Category Archives: Music

The Piano Keyboard

There was a time, very early in my childcare career, when we had ‘music time’ as a regularly scheduled group activity.  I’d bring out various musical instruments and together the children I would listen to music, play with the instruments, sing songs and do music and rhythm exercises.  It was a structured, adult led activity that required all the children to participate in a music activity at a specific time.


Over time I rearranged and expanded our play space so that it could include a music area – place where the musical instruments were always available and could be used by one or more children at any time.  We no longer had a scheduled music time but the children could initiate a group musical activity.  I was available to guide and assist but the children were not required to participate if they were otherwise engaged.  Some of the children spent much of their time immersed in musical exploration.  Others would come and go depending on their mood and other interests.

The music area also included a small piano keyboard which became one of the favourite musical instruments.  Many of the children learned to play their favourite melodies on this little piano and some began to make connections between printed music and the corresponding keys on the keyboard;


This little piano was popular but it was also annoying.  This was not a true piano keyboard – simply an electronic toy with major limitations.  It had a repertoire of recorded songs to listen to but not play along with.  While a song was playing if anyone touched a piano key the song would stop – how frustrating!  It also listed several different instruments but each one was simply a slightly different irritating digital tone which sounded nothing like the instrument it claimed to be.

Recently I replaced this toy piano with a better keyboard – this is the newly purchased item that I referred at in my last post.  It has 90 recorded songs – that we can play along with – and 150 rhythms and 400 beautiful tones that sound similar to real instruments.  It is a wonderful addition to our music area;


OK, so some of the tones are not so beautiful – or even musical – but they are interesting.  The children have made many discoveries about this keyboard through experimentation with little help from me.  In fact, on a couple of occasions I’ve had to ask them how they did something.  One of these instances had nothing to do with music.

They were engaged in a ‘army’ dramatic play activity and used the ‘helicopter’ and ‘gunshots’ tones.  They discovered that if they selected ‘helicopter’ and held one key down the helicopter tone would continue playing and they could select a second tone.  Of course the ‘gunshot’ tone was then used to shoot down the helicopter.  Not an activity I would have initiated but it did require a fair amount of cooperation and collaboration from the group of children involved.

I’ve printed and posted the entire list of songs, rhythms, and tones so they are available for those who can or want to learn to read the names and select specific songs or tones.


Currently the most popular song choice is Pachelbel’s ‘Canon’ which has elicited discussions about what makes certain songs popular.  We’ve done some research into the history of many of these songs. The children have identified some of the recorded songs as being ‘from’ movies and television shows and are surprised to discover that these songs are ‘so old’.

Another song that produces a lot of excitement is ‘The Wedding March’ which is always played during the numerous toy weddings and often the children use the other instruments to play along as part of ‘the band’.  This is just one of the many ways the children can incorporate music into their free play activities.  They are so much more engaged in musical activities when they have control over when and how the music is used.


I’ve titled today’s post after the Post A Day topic #18 “What gives you hope?”  It is not what I was originally planning to name it but I think it fits with the post I was planning to write today.

To hope means to expect, to wish, to trust and to look forward to.  It is optimism and anticipation.

I wanted to write about the boy and his guitar.

The boy is my sixteen year old son.  The boy has dreams and a special kind of motivation to pursue things that interest him.  Some of his interests have come and gone – attacked with fervour and then dismissed as he moves on to something else.

This sixteen year old has no interest in learning to drive because “there are already too many cars”.  He will not eat at any fast food restaurant because “it’s not good for you and they don’t recycle the packages”. He enjoys being considered eccentric.

The guitar is his passion. He started playing the guitar about 3 ½ years ago and I think he plays wonderfully – but I’m his mother so I’m biased. Every spare minute of his day is spent practising his guitar, learning new songs, creating his own arrangements and researching guitars and music.

His musical interest is vast.  He likes most styles except maybe pop – remember, he likes to be different.  He is inspired by Edgar Cruz and Tchaikovsky is one of his favourite classical composers.

His guitars are basic – cheap, entry level guitars for beginners.  He wanted something better and started saving his money to buy a good classical guitar. This guitar would be something he chose not one we picked up at a big box store. He has done his research and explained to me the difference between the styles – who knew there were so many?

For Christmas we topped up his savings so he would have enough to make a purchase. It wouldn’t be enough to buy his dream guitar but it would be a step up from what he had.

The Monday after Christmas we headed out to some of the music stores to see what we could find. I tended to point out guitars based on looks – the name on the guitar means nothing to me.  The boy knows though.  He often shook his head as I reached to take one off the rack – not because he didn’t like it but because he knew the price range in which it would fall was beyond our budget.

Several stores and numerous guitars and we still nothing that fit the criteria.  I was beginning to lose hope. We decided to check out Mar-schell’s a small music store in our neighbourhood.

The boy tried a few guitars and then the salesman handed him a Takamine. As he played the first few notes I saw the expression on his face – this was the one.  The boy and the guitar belonged together.  He clutched it all the way home and then began to play – really play.

The boy was up before me every morning during Christmas break.  I’d wake to the sound of the guitar – yes even I could hear the difference between this guitar and his others.

Then, on day four he decided to plug it in to his amp to see how it sounded and there was a problem.  He tried it another amp and still failed to get the results he wanted. Back at the store they checked it out and identified it as a defective pick-up.  Now we’re waiting for the replacement part.

The boy and his guitar have been separated for three weeks.  He still plays his other guitars while we wait.  Together we hope, we wish, we trust and with optimism and anticipation we look forward to the day the boy and his guitar are reunited.  Hopefully soon.

Musical Intelligence

Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences captivates me. During my work on my CBA portfolio I was thrilled to have the opportunity to research and write a paper on this fascinating theory.  Had this theory been around when I was a child I imagine people would have said that I excelled in musical and naturalistic intelligences – but they would have been wrong.

Music in particular is very difficult for me.  I thoroughly enjoyed many years of piano lessons and hours of daily practice.  I sang in youth group and church choirs.  I played the flute in the school band and as a duet with my mother at the piano.  I played the piano to accompany a good friend – who was a phenomenal singer – as she competed in numerous talent competitions.  I distinctly remember receiving many positive comments and praise for my musical accomplishments but, I have a confession….I do not really comprehend musical concepts.

I have absolutely no sense of rhythm.  I cannot dance or even clap along with the beat. In a group – I’m the one looking around and trying desperately to coordinate my actions to the movements of everyone else.  I can read music and with much practice I can usually play what is written but if it isn’t written on the paper I cannot make it up.

No, I am definitely not musically inclined but, I love music.  Music, and nature fuel my true intelligence – intrapersonal intelligence – self reflection and understanding of my own strengths, weaknesses and emotions.  It is through solitary exploration of music and nature that I can begin to understand me and where I fit in the world.  My likes and dislikes and how I truly feel.

It is not the ‘performance’ of music that I enjoy it is the practice – the hours of private perseverance it takes to learn something that initially makes little sense to me.  Like nature, music instils a sense of awe and wonder that drives my desire to learn.  Performing for an audience is stressful, overwhelming – the emphasis is on playing a piece ‘correctly’ as it is written – the way others expect it to be.  Only when I am alone, practicing, do I truly ‘play’ and enjoy music.

I am inspired and amazed by others who can create or modify a piece of music with seemingly little effort.  My son is one of those people.  He uses printed music but doesn’t rely on it the way I do.  He took guitar lessons for three years and has taught himself to play the ukulele and piano too.  Handed a mandolin and a chord book he was able to play a simple song in only a few minutes.  Knowing that I have grown tired of the materialism of Christmas he decided to play a song for me instead of buying me a gift this year.  He chose to learn “The Gift”; a Garth Brooks song he knew was one of my favourites.  It was a song that he was not familiar with and had no sheet music for but he listened to a recorded version of the song until he had learned the basic melody and then he added bits and pieces to create his own arrangement.  It was beautiful.

I’m not sure if his musical abilities are a result of any special musical intelligence.  As a young child he showed no more musical interest or aptitude than any other child I knew.  However, I do believe that his musical skills flourished as a result of his intrinsic motivation to learn and the methods that were used to teach him.  He was not taught through drills and lessons that focus on right and wrong – play it the way it is written or you’ll fail the test.  But rather, have fun, make it up as you go along, try something different, experiment….play with it.

There is always music in my childcare home.  There are many instruments available for the children to use.  Sometimes there is a CD played quietly in the background – the genre varies greatly.  The children sing, dance and create music freely throughout the day. Some days are really loud and others may not describe it as music.  Sometimes there are impromptu jam sessions and the children try really hard to collaborate and cooperate.  We’ve had a few child initiated episodes of ‘Daycare Idol’ but our musical goals are always the same — be creative and have fun.  Our music is as individual as we are.

Rhythm in the Yard

I am constantly evaluating the learning environment as I observe the children at play.  I make notes of things I’d like to add, remove or modify.  Sometimes I can make the necessary changes easily, other times they take longer.

Bringing elements of music and rhythm to the outdoor play space has been one of my goals.  It started a few years ago when my husband ‘rescued’ two large barrels made of heavy cardboard with a tin base.  We lay these barrels on the deck and the children used them as animal dens, train sheds or other type of shelter that suited their interests.

When not in use these barrels were stored upside down in a sheltered area on the side of the deck to prolong their life.  It was here that it began when one of the children discovered the sound that could be made when they banged on the tin end of the barrel.

Over time the cardboard barrels disintegrated but we kept the end caps – painted them, and attached them to the fence.  Playing these ‘drums’ has been a favourite activity for the children.

Since then I have added some other outdoor sound items like the wind chimes and the windmill which when the wind is right makes a unique sound as it flaps against the cedars.

The children have been busy creating instruments of their own.  With sticks, pails, tubes and more the combinations are as endless as their imaginations.

I was particularly impressed when they experimented with adding various amounts of gravel to this flexible tube and adjusted the placement to achieve an assortment of  different sounds.

One thing is certain – the yard is never quiet.