/ July 29, 2022/ Music Games/ 0 comments

In my state (WA), we have 11 required subjects we have to cover as homeschoolers, and music and art appreciation is one of them. Even though I was a violin teacher for several years, my kids have only had a few lessons from me. Instead, we’re focusing on music appreciation, rather than actually learning a musical instrument. I see questions about how to teach music appreciation all the time. I have several resources I enjoy using with my kids:

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Teaching music appreciation by exploring classical music

Fantasia is a great introduction. It has several different pieces that range from telling a specific story, to only vague interpretations of color and mood, but they’re all well-known classical pieces. I remember this movie being a favorite of mine when I was a kid, too. Perhaps my favorite part, though, is in the intermission when they bring out the Sound Track. They introduce several different instruments using the Sound Track, providing a visual interpretation of each sound.

The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, by Britten, is a wonderful continuation. First, the main theme is presented with the entire orchestra playing, then each section (woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussion) plays the melody, finishing with the whole orchestra again. Then individual sections play variations (flutes and piccolos, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, violins, violas, cellos, string bass, harp, french horns, trumpets, trombones and tubas, and percussion), then a fugue adding first woodwinds, strings, then brass, all from highest to lowest. The entire work is capped off with the entire symphony playing the main theme again.

Saint-Saens’ The Carnival of the Animals is a fun demonstration of various instruments’ capabilities, and if you can see it performed live (many symphonies have children’s concerts, and this is a popular selection), then I very much recommend it.

Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev is probably the most famous piece for introducing different instruments, as each character has a different theme played by a different instrument. This is a good video so your kids can get the visual input as well as the auditory.

Prokofiev also wrote a thoroughly charming piece about a made-up Lieutenant Kije. The story goes that a clerical error created a fictional Lieutenant Kije. Rather than admit the error, a whole life was made up for him. Prokofiev’s music goes through Kije’s birth, romance, a sleigh ride, and his death. The music is very colorful and does a great job of illustrating this fictional life.

These selections are a great introduction to the world of classical music. However, there are whole other worlds of music out there, of all sorts of styles. I feel it’s important to introduce a child to a variety. So whether your favorite is rock, country, jazz, or from a different country, introduce your child to as many different genres as you’re able to. Just like we need to introduce our kids to a variety of different types of written word (instructional, nonfiction, fantasy, sci-fi, etc), we need to be introducing our kids to a variety of musics, too. Spotify, Pandora, Amazon music, and your local radio stations are all great ways to step into different musical worlds.

Teaching music appreciation through musical instruments

It can also be a lot of fun to provide different musical instruments for your kids to explore. Many common instruments are readily available locally, from thrift shops, garage sales, or even your local Buy Nothing group. Pianos, guitars, and sometimes other instruments – we once got a French horn that had been used as garden decor!

Toy stores can also be a good source for younger kids. Toy xylophones, pianos, and drums are often functional enough for toddlers and preschoolers. Older kids will quickly get bored with cheap toys, so I recommend investing the time looking for real instruments. Or many music shops provide rentals; you could rent an instrument a month! This would not facilitate any depth of skill, it would allow your kids to explore a wide variety of instruments. Hopefully, they will be able to settle on one or a few they really enjoy. At the very least, they will appreciate the skill required to play them well.

From here, you may consider introducing some music theory or note reading. I particularly enjoy the book series Master Theory, as it covers both treble and bass clefs, and has been used by many different teachers, from voice, clarinet, piano, to violin, it starts out assuming you know nothing, but it’s very affordable, and the six books go farther than my one semester of college theory. It has both instructional sections and worksheet-like sections.

Music Games

There are some fun music games worth exploring, too (of course!). Teaching music through games can be very effective.

Musopoly was a favorite of mine as a kid, and while it took me awhile to track it down, I still think it’s totally worth it. Unfortunately, it does appear to be permanently out of print, but if you can track down a copy, I would. It claims to be cooperative on Alfred Music’s website, but I don’t remember it being at all cooperative, though not as competitive as Monopoly.

Go Composer is very similar to Go Fish. You’re trying to get four of a “kind,” or all four cards about one composer, into your hand so you can put them down together. On each card is a bit about the composer. You can put them in order to read about their life and works.

go composer

Compose Yourself is another out-of-print game that my kids and I enjoy. Although, it’s not so much a game as a tool for composing music. It’s a collection of see-through cards, and on each card is a measure (4/4 time). You can cleverly turn these cards in any direction. The result is a wide variety of different measures to choose from. Instead, you can enter your composition manually into a program like MuseScore, Sibelius, or Finale to hear it played.

In Measure Up, players are creating musical measures using time signatures, notes, and rests. It’s a pretty easy game, but really helps reinforce learning about rhythms.

Measure Up!

Dominotes is like Dominoes, but uses rhythms instead of dots. To play, you add up the beat value for the rhythms and just need to match those beat values. Another simple game to reinforce rhythmic knowledge.

This is an exceptional way to teach music appreciation, and a fantastic way to start a musical education. From here, if your child is inclined, they can choose an instrument to take lessons.

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