The learning of music should not be limited to only practice; it is important for children to learn a broad range of music and instrument types, to help them to develop a better awareness and appreciation of what they are learning, and to be more musical and expressive.
Just as you do not want your child to always be eating the same thing for every meal, you also need to provide some variety to your child’s music appreciation, to expose him to more musical styles and expression. So how do you go about doing that? For one, you can select suitable songs they can listen to!
Below is a list of 10 songs that reflect a broad mix of genres, rhythms, tonalities, keys, and tempos, that both which children and parents I know have very much enjoyed listening to. Listening to songs together with your child is also an excellent way to bond and grow your love for music together!
The following songs are by of course not a definitive list, so do add your own favourites.
1. Peter Tchaikovsky, Peter and the Wolf
This delightful orchestral composition is a wonderful way to introduce program music to your child, and to show her how music can be used to convey emotions, images and ideas. Instead of words, the music narrates the storyline. You can either use the storyline (which is very easy to Google for) or make your own version to use as a listening map. Discuss with your child how and why certain instruments represent characters in the story, and ask your child if he/she can remember any tunes from the piece and try playing them on the piano!
2. Camille Sain-Saens, Carnival of the Animals
This exciting and humorous collection of 14 short pieces is a wonderful way to let your child learn more about the instrument families of the orchestra. Different instruments are used to mimic the sounds and behaviors of the animals. For example, the double bass and lower register of the piano is used in the piece to depict the slow and tardy movement of the elephant, while the xylophones are used to evoke the image of skeletons moving around. To stretch his musical imagination, you can get your child to clap to any distinctive rhythm or play-act along. It will make them more engaged and comfortable with classical music while getting the story at the same time.
3. Ludwig Van Beethoven, Symphony No 5
This is one of the best-known compositions in classical music and also frequently performed and used in films. It opens up in a minor key, which can evoke a sense of uncertainty or melancholy.
The familiar 4-note motif (G-G-G-Eb) serves as the building block of the symphony and paces the listener’s ears to an ascending dramatic, exploding climax – which is quintessentially Beethoven. The drama heard in this piece will certainly evoke your child’s interest to find out more about more about Beethoven and what this symphony is about! Beware though for this piece is intense and not for the faint-hearted!
4. Stand Up for Singapore
One of the first national songs composed. While many children of today’s generation may not know this song, it is a very catchy tune that brings back great memories for the parents. Go through the lyrics with your child to teach him/her values of doing their best, caring for their fellow citizens, and love and respect for their country. Most other patriotic or national songs also have a very catchy and memorable tune that your child will be able to sing along to and remember.
5. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Eh Vous Djai Variations
Not many would know that the popular “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” tune was a tune composed by Mozart! This is a more ‘grown-up version of the song and is an excellent way to let your child know that a simple melody can be varied in different ways, using different rhythm, keys and registers.
6. Johann Pachebel, Canon in D
Children love to attend weddings and this is the perfect song a perfect song to introduce to your child the importance of a steady pulse! A popular tune, the Canon In D is often used as a walk-in music for weddings, with the happy couple walking in synchrony to the main beat of this piece. Try doing that at home with your kids while the music is on and have fun doing it! Play dress-up and talk about the mood of the piece. Perfect for an afternoon when you are looking for an activity to do with your child.
7. Frozen: Let It Go
The three-note “Let It Go” is an infectious and catchy tune which many kids love to sing. Music, especially combined with lyrics, is a powerful combination to impart kids the meaning of uncertainty, fear, and how to overcome such feelings by being true to one self and determined about who we are. Be careful to explain the meaning of the lyrics within the context of the movie as the there can be a possibility that the children may misinterpret empowerment with sheer rebellion.
8. Gioachino Rossini, William Tell Overture
This popular and famous opera is based on the legend the hero William Tell who was an expert archer in Switzerland, who saved his son by succeeding in shooting an apple off his son’s head, in response to a challenge from a tyrant. The upbeat and confident overture portrays the bravery, courage and faith of William Tell. Ask your child to talk about a time when someone had put you in a spot and how you overcame it. Listen out to how the music makes your child feel; ask him what the fast rhythm suggests and how the dynamics (loudness or softness in music) of the overture affects the overall mood of the piece.
9. Johann Sebastian Bach (Christian Petzold): Minuet in G
This is a good piece to introduce classical dance to your child. Explain to her what a minuet is and find out more about the story of Bach and his life! Make up simple dance steps by pretending you are dressed in royal gowns or suits and have fun dancing along to the music! Explain to your child what elegance and grace is and how this song differs from other genres such as pop music.
10. Traditional Folk Song, Muo Li Hua (Jasmine Flower)
This popular folk tune was composed during the 18th century and originated from the Jiangsu province in China, on the beauty of the jasmine flower. This joyful and energetic piece is unique in that it is distinctly and recognisably oriental due to its pentatonic scale. This piece provides a superb contrast to the other pieces, which are either Western in origin or more modern, and a great conversation topic with your child to discuss different types of music from different cultures and places.
Lynn Tan, has been teaching the piano for more than 15 years. Prior to this, she was in the civil service. Lynn has recently published a lovely songbook featuring popular and well-loved Singapore songs. They are arranged for beginner piano learners. You can find out more about the books and her studio at www.lynntanpianostudio.com or contact her at [email protected]