I firmly believe music is very important to development of the young mind as well as to the flexing of the older mind. We have all had that moment when a particular song plays on the radio and we flash back to a special time in our lives.
A variety of music exposes the mind to a lot of great ideas, expanding their horizons and imaginations. According to PBS (here) music education helps other school subjects, too. It works for the kinesthetic child who learns by doing things. This child is using hands and even the body to play music. He is also expanding his other two learning pathways in the process. Music works for the visual child as well as the audio child, who learn through seeing and hearing respectively.
The article further states that learning to play music helps the child develop language skills by physically developing the part of the brain which processes language. Amazing, isn’t it?
The article explains how music education can increase the child’s intelligence, make the brain work harder, increase spatial skills and improve test scores.
I love music of all kinds. I enjoy a little Bon Jovi or AC/DC or Queen. I like some Country music, but I tire of song about hopping from one bed to another. I like eclectic music like Koyoto’s Princess Bride. I stumbled upon it while searching for the music soundtrack from the movie Princess Bride.
When my kids were little, we played a lot of Wee Sing Silly Songs, and Patch the Pirate songs, and music from the Disney cartoons The Fox and the Hound and Cindarella, or “Ode to a Mother Skunk” from Hank the Cowdog. (click on the title of the song to hear it)
I also played a lot of Bethoven, Mozart, Chopin … but I found Wagner too dark and brooding. I also will occasionally play some guitar classics, especially from a favorite youtube artist Per-Olov Kindren:
Or, perhaps some Gregorian Chants?
My two favorite instruments to play are what might be considered a Poor Man’s instruments. The recorder is typically played as a beginning band instrument in fourth grade or so. Most people do not get to know and love it as an excellent musical tool in its own right. There are several types of recorders from the typical soprano taught in school, to the smaller sopranino or the even smaller geiklein. They come in larger sizes from alto, tenor, bass … and even bigger than that:
The recorder is very easy to learn, but one thing I found frustrating is that the really great music requires more than one person. I tried — during the tape cassette days — to make sound tracks and play with them but the quality was bad BAD! I also tried playing for some geriatric folks, but to them it sounded screaching, so I stopped playing.
Then I tried playing a dulcimer. The dulcimer is about the only distinctly American instrument around. It originated in the Appalachian mountains, and goes by either Applachian dulcimer or the more common mountain dulcimer. It is sometimes known as the lap dulcimer, referring to the method of playing it, which is to lay it on the lap and strum the strings.
The word “dulcimer” means sweet music, and is very easy to play. It has three strings (okay, actually it has four strings, but the melody is doubled and played as if they were just one string). The easiest is to play the melody on the doubled strings and let the other two strings drone. This is somewhat reminicent of the Scottish bagpipes, but nicer.
Another way to play is to let your fingers dance on all the strings creating chords and beautiful music. Here are two of dulcimer’s greatest players, Bing Futch and Steven Seifert. I can only imagine I can play like they do:
My plan as my grandchildren get older is to expose them to every sort of music in the world. Especially the ones I like, but also the ones I don’t like that much, including Wagner and – yes – the Oompapa music of the Germans