I've always been interested in exploring the sounds something can make, I thought I was all over it, I played instruments, went to concerts, heck I was studying 'proper' *clears throat* classical music at a private conservatorium. Then I moved in with a drummer. Well, he could make sounds and new sounds in ways I had never heard before! He thought differently about sound production. It was not a means to an ends for him, it was something magical to be treasured.
Doing the dishes was a complex exercise in exactly which bowls filled with how much water could create the pitch and resonance he was after. It took forever to get a clean cup, but it sounded amazing. This drummer played like a child. There were things to bang, crash and bop! He was delighted in his exploring and in absolutely no hurry to speed up his exploration in the name of getting the job done. As he saw it, making music with the pots and pans was far more important than having clean dishes. You know what? He was right! Living with him taught me to slow down. Watching him take household items and transforming them into musical instruments was and still is amazing.
Years on, we share our home with our two young children. Our boys are often loud. They love to bang, crash and bop, just like their dad. Unless someone is sleeping, we usually let them. Why? Surely living in a quieter household would be better for my nerves?! We don't stop them because they are learning.
They're learning about physics, vibration, resonate properties of different materials. They're learning about cause and effect. They're learning that when they hit something hard is sounds louder, they're learning that when they are gentle it sounds softer. They are building their muscles and developing more control and intent in their dynamic (volume) contrasts. They're learning that when they put their hand on that pot that they just wacked with a wooden spoon, that they stop it from vibrating and therefore stop the sound. They're learning about how sound is created and moves and stops, and that THEY are in charge of that.
They're learning about using their voices. Our first son spent the best part of a year calling "hello" in undercover car-parks. He was listening for the echo. He waited to hear how many he could get back. He changed volume and the length of the "hello" to change the response. He figured it out for himself and every time he did his face lit up with an "AH HA!" moment.
You want these moments. You want your child interested. Interested children are involved and excited about their own learning and these children learn A LOT! You want to let her explore sound and to do it on her own terms. When we talk about play based learning, this is what we mean. It means don't interrupt. It means, as the grown up you are not in charge, however well intended you may be, a child will learn FAR more by figuring things out for themselves in a child-lead way. There's no right way to hit a pot with a spoon, there are many ways and they will result in different sounds, but one way is not right and another wrong, just different.
So, I urge you to not be too hasty in cleaning up the mess of plastic containers, pots, pans, spoons and lids, that your little one has spread all over the kitchen floor, yet again. To let them make child-led choices about how they interact with the world around them. Musical things are usually inanimate objects, rather than something flashy a marketing department of a corporation is targeting at your children (a rant for another time). The real musical 'thing', is the person who thinks in sounds and creates music with things, anything. Let your little one be little and have the freedom, time and space to be that musical 'thing'!
By Julie Murray
Owner and Teacher at Sounds Like This