August 9, 2011
The power of Music Babble
One of the most powerful things I’ve learned my education as early childhood music specialist is that music IS a language. This is more than a catchy or cliché saying –its actually researched based and proven true. Based on the research of Gordon and the Music Learning Theory, our brain processes musical material like it does language material. So how does this affect our Music Together classes and early childhood music education? It’s the crux of our philosophy and incorporated into every aspect of the class.
Throughout a Music Together class you’ll hear the teacher lead the parents in what we call “tonal patterns” and “rhythm patterns”. These sound like 3 short pitches for a tonal pattern or a 4-beat rhythm chanted on “bah – bah” sounds for a rhythm pattern. Rather than being silly or “baby” talk, these are like single “music words”. Just as we learn our native language by first listening and absorbing, later babbling and then eventually learning single words, we do the same in music. Experience with tonal and rhythm patterns are extremely important for children to understand the orderly arrangement or syntax of tones and rhythm inherent in the music of our culture.
Children frequently respond to these patterns in our class, either through a baby’s coo or a toddler improvising their own 4-beat pattern (a GREAT sign of rhythmic development!). The patterns are so short, so they act as a catalyst for inducing a special attentiveness and meaningful response to music. They also encourage “music babble”. Parents love to hear their young children babbling in their native language and trying out new words, which is the same thing we want to encourage children to do with music. Tonal and rhythm patterns are stepping stones into music babble because they are performed on syllables (bum or bah) that naturally fit into the speech patterns of even the youngest child.
When a very young child speaks a single word, like “milk”, a parent will interpret the meaning and respond with full communication, for example, “Are you thirsty? Would you like to drink your milk?” The child hears the whole sentence stimulated from their expression of an essential part. This type of interaction is of utmost importance if the child is to teach himself language. The same is true when a child is learning music. They need to babble with pitches and short rhythms, and in turn hear a “music whole” back – like an entire song or entire chant.
If words are building blocks of language, than patterns are the building blocks of music. When we sing songs and chants in our class, we are creating the whole of music, complete with the orderly arrangement of tones and rhythms necessary for a child to hear when emerging from music babble. Parents in our Music Together classes learn to recognize music babble not as baby talk but as an absolute essential part of music language development. They also learn to respond to a child’s babble with “music sentences” – improvised strings of tonal or rhythm patterns. This leads to encouraging improvisation in music, and allowing children the freedom of holding “music conversations” – pure tones and rhythms given back and forth! The power behind music babble is that it leads to a child understanding how to create and express music of their own, and not feel bound to a printed page of notation years down the road.
Come to a FREE Music Together Demo Class and hear tonal and rhythm patterns for yourself and your child! Get started on your music journey today by calling the Grosse Pointe Music Academy and RSVP for a Demo Class now!
Written by Sarah Boyd, Director of Music Together of Grosse Pointe