Emotion Through Music

I have recently travelled from Melbourne to Adelaide  on a road trip with my two little girls, to see family.  So an estimated travel time of 8 hours resulted in a 10 hour trip due to a MacDonald stop and  many toilet breaks.  Stuck in a car for 10 hours with a 5 and 3 year old was an emotional roller coaster for them and for me!

We had the whole range of emotions from tantrums, tears, excitement and laughter.  and for some strange reason the only way to settle my 3 year old is to sing “The Way We Were” by Barbra Striesand which has the power to lull her into a calm sleep.

So this got me thinking about children and their emotions and the part music plays into this.

Music is a wonderful way for children to experience emotions as well as express themselves.  I have used a game where I ask the children to sing a well known nursery rhyme such as Baa Baa Black Sheep.  I then ask them to sing the song again but with a sad voice, happy voice, angry voice….. you get the point.  Children love expressing themselves and often they request different emotions to sing and is a great way to encourage shy children to get involved in a music class.  Some of the suggestions even surprise me such as singing in a nervous voice.

Another  idea to explore an understanding of music is through movement and classical music.  Classical music portrays emotions on a subliminal level which is great for discussing what children hear and feel.

I usually start an exercise by having the children sitting down and ask them to listen to the piece of music I play.  After 30 seconds of listening I ask them do you think this is happy or sad?  I hand out scarves to each child and ask them to move around the room as though they are feeling sad,happy or angry.  Children will stamp their feet, or flitter around like birds and is really quite beautiful to stand back and watch.

This takes some practice to have the children identify with the music and takes a couple of weeks to comprehend what I am teaching.  There have been plenty of occassions where children will be moving around the classroom listening to a piece of music and say “This is scary” or “I feel like a dinosaur.”

An obvious music selection is to play a minor piece of music to represent sad and a Major piece of music to represent happy.

You can try:

3 Gymnopedies- Erik Satie for sad music

Blue Danube – Johann Strauss II for happy music

As a parent I often drive the kiddies around while listening to the radio and the children often talk about whether this is a happy or sad song.  Identifying emotion in music can be an easy and fun game with children and builds their confidence.  Any type of music works such as pop music, country music, etc.

Just the other day I heard my children playing on the piano and they were hitting the bass keys and quizzing whether the piano was crying or laughing, children never cease to amaze me with their creativity.

The benefit of exploring emotions through music, it to identify minor and major scales and develop their musical ear. Secondly it develops their comprehension skills and focus.  Thirdly teaching emotion through music also improves emotional development and insight and assists your child or class to be  well rounded and emotionally intelligent.

I hope you enjoy these ideas and would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences.