Jan
05
2011

  Uh-Oh, I've Opened A Can of Worms

So I watched the DVD for parents that came with the music class. This stuff is so egghead, it's incredible. The PhDs who came up with this program seem to have this whole childhood music development thing figured out from soup to nuts. But a big part of it is that the parents must sing and dance with enthusiasm if they want their kids to sing and dance with enthusiasm. After I read the book and watched the DVD I felt a bit weighed down by all the academia-ness of it, but dutifully popped the CD into the car player before we went out yesterday.

Fortunately, I'm pretty happy with the songs. They've got familiar songs (Pop Goes the Weasel, etc), but plenty of songs I never heard of. The CD is well-paced-- a peppy songs follows a slower song, they've got a few tonal exercises and rhythm exercises thrown in among the songs, and they've included music from around the world. They had some songs with interesting rhythms and time signatures; Terry and I noted that we don't remember being really exposed to that sort of thing regularly until the 1980s (beyond our toddler years, to say the least). And I like that all the melodies are in a reasonably limited range. Since parents are supposed to sing along, I guess the professors who came up with this were smart enough to choose songs that all parents can reasonably sing without warming up to hit any high or low notes (for example, I suspect that "Silent Night" would not be in the holiday semester but "Jingle Bells" could be, strictly based on the vocal range required to sing it). So the songs are both fun and easy to sing. And on the CD they have men, women, and children singing, and some songs have simple harmonies, so if T and I each practice the parts for our respective genders in theory we'll be able to sing in harmony. That'll liven up the car trips.

Anyway, there is also a songbook with all the songs, so I dug out my recorder so I could play the melody through before I sang them to W today. First of all, W liked this new instrument that I pulled out. I've got a nice hand-carved wooden recorder, but next time I'm out I'll pick up a plastic one so he can play his own. With mine, he was sticking the ivory mouthpiece way into his mouth and I just know his little teeth were going into the wood underneath, and he was very resistant to me showing him that he could still make a whistle sound by barely touching the thing to his lips. With a plastic recorder, he can bite the heck out of it and it will be no more the worse for wear (unlike my more delicate instrument).

There was one song about cars. The picture in the songbook had both a real car, a toy car, and a toy truck. Plus everyone with their hands raised as if holding a steering wheel. I'd get through all six verses of that song, and W would just give me a crazed look and sign, "More! More!". Oh boy. After a few repetitions of the song, I switched over to "the wheels on the bus" which is not in our curriculum, but W wanted a vehicle theme more than he wanted to go through the songbook (although he was intrigued that I played a different song every time he turned the page, he seemed to like that). W actually started getting helpful when I was running out of aspects of the bus to sing about-- to keep me going he'd do a hand gesture of the verse he wanted to hear next. Windshield wipers was his favorite.

And although I wasn't dancing while I was singing and playing for him, I was doing the hand motions and stuff. And when we were downstairs before dinner tonight, he requested to watch a dance video. We've got three Sesame Street dance videos, we've only been through two of them so far. Mostly W just stares at the screen, but when Bert was doing his pigeon dance, W actually started to dance, too. I think it would be a stretch to say that W was doing the dance along with Bert, since what looked easy for the muppet seemed like it would be difficult to pull off in real life. But W was definitely doing some kind of pigeon dance.

So maybe it doesn't take much of this music "immersion" stuff to show results. It's not like W hasn't had his share of music even without this class. When one of the songbook pages had a drum kit I asked W to show me the snare drum, then the bass drum, then the high hat, then the ride, then the cymbal. Honestly, I'm not sure of all the different cymbal configurations myself, I just know what they are called, but T was looking over our shoulder and confirmed that W got all the parts of the drum kit correct.

So first, I'll get him a recorder, mostly to keep him from grabbing mine out of my hand. As much as I want to see him with a tiny little guitar (music stores do sell them), I concede he lacks the coordination to do much with it, so we'll hold off and continue to let him pluck the strings of our full-size guitars. But he will probably be ready for his own drum kit by the time his birthday rolls around. T says W's main impediment to playing the full size kit is not so much lack of coordination, but inability to reach all the drums and cymbals, and of course the bass pedal is out of reach. A baby kit will solve all those problems, and W will be able to play on his own without someone holding him on the drum throne. With the big kit, T's got to hold him on so he doesn't completely fall off when he leans way over to play the drums on the sides.

I think T and I are less interested in having W live out our unfulfilled rock and roll fantasies, than in getting W up to speed enough to join our little family band. We used to jam a bit during the day when he was a tiny baby and captive audience. But now T and I have to wait until he's asleep to play music together. I don't even play guitar much anymore, I mostly stick to singing or sometimes I'll play the congas. But if we can get W to the point where he thinks it is fun to play the drums, T and I can work with that. Without W running loose and turning the amps on and off and yanking the cords out of everything, we can get back to T on guitar and me on bass. And with W on drums, we won't need to fuss with the drum machine. Or maybe we still will, for awhile, until W learns to keep a beat. The music together professors say that milestone is usually met by age three or four when kids have a lot of music exposure. So let's say one year of simultaneous baby-drummer playing along with the drum machine, then it'll all be on W to keep the beat.