10 Ways to Teach Basic Music Skills to Your Children (Even If You’re Not a Musician)

After college, I taught K-8 General Music, Chorus and Drama for 4 years. When I had HipChick, I organized homeschool music classes for a while, and began teaching private piano and voice lessons from home.

Around the beginning of the year, parents usually start asking me about getting music lessons for their kids. I usually don’t take on more students in the middle of the year. Sometimes, they’ll get someone else, and sometimes they say they’ll wait till August, and I put them on the waiting list. There are several reasons your children might not be able to start lessons right away:

  • Lesson times are unavailable
  • You have monetary challenges
  • The child is not quite old enough
  • Your schedule is too packed
There are also several ways to start teaching basic music skills, even as a non-musician parent. I’ll outline a few things you can do at home to make sure your child is ready for lessons, gains music skills as a homeschooler, or just wants to have some creative fun. These suggestions are more for younger children (6 and under), but if your kids enjoy them, then go ahead with them.
Singing:
  • Do “sirens” with your voices, going as high and as low as possible. Make sure you and your child go into the “falsetto” or head voice when going high and don’t try to belt it out.
  • Draw waves on paper. Follow the waves with your fingers, use the siren voice to mimic the highs and lows with your voice.
  • Make sure your child hears CDs of other children singing. Sometimes, when kids only listen to adults or older teens singing, they fail to develop the upper range they would need to sing with a choir, and the ability to hear and match more than a few pitches. This is especially the case with popular music, as many of the melodies have a limited range.
  • Talk about the difference between high/low and loud/soft. Many kids confuse the two. For example, if you tell them to sing low, they will sing quietly. Experiment with speaking and singing low and loud, high and soft, and all other combinations.
  • Make up words to familiar tunes as you go through your day. “Hi Ho the Derrio” is a good one. “We’re putting on our clothes, we’re putting on our clothes, Hi Ho the Derrio…”
  • Sing or play a short melody, and ask your child to repeat it. Ear-training is an acquired skill, and is very important in any musical endeavor.
Instruments:
  • “Act out” a familiar story with the piano. Take, for example, The Three Little Pigs. As the pigs are leaving home, ask, “How do think their walking would sound?” The child might play a steady beat on one key, or alternate between the two. Have them experiment until they are satisfied with the outcome. Other questions to explore are: “How would the wolf sound?” “What would the straw house sound like, as it’s falling down?” “What about the bricks?”
  • You could ask what clouds sound like? Rain? Snow? The possibilities are endless.
  • If you don’t have a piano, any household items will do: pots and pans, spoons, toy maracas or rattles, anything that makes a noise.
  • Get a good quality recorder from a local music store. Recorders are usually under $10, and provide good training for other wind instruments. Young children may not be able to cover the holes and play many notes, but teach them to blow slowly and evenly until they make a pleasing sound. For older children (3rd grade or older), buy a basic recorder book, and learn with them. I directed a homeschool recorder consort (group) once, who played authentic medieval music very well. We played music to underscore a play set in a castle, and the kids were really proud of themselves.
There is much more that you can do, but I’ll stop there for now. The bottom line is: You don’t have to be an expert to start your children on the path of learning music!

What are some things you’ve done to explore music with your kids?

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About Sarah Pinnix

I'm a mom, blogger, vlogger, libertarian. I love Jesus, and my husband, too. Social Media Strategist for a Non-Profit (All statements here are solely my own)

Comments

  1. Awesome post!! I was a music major in College so I am kind of anal about teaching my daughter as much about music as possible. She is only 2 so I am having a hard time finding a teacher for her. I have already started with percussion and wind instruments. We make sirens all day long! I look forward to many, many years of music with her!

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  2. These are wonderful ideas. I will be implementing them into our home Pre-K.

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  3. chickadee says:

    i saw your comment on another blog wondering about doing a 3 column layout for blogger. i just worked one up for my own site simply by viewing page sources on other blogs. go to my site and under view at the top on your browser tool bar click view page source and you can see the html. i printed out a few page sources of the blogs i liked then just went through them slowly while editing my own template. you can do it!

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  4. HomeSchool Mommy says:

    Yea! I love this post! I think music is SOOO important! I homeschool my daughter, so I have a music teacher come in twice/week to do music time with her. She will also start piano lessons this year (she’s six).

    I can’t wait to work on some of these things with her!

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  5. Phyllis Sommer says:

    what a great idea. i’m waiting a little bit to start piano with my son but these are wonderful tips for starting his music education now. thank you! my grandmother is adamant that i wait until he is 8 to start piano…i can’t exactly figure out why but she is very wise so i am trying to wait…

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  6. Timely post. I’m not a very musical person but my son has always shown interest in instruments. He is only four but I was thinking that it would be fun to have a piano in the house. Something to tinker on until the time is right for lessons. I think my six year old daughter would enjoy it too but she hasn’t taken the same interest in music as my son.

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  7. Great post, I do most of these and didn’t realize it! We love music in this house! I sing and play piano and my husband plays the sax. We are always singing, dancing, learning, etc. I can’t imagine life without music!

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Sarah,

    These are wonderful suggestions. I taught PK-4th general music, then 6th – 8th choir. Your excellent post offers a wealth of very helpful, practical, and simple techniques any parent can use. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. What a compliment coming from a fellow music teacher. Thanks!

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  10. Great post! I took private voice for 10+ years, was a music major, my hubby is a gifted musician, and we lead worship together at church. These are awesome suggestions! I know I’ll be OCD about teaching our daughter about music (she received MANY musical toys from family for Christmas), so I know she has a great start.

    One thing I did when teaching in elementary was have the kids listen to a “classical” piece, then color whatever the music made them feel. It was always a great way to get them to express themselves!

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  11. ChampionLLC says:

    Sarah,
    I am impressed with your site. I especially like the verse John 15:5 at the beginning. What attracted me to your site first of all was the article on teaching basic music skills even if you are not a musician.
    Actually I am a musicaian who taught elementary school music for 12 years and was very successfull at teaching children to sing and be musically literate, by using much of Zoltan Kodaly’s teachings.
    Today we are trying a bold new endevor. We are launching an attempt to teach music over the internet to parents who teach there children at home.

    Bio:
    Larry Taylor is an expert at teaching people to be musically literate. Through a variety of media including online video tutorials, live webinars, telesinginars and live web cam he seeks to further the kingdom of God by promoting good Christian music and encouraging Christians to sing His praises. To sign up for a five part mini course on musical literacy go to http://www.musicalliteracy.com

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  12. Hi Sarah!
    Great project! You’re entered in the hands on homeschool carnival posting today on my blog! Pop by when you can!
    Happy Creative Homeschooling!

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  13. shaeon o.
    Twitter: shaeon
    says:

    Sarah , I love music it helps me to forget everything else. I am so
    glad the lord blessed me in that area!

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