Enjoying Music Together: Benefit and Bonding That Last a Lifetime
by Wendy Jeffries
It’s not really a secret anymore that playing classical music to your unborn child can positively affect their mental development. But why stop after they are born? Sharing music with your child can be a very rewarding experience for them as well as for you.
Some of my best childhood memories involve learning to play guitar. My dad got me started on his cherry red Gibson hollow-body electric with the f-shape sound holes. Our practice sessions were often spontaneous and always very relaxed. Each successfully executed note or chord contributed to my excitement about music. I grew to love the process of learning as much as (okay almost as much as) the performance of a complete song. (Sidenote: In the right atmosphere, with the right pace even difficult passages can be enjoyable–like challenges in a puzzle or obstacles in a game. Certainly times of frustration are part of the process as well, but frustration and discouragement, once overcome, can bring an even greater sense of achievement.)
Dad and I often sat in the living room or on the scuffed and dented plastic chairs in our yard. Dad would play a lick or a few chords on his guitar. After he showed me again in slow motion, it was my turn. We passed the guitar back and forth this way until I had learned a whole song. Eventually I convinced my parents to let me have my own guitar-a twelve string (fun but I don’t recommend it for a first guitar).
I’ve taken a lot of knowledge and skill from those times, it’s true. But, what really sticks with me is the feeling of being important to my dad as he took time out to share music with me. The patient silence as I learned to stretch my finger “all the way” across the neck to form a bar chord, spoke volumes.
When a child learns from a parent or from a teacher, with parent guidance, there is opportunity to send the message, “you’re worth it.” And, in music, there is an artistic aspect that makes it even more special to share. Of course music lessons help build confidence, teach practice habits, and help a child grow in concentration. The benefits are lifelong.
If you are not a music-maker you can still share music with your children as a music-connesiuer. Several people I know don’t play an instrument, but they sing. Many don’t sing, but are wildly passionate about music and love to share their CD collections (or iPod playlists). A friend of mine will often bring her CD’s to gatherings. Everyone loves it, and she’s often asked specifically to bring them. She has a broad knowledge and taste in music. She knows how to pick the songs that will liven up the party. No musical instrument needed, just a CD changer.
Listening to music together can be a fun and educational activity for the family. For example, try planning one night after dinner to have each person share a couple songs. After listening to each others’ music, talk about what you like in each of the choices. (Was there a specific lyric you liked, a certain rhythm or the tone of a particular voice or instrument?) It can broaden your child’s horizons when it comes to all the styles and genres they may not have even heard. Plus, you can learn a lot about your children by the songs they choose to share.
This would also be a great time for parents to share some music history with their kids. These days many songs that are incorrectly titled and attributed are being shared through the internet, plus popular songs are always being covered by multiple bands. So this generation often doesn’t know who wrote their favorite songs (and that some of them were your favorites growing up, as well).
If your child plays or is learning to play an instrument or sing, or if they have a favorite CD they listen to over and over again, taking the time to listen to them or listen with them can mean the whole world.
The truth is bonding through the sharing of music is not really about the music. It’s about time spent in the relationship. Music is just a likely vehicle. Each moment spent teaching or, more importantly, listening sends a message of love and respect that could be remembered for years.
I enjoy reflecting on the times my dad taught me, but my favorite memories are of the times he listened. He would hear me playing my guitar in my bedroom and come sit down and just listen. His expression of enjoyment and approval was one of the best compliments a kid could get.
Now life has gotten busy for both of us, and the times my dad and I play together are less frequent. Still, when we talk on the phone, he still asks me “How’s your playing going?” and I tell him about whatever tunes I’m learning. No matter how busy life gets, the bond that was built through the shared value of music still exists. And whenever I play a relaxing bluesy tune it takes me back to the old lawn chairs and the red Gibson. If you’re considering making music a regular part of your child’s life, I highly recommend it!
Wendy Jeffries teaches guitar and music theory and is a member of the the Musicality Network.
She graduated from Warner Pacific College with a Bachelors in Music and Journalism, where she also studied guitar performance. Wendy Jeffries and her husband Adam live in Gresham, Oregon.