Music is known as an international language – it can be understood by everyone of any age. Since it can exist at different levels of understanding, it is ideal for a wide range of people, young and old. It encourages teamwork, counting, co-ordination and listening, and is an ideal way to help children develop their basic skills of life. And if that does not convince you, then the fact that most people enjoy engaging in music might persuade you!
In these times when many children do not learn how to amuse themselves together, music can provide such experiences. For children in music groups, such as the Suzuki or Kodaly methods, group learning and performance are encouraged from the outset. This results in children becoming more sensitive to the needs of others, by listening and learning from their peers, as well as from their teachers. Such teachers exploit a child’s natural ability to mimic – arguably, music is the best way to learn how to copy and develop new ideas, whether musical or otherwise. Even playing with their teacher provides a valuable lesson in learning, encouraging increased perceptiveness and sensitivity.
Take note values, for example, where each sound is worth a particular length of time – even musical novices need to count carefully and consistently. This encourages numeracy and comprehension, as well as aiding co-ordination when playing with the music teacher. When a student is learning an instrument, or singing, then that basic theoretical knowledge needs to be matched with the technique of producing sounds, coordinating hands, arms, voice and feet in some instances!
Learning music also fosters expressiveness in many learners. Once they have made the initial technical breakthrough in their music making, and are able to produce sounds without too much difficulty, then the way is open to the huge variety of musical tone. In music every note is not equal, and an expressive and sensitive student will realize this by grading the loudness or softness or each note accordingly. This is known as shaping a phrase, a phrase being somewhat similar to a sentence in language. Musical children do this instinctively, but others can be taught how to grade tone and phrase, to some degree. This results in one of the most satisfying factors in musical development – the ability to articulate a musical phrase.
It is playing in groups that benefit music students the most, whether children or otherwise. Not only must students play notes together, but must listen carefully to the sounds made by others. As well as co-ordonating brain with hands and perhaps voice, students need to watch the musical director, whether that be the music teacher or a conductor. There is nothing more satisfying than helping to create a warm, melodious and harmonious musical sound, no matter how simple the sound.
There are no negative effects to learning music, providing the student wants to learn. Before the student is a huge and engaging subject waiting to be discovered, resulting in immense pleasure to both performer and listener. While music making is a very ancient art form, its power and benefits are extremely relevant to today’s society.