What if you knew that there were two musical investments worth your time more than anything else? In my teaching experience I can say that these two skills are without a doubt the most critical elements for musical success.
What are they?
Part 1: Steady Beat
what is steady beat?
When you tap your foot to music or clap your hands at a concert you are demonstrating steady beat. Steady beat is the continuous pulse in music. It never stops and (generally speaking) it stays consistent throughout a song or a piece.
Steady beat is not only found in music, but also in nature and in our bodies themselves. It all starts even before birth with a heartbeat - a continuous pulse that keeps going every moment we are alive.
Why do we need it?
Steady beat is one of the two building blocks of music. (We'll get to the other one later.) When a child can demonstrate steady beat, he or she can go on to engage in the most amazing and simplest of things. She can now play an instrument, dance at a wedding, play jumprope, read a poem, play clapping games, and much more.
Note: Only one of the things mentioned above (play an instrument) has a direct musical connotation. The others - games, poetry, weddings - all have to do with music being in our lives outside of a classroom. Amazing stuff.
what if my child doesn't have it . . . and how do I know?
Here's the thing, friends.
If you have a pulse, you can keep a pulse.
That's all there is to it.
I've had numerous people tell me that they can't keep a beat to save their life - and it's just not true.
Since steady beat is indwelling of being alive, every person lives with and experiences steady beat in his or her body each day. To be living and breathing means to have an internalized steady beat.
Some children are able to demonstrate this quicker than others. This has to do with how much music is listened to at home and how much music is a part of the daily routine. If parents are insecure with their own abilities and seldom clap or dance with their children, the likelihood of the child picking up steady beat intuitively isn't very high. In contrast, families that encourage movement and interaction with music will likely have children who are able to demonstrate steady beat very easily.
Watch your child listening to music. Does she dance or clap along? Depending on her age, that could be a great first step. (Stay tuned for an article on child development and benchmarks for musical skills!)