Age Appropriate Music

I was talking with a mom before class about her infant’s enjoyment of our music. Specifically, her nine-week old starts kicking and bouncing when the Music Together® music comes on the air. (“Alexa, play Music Together”). Which is what we expect. Children are ready to respond to music from birth. Mom went on to mention that she’s tried playing some of Mommy’s favorite music (in this case Ke$ha) and her child was not for it. Fussing and cranky. Sigh, back to the Fiddle collection (which is okay, she adds, she and her husband both enjoy it too).

Giving your child a variety of musical experiences is a Good Thing. Just as there are many styles of picture books to engage your child’s visual sense, there are a lot of song/music styles that will engage your child’s aural sense. Not all music recordings are created equal. Even if you play recorded pop music at a moderate volume—which is the volume you should never exceed for all music and movies where a young person with fragile and still-developing inner-ears is in the room—contemporary pop music is designed to “seem” loud, to assault the listener. Which is a Good Thing, if the listener is a teenager or adult. We like that sensory bombardment and we know how to work a volume control to make it feel just right. Most music recordings expect adult ears to be attached their listeners. Putting sassy pop music within earshot of a child is akin to serving a child a bowl of five-alarm chile con carne. Too spicy! In addition, hot-and-spicy music often lacks “dynamics”—changes between loud and quiet parts—and instead transmits a steady level of sound, which is purposeful and often pleasing to grown-ups, especially in a dance environment. Children, however, discover and engage with music by taking a lot of their “cues” from dynamic changes in each song, as well as between songs. Without dynamics, the music loses stimuli that engages a young child. Image how difficult it would be to get your child to listen to you if you talked without any inflection (the dynamics of speech), with just a monotone “robot” voice!

Of course, the Music Together music has dynamic changes and is not packaged as a hot-and-spicy club mix. It’s a balance of sophisticated arrangements with simple musical ideas that have some merits to offer to Everybody in your family. So that you and your child and other adults and kids will listen to and enjoy the music together.

I urge you to experiment—think outside the box, leave your comfort zone, etc.—and try out some new recorded musical styles and gauge the responses of the listeners: your child, your spouse, yourself! Do you all bounce and smile to it? Or do one or two or three of you scrunch up your nose to it? (Hint: the music that makes you all bounce and smile is going to work better in your house.) You can find plenty of recorded music that your whole family can enjoy (um, assuming your child lets you even try to switch out the Music Together song list, haha!). There are LOTS of pieces of music out there in the world that are NOT hot-and-spicy, and it is easier than ever to bring LOTS of it into your home.