Let’s learn about musical instruments

Long before your child gets to learn to play musical instrument, he can learn about instruments and have fun with them too. Chances are, your child is already familiar with some of them and, most likely, has some toy musical instruments that he loves to play. Good! Let’s encourage it with variety of fun activities.

Books and CDs.

There are some really good books about instruments. Some come with CDs, while others just tell the story. If the book has no CD, you can still read the story and then “demonstrate” what the instruments mentioned in a book sound and look like. You can find examples on YouTube. Here are some of my favorite books.

  • Peter and the Wolf by S. Prokofiev was specifically written as child’s introduction to orchestra instruments. I love both, the one that comes with CD because it has CD and the one without it because the illustrations give reader a true taste of Russian story. The latest one (without CD) does need to be accompanied by a Prokofiev’s CD.
  • Tubby the Tuba is so much fun! You might remember it from your own childhood if you ever watched the animated film. This book could be used as the beginning of discussion about orchestra and instruments. As children fall in love with Tubby (and I promise you, they will!) and other characters, you might want to show what these instruments look and sound like. And don’t forget to tell about the role of conductor in orchestra!
  • Lemony’s Snicket’s The Composer is Dead might be fun especially if your kid is old enough to enjoy the word play, like composing vs decomposing.
MP3s and CDs.
  • Stories in Music: Peter & The Wolf from Maestro Classics is not just a version of musical story I mentioned above, but also a music lesson with all kinds of fun and educational activities included.
  • Have you ever listened to Beethoven’s Wig CDs? If not, than you are in for a treat: they are hilarious! Though, not exactly, introduction to musical instrument, your child will sure remember what piano sounds like after this one: Beethoven’s Wig: Sing Along Piano Classics. Did I mentioned you and your kid will lough as you listen? And don’t skip the original version of piano pieces. In fact, you can play a game with your child: ask her to to match the the “funny” version to the original one.
Make your own musical instruments.

Make them as simple as two metal pot lids for cymbals or as complicated as cereal box guitar. Here are some instruments I made with my students: the shaker and den-den drum without a handle.

For shaker you can use any container with a lid or a cap (we used a bottles and empty playdough containers). Put in beads, rice, beans, etc. The best part is to decorate them with stickers and colorful duck tape or anything that could be glued or attached to decorate the shaker.

For den-den drum we used 2 bigger size lids connected by a duck tape. Before we connected them, we laid the string over the bottom lid and then covered it with the second (top) lid. We attached big wooden beads on each end of the string. As den-den drum turned up and down, the beads hit it and produce the sound.

Let’s conduct the orchestra!

You can also help your child “practice” playing toy or homemade instruments. Pretend to be a conductor using a pencil as conductor’s baton. Practice to start (baton goes up) and to stop (baton goes down). Practice to play fast and slow, loud and soft. Highlight the new words or the words associated with new skills, like orchestra, baton, loud, soft, fast, and slow. From my experience, children really like to pretend being an orchestra (even if it’s and orchestra of only one musician!)

For creativity classes inspired by classical music check out the following classes. Click on each image to see a short movie.

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