of dealing with the stress of performing the exam and you make lots of mistakes in the actual exam.
  • You need to make time to practice about 30 minutes everyday (the amount of preparation will differ depending upon the individual and grade level).
  • You have to work hard in you music lessons trying to learn everything.
  • The exam experience could potentially be a bit traumatic.
  • You need to attend all your music lessons to prepare well – no excuses!
  • You could be the cause of stressing your music teacher out if you don’t practice – oops.

The con’s of doing music exams are only possibilities. In my personal experience, I never had many con’s of doing music grades.

My Personal Experience

When I was young, I never ended up going to music lessons. They were traumatic for all three of my older siblings. With me, the youngest child, I was taught only in little bits and pieces by mother. I learned from her mostly by listening to her play and watching her play. I am forever grateful to her!

I then played only for pleasure, but mostly for church and functions all through my childhood and teen years. Playing at church required a good amount of practice, especially when a congregation or choir is singing! As I mentioned, I actually only did exams after I had finished school and while I was in university. So when I actually did music exams I thoroughly enjoyed them and saw them as exciting opportunities to determine how well I played. In my situation, it was awesome, because I made the decision myself, I wanted to do exams, I was motivated to do exams and I was more mature and experienced in playing. The groundwork was already all done in my earlier years, so I was able to complete 2 grades a year.

When I started exams, the teacher guided me to refine my technique and my playing. After I had gotten married, I didn’t end up doing so well in that particular exam because of the life-adjustments. But all-in-all, I loved doing exams.

Alternative: Music Festival

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I am a strong believer in goals and deadlines to aid progression. If you opt-out of doing exams because you are not ready but are still in school, why not enter the local music and arts festival (also known as the eisteddfod)? For those of you who don’t know what an eisteddfod or music and arts festival is, it is a music and drama competition open to any instrumentalists, singers, choirs as well as those wishing to recite poetry or do drama items. Your teacher will be able to help you with the entry and preparation. Eisteddfods are open to even very, very beginners from young. Entry is relatively easy and inexpensive and eisteddfods provide a fantastic opportunity to perform in front of an audience and adjudicators. You get a nice little certificate based upon your score, and overall it is a very good opportunity to perform as an alternative to exams. You have an eisteddfod deadline to learn the songs and so you will progress nicely in your instrument.

In a Nutshell

If you really want to get down to becoming thorough and experienced in your playing, with any accreditation, you should pursue music exams. Just because you do not want to become a professional musician one day, doesn’t mean you don’t have to do exams. If you want to earn a good part-time or even full-time income starting or joining a music school as a teacher, you totally need to do your exams! You don’t even need to start at the bottom at Initial Grade or Grade 1 if you are good enough, I myself started at Grade 3.

Take a  look at the pro’s and con’s above of doing/not doing exams and decide for yourself. You should absolutely also discuss it with your teacher if they think you/your child are ready for exams. You totally can take it at your own pace and do a grade every other year – you’ll get there when you are ready for exams physically, mentally as well as emotionally.

I wish you all the very best in your music learning and playing! If you are preparing for any performance or have decided to do music exams, may you have an enjoyable experience and good luck!

Posted in For The Love of Music, Music and Movement Lesson Plans

Spring – Music & Movement Lesson Plan

For those of us living in the southern hemisphere, the warm weather is here. At last the sunny days of short sleeves and bare feet has come!

Then for those of you in the northern hemisphere – how about y’all just save this lesson plan for future use! It’s one to look forward to for sure!

Materials Preparation:

Find a few different beautiful pictures of spring such as blossoms, different coloured flowers, butterflies and bees pollinating flowers.

The songs for this theme are:

As always, do familiarise yourself with the songs prior to the class.

Bring along small percussion instruments for the children to use, such as small drums, maracas or bells for the Instrumental Activity.

Prepare some popcorn beforehand to bring for the children to have as a treat after the lesson!

  1. Hello Song/Warm-up Song:
    • Gather the children together in a circle and greet one another with the Hello Song/Warm-up Song you prefer to use.
  2. Circle Time Songs: 
    • Use 2 or 3 simple songs at the beginning of every lesson just to help the children feel familiar and confident. You can use a parachute that all the children hold onto in a circle in different ways for each song. It’s okay too if you do not have a parachute – you may use a big colourful blanket or none at all.
    • Here are a few suggestions for different songs:
      • I’m a Little Teapot – Using a parachute for this one may not be practical, because the children need to use their arms to be the teapot’s handle and spout.
      • Eensy Weensy Spider – Use the parachute to move with the up’s and down’s in the song.
      • Pop Goes The Weasel – Go round in a circle with the parachute and then make the parachute go high up when the song says “Pop goes the Weasel!”
  3. Introduction of Theme: SPRING
    • Introduce the Spring theme using the pictures you found.
    • Have a little discussion of some of the children’s favourite things about Spring.
    • Teach the children the song Sing A Song Of Flowers – The Kiboomers.
    • This song is a simple song to learn quickly. It especially develops the children’s memories with the order of the different colours of flowers.
  4. Gross Motor Activity:
    • Have all the children stand up to sing and do movements along to Mr Sun, Sun, Mr Golden Sun – Super Simple Songs
      • Wave your hands side to side for “Mr Sun, Sun, Mr Golden Sun”
      • Cover your face when the song says “hiding behind the trees”
      • Be creative with the actions!
  5. Musical Principle Activity:
    • In the springtime, the animals all love to come out from their hibernation and be outside in the lovely warm weather! The rabbits love to run fast and the tortoises like to walk slowly. The children will learn about tempo in music.
    • Explain what tempo is: How fast or slow the music that is being played sounds.
    • Use the portable instrument(s) that you brought to demonstrate fast and slow playing. You can choose any song you know how to play to play fast and then slow.
    • Teach the children that the real musical name for fast is presto and the real musical name for slow is largo. You may add that these words are Italian – a different language in the world that is used for musical terms.
    • Now it’s time to practice playing fast and slowly! Call out to the children to play fast like the rabbit and then slowly like a tortoise on their percussion instruments, so that they understand the concept of fast and slow.
    • Emphasize also that when they play fast, it doesn’t necessarily mean to play loudly and vice versa – when they play slowly it doesn’t mean play softly.
  6. Instrument Activity:
    • Song: Vivaldi’s Spring
    • Display a picture of the composer Antonio Vivaldi and explain that he lived long ago in the 1600s in Italy. He was a very talented musician and composer. He composed beautiful songs about the seasons. One of them was of Spring.
    • Play percussion instruments to the song, specifically practicing how to play fast and slowly.
    • Make sure the children are able to learn how to play on the beat. Count 1-2-3-4 aloud as you play along with the song.
    • Change things up with different actions with the percussion instruments. Play gracefully as a butterfly or move in different directions; stretch upwards onto tiptoes or twirl around like a “spring flower fairy”.
    • Also point out all the different instruments that can be heard during the song.
    • Be sure to cut the song short once the children have lost interest.
  7. Conclusion
    • For one last fun activity song, do The Ice Cream Song – Super Simple Songs – ask the children by a show of hands who loves to eat ice cream!
    • Sing your Goodbye/Winding-down song in your circle.
    • Treat the children to some popcorn. Explain that popcorn looks like spring blossoms on the trees. They will love it!
Posted in For The Love of Music, Music and Movement Lesson Plans

Under The Sea – Music & Movement Lesson Plan

This week’s music and movement lesson is on the theme Under The Sea. I’m pretty sure the first thing that comes to all of our minds is of Sebastian the crab singing “Under The Sea” in his Jamaican accent.

In this theme, there are so many different songs and resources you could choose from. But Super Simple Songs are honestly my favourite. Their songs are of a high standard and are structured very simply, logically and clearly in the progression of the lyrics. Their videos that go along with their songs are just so inviting and wholesome. Children seem to learn Super Simple Songs easily. Go and check out their YouTube channel and be sure to subscribe. You won’t be sorry. You will find many songs that you will love to use.

Materials Preparation:

Find a few different pictures or toys of sea creatures.

Bring along a portable instrument or even a few different ones (if you have) for the Musical Principle Activity. This could be a recorder, mouth organ, ukulele or guitar.

Prepare the songs included in the lesson outline below (you can buy them on iTunes or download them from YouTube). They are:

Familiarise yourself with the songs prior to the class. Bring along small percussion instruments for the children to use, such as small drums, maracas or bells for the Instrumental Activity.

  1. Hello Song/Warm-up Song:
    • Gather the children together in a circle and greet one another with the Hello Song/Warm-up Song you prefer to use.
  2. Circle Time Songs: 
    • Use 2 or 3 simple songs for every lesson just to help the children feel familiar and confident. You can use a parachute that all the children hold onto in a circle in different ways for each song. It’s okay too if you do not have a parachute – you may use a big colourful blanket or none at all.
      • Ring a Ring of Roses (Children hold the parachute in a circle and walk around in a circle, fall down, then jump up, make the “wind” billow the parachute up and down quickly, etc.)
      • Row, Row, Row Your Boat (Children sway from side to side holding the parachute, like rowing a boat, then making big or small waves up and down, and even letting a toy fish or shark “float on the water” i.e. on the parachute)
      • The Grand Old Duke of York (children march in place, lift the parachute up then down, and then salute)
      • Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush (children go around in a circle holding the parachute for the first verse, and then rub the parachute material together in their hands for the second verse – “This is the way we wash our clothes”)
  3. Introduction of Theme: UNDER THE SEA
    • Introduce the Under The Sea theme using toys or pictures you found of different sea creatures.
    • Ask the children to name some of the creatures you show them.
    • “A Sailor Went To Sea” Super Simple Songs – Act out the song! Pretend you all are sailors going to sea to see what you can see in the sea.
  4. Gross Motor Activity:
  5. Musical Principle Activity:
    • The sea can be big and loud during a thunderstorm, then still and quiet on a calm sunny day. The children will learn about dynamics in music,
    • Explain what dynamics are: How loud or soft the note that is being played sounds.
    • Use the portable instrument(s) that you brought to demonstrate loud and soft playing.
    • Teach the children that the real musical name for loud is forte and the real musical name for soft is piano. You may add that these words are Italian – a different language in the world that is used in musical terms.
    • Now it’s time to practice playing loudly and softly! Call out to the children to play softly and then loudly on their percussion instruments, so that they understand the concept of soft and loud.
    • Emphasize also that when they play loudly, it doesn’t necessarily mean to play fast and vice versa – when they play softly it doesn’t mean play slowly.
  6. Instrument Activity:
    • Song: “Under The Sea” by Alan Menken – The Little Mermaid
    • If you like, you may even show the children a picture of Alan Menken and explain that he is a composer and it is his job is to write songs for movies. You could even show a picture of The Little Mermaid.
    • Play percussion instruments to the song.
    • Make sure the children are able to learn how to play on the beat. Count 1-2-3-4 aloud as you play along with the song.
    • You can decide if the children should sit or stand for this activity. You can try to imitate different sea life movements as you play – play like jellyfish, or like a whale, shark or octopus.
    • Also point out all the different instruments that can be heard during the song.
  7. Conclusion
    • If you like, you could do “Baby Shark” again.
    • Remind the children to be super careful while swimming in the sea! They should not swim out too far out by themselves.
    • Teach the children to be kind to the environment; never ever throw litter on the beach as the litter can harm sea life.
    • Sing your Goodbye/Winding-down song in your circle.
Posted in For The Love of Music, Music and Movement Lesson Plans

Learning Direction – Music & Movement Lesson Plan


This week’s music and movement lesson is on learning Direction. As in – up, down, behind, left, right, in front of, etc.. Here’s a great topic to reinforce using music to help our kids understand us exasperated parents when we try to direct them to find their other shoe, sock or toy. Yes folks… this topic of Direction deserved it’s very own theme of the week! I can just imagine all the parents applauding the choice of theme, perhaps even shedding a tear of joy.

Materials Preparation: Print or draw a big, bold picture of an arrow on an A4 cardboard. You may even laminate it if you wish. Here’s one you could use:

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Also bring a portable instrument or even a few (if you have) for the Musical Principle Activity. This could be a recorder, mouth organ, ukulele or guitar.

Prepare the songs included in the lesson outline below (you can buy them on iTunes or download them from YouTube). They are:

  • “Here We Go” Jack Hartmann
  • “Hickory, Dickory…Crash!” Super Simple Songs
  • “Upside Down” Jack Johnson
  • “One Little Finger” Super Simple Songs

As always, listen to and learn the songs prior to the class so that you know how the songs go. You may use other Direction songs if you prefer to use other songs of your choice. Bring along small percussion instruments for the children to use, such as small drums, maracas or bells for the Instrumental Activity.

  1. Hello Song/Warm-up Song:
    • Gather the children together in a circle and greet one another with the Hello Song/Warm-up Song you prefer to use.
  2. Circle Time Songs: 
    • These songs are the same ones you use every week just to help the children feel familiar and confident. You can rotate through a few different ones as you feel. You can use a parachute that all the children hold onto in a circle in different ways for each song. It’s okay too if you do not have a parachute – you may use a big colourful blanket or none at all. The idea is just to be able to draw all the children into the music and movement lesson as you do the same familiar warm-up songs. The ones I use with the parachute are:
      • Ring a Ring of Roses (Children hold the parachute and walk around in a circle, fall down, jump up, make the “wind” billow the parachute up and down quickly, etc.)
      • Row, Row, Row Your Boat (Children sway from side to side holding the parachute, like rowing a boat, then making big or small waves up and down, and even letting a stuffed teddy bear “float on the water” i.e. on the parachute – children love to make the stuffed animal bounce up and down on the parachute!)
      • The Grand Old Duke of York (children march in place, lift the parachute up then down, and then salute)
      • Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush (children go around in a circle holding the parachute for first verse, and then rub the parachute material together in their hands for the second verse – “This is the way we wash our clothes”)
  3. Introduction of Theme: DIRECTION
    • Introduce the Direction theme using the big arrow picture you made.
    • Ask the children what arrows are used for and what they tell us.
    • Do some activity examples using the arrow for the children to see – wave your hands up; shake your hands down; hide your hands away; move them to the left or right; spin around; and fold your arms in front of you.
    • Now use the song “Here We Go” by Jack Hartmann. I enjoyed using this song because it is upbeat and cool.
    • Ask the children to all carefully follow the direction you move as you dance to the song.
  4. Imagination Activity:
    • Song: “Hickory, Dickory… Crash!” Super Simple Songs
    • This is a fun song that teaches up and down, as well as counting.
    • Use the cues from the song to act out the different animals.
    • The song ends in everyone crashing to the floor because the elephant sat on the clock!
  5. Musical Principle Activity:
    • Music also follows direction! We think of the direction that pitch moves in, whether it is going up (high pitch) or going down (low pitch)
    • Use the portable instrument(s) that you brought to demonstrate high and low pitch.
    • Explain what pitch is: How high or low the note that is being played sounds.
    • Now it’s time to play the Pitch Perfect Game: When you play a high pitch, the children raise their hands in the air. When you play a low pitch, the children must touch the floor. It’s a cute activity that the children enjoy as they hear different pitches. This activity is important in developing the children’s ear for different pitches.
  6. Instrument Activity:
    • Play instruments to the song “Upside Down” by Jack Johnson.
    • Make sure the children are able to learn how to play on the beat. Count 1-2-3-4 aloud as you play along with the song. You can decide if the children should sit or stand for this activity.
    • Mix up things with doing different actions while playing the instruments, like playing above your head, behind your back, turning around, playing fast or slowly, etc. Be creative with using all the directional terms the children will understand.
  7. Conclusion/Gross Motor Activity:
    • “One Little Finger” Super Simple Songs
    • Here’s another song that teaches up and down, as you use your one little finger to point.
    • Use the cues from the song to point to each different part of the body: head, nose, chin, arm, leg and foot.
    • This song ends with “Goodbye” which makes it a very suitable concluding song.
    • Sing your Goodbye/Winding-down song in your circle.
Posted in For The Love of Music, Music and Movement Lesson Plans

FIRE SAFETY – Music & Movement Lesson Plan

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We did a music and movement lesson last week on FIRE SAFETY. It’s really an important topic to discuss with kids from a young age, given the great hazard that fire poses in life. Be sure to discuss the good uses of fire and of course how to respect it!

Materials Preparation: Find pictures of the uses of fire on a tablet to show the children as part of the introduction. Prepare the songs included in the lesson outline below (you can buy them on iTunes or download them from YouTube). They are:

  • “Hurry Hurry Drive the Fire truck” by the Kiboomers
  • “Stop, Drop and Roll” Fire Safety Song for Kids by Victor Johnson
  • “Dance of Fire” by James Asher
  • “Fawkes the Phoenix” by John Williams

Ensure that you listen to and learn the songs prior to the class so that you don’t look like a dummy if you are not sure how the song goes. Also bring along musical instruments, such as small drums, maracas or bells for the children to play during the Classical Spot Activity. Also, if you are able to bring red, yellow or orange sashes or ribbons for the children to wave around during the fire dance. We will be using the parachute or a big blanket to “put out” the “fire” in the fire dance.

  1. Hello Song/Warm-up Song:
    • Gather the children together in a circle and greet one another with the Hello Song/Warm-up Song you prefer to use.
  2. Circle Time Parachute Activity Songs: 
    • Sing two or three songs using the parachute. These songs are the same ones you use every week just to help the children feel familiar and confident. You can rotate through a few different ones as you feel. These are parachute activity songs that you can use the parachute in different ways for each song. The ones I use with the parachute are:
      • Ring a Ring of Roses (Children hold the parachute and walk around in a circle, fall down, jump up, make the “wind” billow the parachute up and down quickly, etc.)
      • Row, Row, Row Your Boat (Children sway from side to side holding the parachute, like rowing a boat, then making big or small waves up and down, and even letting a stuffed teddy bear “float on the water” i.e. on the parachute – children love to make the stuffed animal bounce up and down on the parachute!)
      • The Grand Old Duke of York (children march in place, lift the parachute up then down, and then salute)
      • Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush (children go around in a circle holding the parachute for first verse, and then rub the parachute material together in their hands for the second verse – “this is the way we wash our clothes”)
  3. Introduction of Theme: FIRE SAFETY
    • Introduce the Fire Safety theme using the pictures found of the uses of fire.
    • Briefly discuss with the children the pictures that you show them.
  4. Gross Motor Activity:
    • Song: “Hurry Hurry Drive the Fire truck” by the Kiboomers
    • Now this is a really cute, fun song for the kids! We all have to pretend that we are fire fighters!
    • Follow the cues from the song regarding the actions: drive the fire truck; turn the corner; climb the ladder; spray the water; and then drive slowly back to the station.
  5. Imagination Activity:
    • Explain to the children that one of the ways to put out a fire is to literally squash or suffocate it using a big, thick blanket.
    • Using the song “Dance of Fire” by James Asher, split the children into two groups: those acting like the “fire” and those putting out the “fire”.
    • The children who are the “fire” will have the red/yellow/orange ribbons or sashes to wave around.
    • Using the parachute or a big blanket, the other group of children will “put out” the “fire” with a blanket or parachute.
    • Optional: The groups of children can swap roles to take turns.
  6. Story Time:
    • Fire Safety Lesson! What do you do when fire catches on your clothes?
    • Teach the children what it means to “Stop, Drop and Roll”
    • Practice stopping, dropping and rolling
    • Song: “Stop, Drop and Roll” Fire Safety Song for Kids by Victor Johnson
    • Stop, drop and roll

      Stop, drop and roll

      Three little words you need to know

      Stop drop and roll!

  7. Classical Spot:
    • “Fawkes the Phoenix” by John Williams
    • Ask the children if they know what a phoenix is.
    • Explain that it is a mythological bird with special powers. When it would get old and die, it would be reborn as a new, young phoenix through the fire it created within itself.
  8. Instrument Activity:
    • Play instruments to “Fawkes the Phoenix”, playing slowly and softly in the beginning of the piece and gradually getting louder to match the piece.
    • Make sure the children are able to learn how to play on the beat. Count 1-2-3-4 aloud as you play along with the song.
    • Mix up things with doing different actions while plying the instruments, like playing above your head, behind your back, turning around, playing fast or slowly, etc. Be creative!
  9. Conclusion:
    • Remind the children of the dangers of fire and to respect fire; to never play with matches or fire crackers. Also, remember to Stop, Drop and Roll – should fire catch on your clothing.
    • Sing your Goodbye/Winding-down song in your circle.

 

Posted in For The Love of Music, Learning Music

What Is The Best Age To Start Music Lessons?

When I was young, I remember my mom telling us kids that we would only start music lessons when we turned 9 years old. Back then, I was disappointed that I would have to wait a few more years. For my mom, 9 years old was the right age to start music lessons. At that age, most children have basic reading and writing skills, which aids them in learning to read and play music. I come from a very musical family and as a result, from an early age I had wanted to learn to play the piano or violin. And I was so jealous of my older brother who had just started learning the violin.

Learning to play an instrument is a fairly common subject that is brought up for parents of young children. There seems to be very different lines of thought as to what age children should start. As many of us have gawked at YouTube videos of chinese toddlers playing the piano way better than we ever dream of being able to play – we can’t all help wonder what exactly is the “right” or “best” age to start taking our kids to music lessons.

I hate to break the news to you, but the answer to this question depends on several factors. Because every child is different.

Ready, Set… Go?

I think a lot of the readiness factor is influenced by the child’s musicality as well as their desire to learn. Because most of the leverage obtained in getting a child to practice music comes from their love for the music they practice. This desire could spark from seeing other musicians perform or it could merely be an inherent desire within themselves to learn to play their favourite nursery rhyme. This desire to play an instrument kindles from the toddler years.

So in a nutshell: if your child isn’t really interested in learning to play the piano (or whichever instrument it may be) hold off dragging them to the piano teacher’s front door. Instead, expose them to a lot of good musical performances, like orchestra concerts, jazz bands or musical productions with a live band. Or even watching videos of them are beneficial. When they have a great enough desire and interest, you can be sure they will be nagging you to sign them up for lessons.

ABC, 123

Does your child have a good fundamental understanding of counting and numbers as well as the alphabet? Learning to read and play music is all about counting and being able to decipher what the names of notes are.

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I like to compare learning to read and play music to learning to read a book. You have to learn the letters and the rules to identify the words. This takes a lot of practice, right? Generally the same age that children are able to read beginner reading books is pretty much the same age that they are capable of learning to read and play music. Also, they should at least be able to write their name because their fine motor skills need to be sufficiently developed to play an instrument.

 

So What Now?

Based upon my experience as a teacher, if you ask me what is the best age to learn music, I would say from about 5 years of age. 5 year olds are tough to teach for sure, but the musical training is excellent for their developing minds. On the other hand, I do enjoy teaching the 8 or 9 year olds more of course, because they can sit still for longer. And also they fly through the songs they learn. My mom was right about that!

But starting from 5 years old definitely does benefit the developing brain. Besides, lessons should not be hardcore Mozart lessons. They should only be a half hour which is quite manageable for a 5-year-old, if  the lesson is kept interesting.

In the lessons I give,  I only do 15 minutes of actual piano playing to learn the songs and exercises. Then the other 15 minutes is done in our fun music theory sticker book that has games and activities. I also will use a tablet with great music learning games that the kids beg for. So honestly, music lessons should be fun and suited to each child’s needs!

Then, just for the record, I would say for babies, play good music for them – especially different varieties. Show them how to clap along and move with the music.

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For ages between 18 months and 4 years of age, parents could enroll them into a music and movement program. Music and movement is a lovely way to engage in music and discover music principles. In these lessons they are learning important concepts to prepare them for formal music lessons. Music and movement classes are not just sessions of singing silly songs and bouncing around. Dynamics, beat and rhythm are taught, just to name a few. As the name implies, there is a lot of movement – which keeps their little active bodies happy. Music and movement lessons are more like music lessons tailored for little ones who lack the concentration and fine motor skills to actually sit down and try to play a single note on an instrument.

A Few More Things To Keep In Mind

So when you do enroll your child in formal music lessons, if they are young, start on piano or recorder or ukulele. Those instruments are physically the least demanding to begin with. Also, take note that at a young age, practice sessions at home need to be encouraged and even supervised by the parent. Yes, the Parent. Practice is your problem too! I have too many students whose parents are not even trying to get their kids to practice 5 minutes a week. Please, Parents!

But – and here’s a big but – when the music lessons start becoming a fight and a stress for both parent and child, I recommend either changing to a different instrument, changing the teacher or taking a break from lessons. If lessons are terminated, keep exposing your child to different instruments and musical performances. This is most important to developing your child’s musicality and consequently their desire to learn an instrument.

Lastly, remember that everyone has some degree of musicality. Even a non-musical person deserves to express themselves musically, in their own way. It does something for the soul. A music therapist once told me that music is actually a human behaviour – it is an innate desire in human beings to express themselves musically. Many people have been traumatized in their childhood by being forced to play the piano. The piano may have not been suited to them and perhaps the trumpet, for instance, may have been better.

My point is: Many adults have been deprived of a lifetime of musical pleasure and satisfaction that comes from playing a musical instrument, because (a) they were not given the opportunity to learn or (b) they had a bad experience as a child.

Let us as parents give our children the opportunity to learn an instrument. From birth, play music for them. From 18 months enroll in a Music and Movement class or something similar. Then from 5 years, start on an easy instrument such as the piano, recorder or ukulele. And remember that every child is different and may be ready for formal lessons at slightly different ages and stages of development. So really, the time to start exposing children music be it an informal or formal setting – whatever their age – is really, now.

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Here’s my 4 year-old son during one of his first piano lessons. He’s so proud to be learning to play! Comment below with your own personal experience about what was the right time for music lessons for your kids.