Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, What a Musical Child You Are!

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, What a Musical Child You Are!

Article excerpt

Children are born with innate musical talent. This precious gift has to be nurtured in the earliest years of life, or it will wither rather than bloom. Developmental delays and disabilities do not necessarily affect the young child's potential to learn music. Parents of young children with special needs know the power of music to facilitate growth and development. There is a difference, however, between music for learning and learning music.

Children with special needs benefit in so many ways from music, and they are so attracted to music that it is easy to lose sight of the process of musical growth and development. Greater understanding of the process of music learning can help parents learn to meet their child's musical needs, whatever their own musical background and whatever the developmental level of their child.

Learning music is much like learning language. The prime difference is in the language itself. The young child's thinking mind processes words. The young child's musical mind processes music. A little child's imagination can be captured by words. The little child's musical imagination--another innate potential that is a powerful force from birth--is not captured by words. Its native language is music.

Our rich heritage of children's songs and nursery rhymes nurtures the very essence of childhood and should always be part of growing with music, but the beloved songs and rhymes stimulate language development more than music development. The focus of the delightful songs and rhymes is the words, which speak to the thinking mind rather than the musical mind. The mother-tongue of the musical mind is rhythm (relating to beat) and tonal (relating to pitch), without words. Rhythm alone is most accessible to the young child and provides the foundation for all music learning.

Nursery rhymes present a layer of words on top of rhythm, making it more difficult for a child to comprehend the rhythm. Traditional songs layer melody on top of rhythm and words, making it even harder for the young child to understand the rhythm. Additional layers of accompaniments and video images make it still more difficult for the young child to access the rhythm. Favorite children's songs and nursery rhymes charm, entertain, capture the imagination, and compel a child learning language, but it is songs and chants without words that capture the musical imagination and engage the young child's musical talent.

It may be easier to learn many things when words are set to music, but it is not easier to learn music. Words to songs limit developing musicianship. Song words suggesting motions can also limit movement, which is essential to music learning. The young child's innate musical talent knows that musical movement is related to rhythm and to tonal rather than to words.

The difficulty of children's songs is generally also a function of the words. The young child is musically ready for far more sophisticated sophisticated rhythms and melodies than most songs for children provide. Music learning requires that rhythm and tonal increase in difficulty throughout early childhood and beyond. Once a child has a foundation in rhythm and in tonal, the little musician brings a whole new level of musical understanding to songs with words. …

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