Musical Styles & Instruments

Music is such an integral part of each culture across time and place. It has been called the “language of the soul” and for the hearing world, music can communicate beyond spoken words. Music and innate musical ability is prominent enough that developmental psychologist Howard Gardner considers it to be 1 of 9 multiple intelligences outlined in his theory of the unique abilities each individual has at birth.

I look back fondly on my days playing in middle school and high school band – even one semester of university band. Being involved in music for eight years rounded out my educational experience and allowed me to develop wonderful friendships with other music students. Participating in concerts, competition festivals and other events gave me perspective on how to perform publicly and appreciate other performances as a member of the audience.

One of my hopes for my children is to allow them to experience various musical styles and instruments as they are growing up. My husband and I plan to start our children in piano lessons around the time they start kindergarten as a gateway to understanding and appreciating music.

And we recently found a terrific book to expose children to many styles of music and instruments: My Family Plays Music by Judy Cox. The child and narrator of the story shares how each of her family members play a specific genre of music, and the percussion instrument she enjoys playing with them when she listens. My preschooler really likes this story! It also has bright and colorful illustrations. I highly recommend it to parents and teachers.

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Is there anyone in your family who plays music? (Or do you?) Ask that person to play something for your child and perhaps allow them to hold or play the instrument.
  • Play a few of your favorite songs for your child. Dance together or listen to it while you play. Ask what your child thinks of that style of music.
  • Print off and color in the instruments you saw in the book or that most interested your child. Listen to the instrument at this wonderful children’s music site.

For Teachers:

  • Arrange for a staff member or parent to visit your class and play a musical instrument. Remind students of best listening practices (body is still, eyes are watching, mouth is closed, ears are listening).
  • Make copies of musical instrument printables and allow students to choose one that they liked most in the book. Ask volunteers to share which ones they liked best, then listen to each instrument they colored in at this wonderful children’s music site.
  • Set up a percussion instrument learning center. Coordinate with the music teacher in your school or other staff members to borrow items such as mini cymbals, maracas, wood blocks, and more. Add other music books from the school or classroom library for students to peruse.