Music at Home
Strategies to help Parents of Young Children to keep singing at home
Singing is an important part of children’s music education. It is also an inherent part of their everyday lives. The three year old child playing with her toys is just as likely to sing as to talk as part of her play. The words don’t matter and the tune may never be sung the same way twice, but it is a form of self-expression and it often comes from a place of deep contentment. Children playing together on the playground will naturally incorporate the singsong chant “na na na na na” that can be found in every culture in the world. These three tones (so, mi and la) are so natural and so prevalent that they form the basis for the beginning teaching songs used in the Kodaly method and other teaching music methods in music classrooms around the world.
Singing is used in play, it expresses joy, it soothes and brings comfort and it is interwoven throughout our days from childhood to the failing senior citizen. Now that the world is dealing with managing a pandemic, singing in the classroom is one of the things deemed to be a potential risk and singing activities at school have been curtailed. Now what do we do with our need for creativity, joy and comfort?
In my elementary music classroom, songs are an integral part of almost every activity. We sing songs of greeting, we use songs in singing games, we use songs to extract teaching concepts, we sing songs that help us learn about cultures and historical events, we sing silly songs and we sing for the sheer joy of singing.
It is important to find opportunities to continue singing, and in particular, to support our young singers as we find ways to do so safely. Toddlers and young children playing at home will continue to sing as a natural part of their play. The children in school settings will not fare quite so well. They will still be able to experience many music elements in their music classes, however, they still need to be able to sing. Advocating that students hum is only a partial solution and may prove to be very limiting and frustrating.
Safely singing at home is the best plan for our young singers. The adults at home may not feel comfortable “leading” a singing activity. They will need support to do this. Songs need to be in the correct range for a young voice. Choosing songs that have appropriate lyrics is also an important factor. What songs should they sing? Where will they find these songs?
As a music educator for over 35 years and as a recording and a performing artist for over 25 years, to sing with children is a natural part of what I do. I also compose original music and many of these songs are rooted in the world of a child. Imaginary characters from my songs have become part of the family as my children and my grandchildren have grown up singing my songs. We sing lustily in the van when driving together. We have our own concerts and dance parties and celebrate the joy of music in our home.
Because I have a career as a performer and a recording artist, I am able to share my music with others who may find it less comfortable to sing with children. Recordings are a way to provide access to music that parents can learn along with their children, and enjoy a shared musical experience. Parents may be able to sing along, but they are not the sole support for their young singers. Everyone can learn together and enjoy the experience.
Parents and grandparents who want to continue to give their children opportunities to sing still need to decide what to play and where to find it. As the duo Donna & Andy, we offer the option of our award-winning CDs as well as digital download options for our music. It is easier than ever for parents and grandparents to access our music and provide a top-quality musical experience for young singers at home. With digital downloads or streaming, music can be accessed by youngsters on their own personal devices or shared with the entire family.
We invite you to see samples of our print music as well. We are proud to offer you award-winning music that we know is great music for you and your family to experience together.
Children are often sophisticated listeners and they deserve music that has musical depth and authenticity. They may be singing simple melodies, but if they are singing along with a high-quality recording, the experience will be far more satisfying. You will not have to wonder about the quality of the music we are offering to you and your family. Our music is composed and recorded utilizing key elements that are crucial for a superior product. My years as an elementary music education specialist, my own musical training in orchestral and choral music and my years of experience as a composer are all foundational parts of the music I write and create for children. It is one of my passions to advocate for top-quality music experiences for children. When seeking out children’s music, often the search will take you to music that is, quite frankly, poorly composed and not well crafted. “It’s good enough for kids’” is a statement that irritates me. Children deserve rich and authentic music experiences. They deserve to hear a variety of styles, proper vocal technique (which they won’t even notice is happening if it is done correctly) and be able to sing along.
How do parents with little or no music background search out the best music for their children?
When looking for music I strongly recommend that the following four key elements should be present:
1. A good singing range for young voices so they can sing along. The notes of the tune should be in a lighter, higher range than the range most of us will find comfortable as adults. This range is from middle C (C4) to D5 (nine notes higher than middle C). The tune of the song needs to lie within this range of notes. There may be a few notes on either side of the range, but those outlier notes should be infrequent. As adults we often gravitate to music that is in a lower range, which is more comfortable for our developed vocal cords, but difficult for a young developing voice. Remember, the goal is to provide the opportunity to sing along! Children with unchanged voices will sing well with a female soprano voice. Male singers in the tenor (or baritone) range (higher male voices, as opposed to bass singers) sing notes that are 8 tones lower than the child’s unchanged voice. The child is able to sing 8 notes higher, in their comfortable range and this is certainly good for singing along.
2. Age-appropriate lyrics. If you think the lyrics aren’t really important, think for a moment of all the things that we teach our children using music – the alphabet being the best example. What we sing over and over again becomes internalized. Studies have been done with Alzheimer patients who are still able to remember words to songs and who can sing, even when they have lost the ability to speak. Choose songs wisely, keeping in mind they may be the last thing your child will remember later in life. (No pressure there!)
Search out songs that stimulate the imagination with lyrics that are not trite. Children’s music can be rich in expressive text, imagination and exploring their world. Children can learn how to express their feelings, understand the world around them and have fun through the music they learn to sing. Repetition may be good for quickly learning a song, but too many repetitious words will quickly drive you to find the off button. There are good songs “out there” (not just ours, although we think we are offering you a superior musical option) so don’t settle for something just because it is labelled as a “song for children”. Be as discerning about choosing good music as you are about finding good literature and stimulating creative activities for your youngsters.
3. Music can help develop your child’s vocabulary. It can also introduce them to words you may not want them to weave into their conversations. Personally, I don’t want to use music with my students or my own children if the lyrics contain words that I will need to work at banishing when I take the kids to visit their grandmother.
4. Good music quality. This varies with personal taste, but a good general rule is to choose music that does not cause you, as the parent, to run for ear plugs. Songs for children will involve repetition and may have childish topics (adults will really not need the reinforcement of learning the days of the week, or how to wash your hands) but the music and the vocal delivery of the lyrics should be the best quality you can find, even if the subject matter is child-centered.
When choosing music for your children, if you also enjoy the musical presentation, it will make sharing music together as a family a more enjoyable thing to do.
I have spent years studying and training to become a music education specialist and then enjoyed 35+ years singing and creating music with children. I also played violin in an orchestra for many years and have been part of numerous choirs as a young child and into adulthood. These experiences are valuable assets as I compose and record music for children. I create music that I am confident meets the highest standards.
Performing and recording as the duo Donna & Andy, we sing almost all our own original material. The thousands of concerts we have performed and the hundreds of thousands of children who listen to and sing our music are a testament to the music we create for children. Donna & Andy songs are not the only performing and providing children’s music options for you. There are many other artists who sing and perform for kids. When you are choosing music for your children to sing, you can be confident that choosing music that Donna Rhodenizer/Donna & Andy have written or recorded will be appropriate for your child. When the music is good quality, the adults can also enjoy the experience. You are even invited to sing along!
Parents and grandparents will find music that is just downright fun to sing with the children in your homes. Music teachers will find songs that are great for use in classrooms and private vocal studios. We (Donna & Andy) are ready and able to help support families who want to continue singing safely at home. We can provide the music and we can provide the vocal support. Music is our passion, our career and our joy. We are excited to share our music with you!
We would love to hear what you do to share music as a family activity.
What is your favourite method for listening to music? CDs? Downloads? Streaming?
Where was the funniest place that you have ever sang a song with your kids?
Have your children ever made up a song of their own?
Have you ever experienced the power of music, created by your own children? Send us your favourite “that gave me goosebumps” story.
Composer, Elementary Music Specialist, Performer
Donna has taught elementary music for 35 years. As a Composer - Donna has over 400 published solo voice, choral, handbell, recorder, violin and piano compositons. She is an accomplished presenter and continues to perform in the duo
"Donna & Andy"