Practice: What We Can Learn From Kids

Late one night last week, I was crouched beneath the bunk bed answering Lydia’s melodramatic demand for ‘mimi,’ when a lively little voice above me cried out in the darkness: “There’s nothing to do up here.” I had thought Dorian was asleep and laughed, “What do you want to do?” I asked, expecting to then tell him to dream about the roller coaster or beach. “I want to Rock-and-Roll all around the house all night long” was the instant and enthusiastic response.

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Bits and Pieces

I haven’t had much time to post here recently; my two kids (with now a third on the way) are in charge of my schedule and they are hard taskmasters. We’re still making lots of fun noise, though. Dorian has started picking up and strumming his guitar whenever I play. He also bursts into improvised songs at random moments, like he’s living in the world’s most banal  musical – “I am going to the bathroom”, “It’s breakfast time, it’s breakfast time!”, and others even Andrew Lloyd Webber would think twice about. Lydia is learning ”Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’, but calls it ‘Up Above’ and always starts on there, on the highest note of the tune. I’m not sure why she does this, but it certainly suits her personality.

To commemorate Dorian’s school completing its inaugural year (he graduated kindergarten) another parent and I put together this video of his classroom. While it’s not specifically about kids making music, it does give a glimpse inside a Montessori-style classroom, where kids are encouraged to be curious and  independent learners, working at their own pace. It is an approach I think works for music education too. Dorian picking up his guitar and wanting to play with me is far more meaningful than me telling him to do so.

Finally, if you’re in the area, I’ll be leading music classes at the East Bay’s premiere pre-school hangout, Play Cafe, on July 31st and August 28th. Classes start at 3:15 and are free with admission.  Instruments will be available or bring your own and join the band!

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Summer Road Trip Playlist

Follow the links below and you can download some great new music for your kids. The ‘mixtape’ (remember them?) has been specifically put together by Beth Blenz of Sugar Mountain PR to keep kids entertained on long car journeys. The travelling theme is apparent in songs like ” Wonder Round The World”, “Train Song”, “Hard Travelling”, “Honk, Honk”, and so on. Most tunes are Folk/Americana with a couple of rock/pop tunes thrown in. All are great quality and worth a listen. Enjoy:

Taking The Pulse Of Music – Instruments Part 3

Part three of my series on musical instruments, the idiophones:

In 2011, scientists proved something most of us already knew: some people simply cannot dance*. One particular subject, a post-graduate student identified only as Mathieu, was utterly unable to synchronize his movements to a regular beat. He even failed to recognize when someone else was moving in time and, thus, he became the first person to be diagnosed as ‘beat deaf’. I find it fascinating that, although reporting he has never been able to find a beat, Mathieu professes a ‘lifelong love of music and dancing’. I wonder what he hears! Is all music reduced to an ambient wash, or does it explode unnaturally in fits and starts? Perhaps, like the compensatory hearing of a blind man, he has a heightened appreciation of timbre or harmony. Pulse plays such a vital role in the structure and organization of music, yet we tend to take it for granted. Playing with idiophones is a great way for children to feel the pulse of music and develop their own internal clock.

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Sound Bingo! A FREE game.

BINGO cardI made this to play with Dorian and hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Basic Bingo rules apply, except the board is a 5X5 grid of instruments (the center square is a ‘free space’ and considered already filled). Listen to the audio clips and cross off (or cover) each instrument as it plays. First to get five-in-a-row (horizontal, vertical or diagonal) is the winner. Easy!

  • Download and unzip the zip file.
  • Print the cards.
  • Either burn the audio to CD or create a playlist on an mp3 player.
  • Set to random or shuffle.
  • Hit play to start the game.


Some of the instruments might be unfamiliar and some sound like other instruments, so the name is spoken once during each clip. Dorian  insisted we use the voice of “Robot Mommy”. After a few games, we changed the rules so only the first to shout out the correct instrument covered a square. We also used a remote to skip to the next track and speed the game up. It’s a great way to learn about different instruments, develop deliberate listening and have fun!