Teach Your Children Music, and Have FUN

Teach Your Children Music, and Have FUN

If you play any music at all, you can teach your children. More: You can make it fun for them, and fun for you. And you can have fun together.

Jenny just wrote, and asked a great question:

I was just reading an article you wrote about playing violin by ear. My daughter goes to a Waldorf-inspired school. In 4th grade she started violin class at school. But she doesn’t always come home inspired to play! I’d like to supplement her school classes by doing something at home, to boost her enthusiasm.

I took some violin when I was a girl so I have the basics and I can have fun with her at home. I tell her violin is like singing with an instrument and I encourage her to think of a song she knows really well and to pick it out on the violin by ear. I would love any pointers or ideas you have on this.

Here was my response…

Hi, Jenny.

I’m glad you’re working with your daughter!

To make it fun for her at home, you need a violin of your own! Play games with her. Start with short tunes, and do “Call and Response”, one segment at a time. (You play a few notes — the “call” — and then she sees if she can play them –the “response”.)

In fact, you might start with a single note. That develops something that is hardly ever trained in traditional instruction — the ear!

In time, you’ll develop tunes you can play together. And that is what makes music fun, in the end. She’ll have fun learning individual segments. Then you put segments she knows into larger segments, and you play them together. (You can participate in the “response” segment, too — drawing out a note when needed, until she finds it.)

When she’s older, you can find things to play that have multiple parts. (Example: Scarborough Fair. A good tune with two intertwining parts that would be a lot of fun to play.)

I heartily recommend Irish music teachers, as well. They are used to doing that very thing.

Eventually, she’ll be able to sit in on Irish sessions, where they play a ton of  fun tunes. Alternatively, she could investigate the musical traditions of India, which have seriously complex scales, or of Arabia — where the scales are
less intricate, but there are more of them (and more interesting versions) than we use in the West, as well as more interesting rhythms.

In Arabic music, taksim (“tok-seem”) or musical improvisation is key. In India, every performance is all about musical improvisation — it’s like “spiritual jazz”. So you’re setting up your child for a lifetime of growth and development — or, at the very least, fun.

Of course, that is all years away — but those are areas you can explore, too. And your daughter will have fun learning from you, as you learn and grow.


The exchange continued:

Thank you so much for your detailed and fast response!

 I do still have my old violin – and I will definitely practice the call and response. I’ll have to get creative and hope she gets the technique she needs from school. I know a fair bit but I’m not too confident I can impart all the important pieces of technique.

I’ll keep my ears out for the Irish and do my best to keep her motivated

That was really wonderful to hear.

I replied:

Awesome. By all means let me know how it goes.

Would have loved it if my Mom had been able to do what you’ll be doing. Probably would have stuck with the classical guitar. (I was good, but got bored of being a record player that plays back a transcription!)

By all means, let your daughter teach you what she’s learned about technique. That will bring back your
previous learning quickly, and make it even more fun for her.

Then work on learning things together! It’s not like you have to master it and teach it. Try to find simple tunes
yourself, with her help. When she finds a note before you do, let her show you where it is.

You can be in charge of putting all the pieces together, and helping her with the parts she’ll inevitably forget!

Can’t wait to hear how it all works out.

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