Activity: Music Play

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.

Plato

Music Play involves the teaching of music pitch, musical notation, rhythm, and the sounds of instruments to your child in a fun, engaging manner. In Right Brain Kids, they teach young children music pitch by using tuning forks. This program is outlined below.

To facilitate this part of your home practice, you may find it easier to use a music program like BrillKids Little Musician. Little Musician is designed for infants and young children and it covers all the topics required for home practice and more. It is a handy program for building your child’s foundation in music.

The Purpose of Developing Perfect Pitch

According to many musicians, to gain true music mastery, pitch training is vital. A good sense of pitch is often viewed as the most valuable element of musicianship. It has been considered to be greater than good rhythm, technical facility, accurate memory, intensity discrimination, and creativity. Even with years of formal training with the finest instrument, musical mastery and enjoyment hinge on the ability to hear.

Aside from music mastery, ear training can benefit the learning of languages. This is especially true for languages like Chinese where a slight change in intonation can alter the meaning of a word completely. Training your child’s listening ear is not only good for musical development but it can have cross-over benefits to learning another language.

Considerations for Developing Perfect Pitch

Perfect pitch training is similar to the Red Dot Math program (See: Shichida’s 65 Day Math Program). The optimum time for introducing the program is before a child’s 3rd birthday. While the program can still be done with older children, the likelihood of success is better the earlier you begin. That said, it is wise not to underestimate what a dedicated, loving parent and a receptive child can achieve.

There have been comparisons made between perfect pitch development and language acquisition. If we follow the understanding we have on language acquisition (see: The Linguistic Genius of Babies), then perfect pitch training should begin in your baby’s first year of life. After the first year of life, children lose the ability to discern sounds from languages other than those that they are exposed to on a regular basis. The premise is that perfect pitch development may also be similarly affected.

…perfect pitch — or absolute pitch, as it is more formally called — is not a single or neatly delimited faculty. It comes in varied degrees. And there is also reason to believe that it may be learned in earliest childhood in musical families.

New York Times

Finally, there is research to indicate that perfect pitch is an inherited trait. Like any skill, I do not doubt that certain individuals will develop perfect pitch more easily than others. However, due to the complex nature of genetic predispositions and environmental influences, it would be presumptuous to believe that only some individuals are capable of developing perfect pitch. It would be interesting to see how many babies are able to develop perfect pitch if they all receive the training from their first year of life.

Music Play for Infants

There are many different ways to conduct music play. The following are just some examples.

Perfect Pitch with Tuning Forks

Use a set of tuning forks, introduce each musical note to your child with the corresponding tuning fork. Let your child listen to the sound of the frequency and tell your child what note it is. Allow your child to touch the fork as it vibrates to feel the vibration of the frequency. Play the frequency on various objects – you can do this by touching the vibrating tuning fork to a variety of objects, e.g. paper or a wooden board.

If you have any instruments at home, you can also show your child how to produce the same frequency on those instruments. Once your child has gone through the entire octave, you can teach your child the difference between two musical notes, e.g. C and C sharp, C and D, C and D sharp, etc.

Perfect Pitch with Instruments

You can also use musical instruments instead of tuning forks, e.g. a piano, guitar, handbells, or xylophone. Just be sure that the instrument you are using is tuned correctly. Some toy instruments may not play the correct frequencies and if you use these, your child will learn the wrong frequencies.

Using your instrument, play a note, and tell your baby what note it is. Try humming the note (but only if you can hum in the same key, otherwise don’t). Let your child play the note on the instrument. If your instrument is capable of vibrating, allow your child to feel the vibration. For instance, if you play the note on a guitar, let your child touch the string as it vibrates.

Listening to Music

Expose your infant to music as often as possible. A music subscription that gives you access to a wide variety of music will be good. Try to play music with different instruments, rhythm, and styles.

RBE recommends using Baroque (Largo tempo) because its cadence is the same as the alpha brain wave state. Creative Developer, Jeremy Christopher, believes Beethoven, 19th and 20th-century music, movie music, and jazz would be better because they have greater complexity. The added complexity will facilitate perfect pitch development.

Complex music is required to influence babies (preborn – 2 years, usually 8 months) to enhance their speech processing in their brain and learn to retain certain pitches. This is the same with Asian languages with pitch inflections, where the speech center is influenced to retain pitch information. Mozart and other classical music of his time or before, was simplified, due to some stipulations from the church; it wasn’t until Beethoven, that we heard of some more complex musical chord progressions. As for music that would help this sort of learning, some Beethoven would be better, but 19th and 20th-century music, movie music and jazz would be the best to have babies listen to.

Jeremy Christopher

Listening to Different Instruments

Introduce your baby to different instruments:

  • Download our Instruments – Orchestra flashcards.
  • Show your baby the image of the instrument, say what it is, and play a recording of that instrument’s sound.

If you have a digital piano like the Casio CT-X700C5, you can play the different instrument sounds from it. You can also play guess the instrument sound with your child after you have introduced the different instruments.

You can also use videos on Youtube that teach children how different instruments sound. Here are a few:

There are also “guess the musical instrument” videos:

Programs and Apps for Ear Training

If you have older children, the following programs can be helpful for ear training and perfect pitch practice.

  • Piano Tutor for iPad – Among its other features, Piano Tutor for iPad also offers an ear training feature. Listen to the note being played, then try to play the same note on the onscreen keyboard.
  • Tone – Perfect Pitch Training – a fun and simple game to help you improve your ears and sing with perfect pitch.
  • Ear Master – includes over 2,500 lessons that will guide you and increase the level of complexity as you improve your musical skills. It’s great for beginners to advanced users.
  • The Perfect Pitch Ear Training SuperCourse
  • Better Ears – Better Ears is an educational music and ear training app designed to help you grow your musical skills and enhance your musical ear. There are eleven exercises included, starting from interval recognition all the way to chord progressions.
  • Piano Ear Training Pro – an audio CD program that teaches you how to recognize exact tones and chords by ear, to sing correct tones without a starting pitch, to play songs by ear after listening to them, to compose music in your head and perform with confidence, to sight-read and sight-sing with precision.
  • Pitch Improver – Pitch Improver is a set of exercises that will help you learn to play by ear. 
  • Ear Trainer – Ear Trainer is for the more serious musician. It is an educational tool designed to improve your musical ear. It contains over 260 individual exercises covering intervals, chords, scales, relative pitch, and melody. It has a playable keyboard with studio sound quality and a note view for superior visualization.


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Published by Shen-Li

Shen-Li is a stay-home mum to two boys who have been the inspiration for her interest in child development and education. She searches for the balance in child development methods and the educational philosophies that will enable the nurture of happy, confident and successful children. She shares her views and findings at Figur8.

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