What is the best music for a child's growing brain? That may seem like an easy question, but the answer is actually quite complicated. In short, lots of DIFFERENT music is the best music for your child.
I would argue that active musical listening is as important to the brain during a child's early years as language is. It works just like language during the brain's development. We know that exposing your child's ear to as many words as possible in your native tongue/s, during their first years changes the way their brains process language. Without these linguistic interactions early on the brain does not grow the synaptic connections that it will use for the rest of it's life. The more these connections are used the stronger they become. If they're not used they atrophy and you can not establish them later on. The brain must take different pathways (pathways created for another purpose) to complete the desired task. Developing the synapses for music is exactly the same as language. You want lots of strong pathways established early on, so they will have them for their lifetime.
Exposing a child to music is good. Exposing a child to an enormous variety of music from their culture, from around the world, in a host of time signatures, musical keys and tonalities, with varying feel, instrumentation, dynamics, layers and voices is better. MUCH better. It is with this in mind that we select the music for our sessions, but more on that later, this post is about you and your child beyond our class!
What type of music do you hear most often? What do you hear when you put on the radio in your car? What is your child listening to? What instruments? How many of the sounds that you're hearing actually are instruments and how many of them are electronically generated sounds? Are the voices natural sounding or have they been tampered with too?
Let's make a conscious effort to expose children to new sounds! Not sure where to start? We live in a world where accessibility to recorded music is easier than ever before. Spotify, YouTube, iTunes and Google Music are available at our fingertips, not to mention any physical collection you may own. I'm still hanging on to my CDs and actively growing my vinyl collection (thank you op shops). Does anyone still have a tape deck? Am I showing my age? Seek out other genres that you would not normally listen to. Classical (baroque, romantic, classical, impressionist, twentieth century), blues, funk, metal, folk, rock, jazz, country, soul, reggae, pop, electronica, dance, and I'm sure a million sub-genres within all of these. Once your child is no longer a baby they can play an important role in directing their own musical listening and appreciation. Ask them what they like. Ask them what they can hear within the music. Help them identify new instruments!
Turn off the 'kids' music. Most commercially available music that is targeted at children is rubbish (I have strong feelings about this) and could actually be very harmful to their developing vocal chords, if they sing along, often and loudly. This music is usually pitched in a range that is comfortable for an adult voice, often an adult male voice, which its physically much larger than a child's. If your little one sings along loudly and often they could be at risk of doing serious long term damage to their vocal chords. I'll come back to more on this in the weeks to come with another top tip. We want kids to sing, but we don't want them to hurt themselves!
Play real music to your kids. Start here... Hendrix, The Beetles, Mozart (who incidentally sold the most CDs of any artist in 2016, WOO, go Wolfgang!), Stevie Wonder, Bela Felck, Matt Corby, Van Halen, Debussy, Ravel, The Eagles, Bill Evans (jazz pianist), Nat King Cole, ELO, David Bowie, Queen, Daft Punk, Bob Marley, Vulfpeck, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash, Marvin Gaye, I could go on forever, oh how I LOVE music!
Happy listening, dancing, moving and grovin', music lovers!
By Julie Murray
Owner and Teacher at Sounds Like This