Making music matter

Two Christmases ago we got a nice Yamaha keyboard, on which you can record music you play, all different sorts of instrumental and percussion sounds, you know the kind. For the first year it moved about the house looking for a place to land, but since last summer, we created a space off the living room where we have two sets of bongo drums; a basket of maracas, little tambourines and other small instruments; two trumpets (from K’s band years) and now the organ.

It’s always been a source of quiet amusement and understanding that Captain Oblivious prefers the pre-programmed music; you pick the number and it plays the same song every time, exactly the same, black and white, predictable. Ditto Boy’s attention span never lent itself to the organ, well, except for the percussion key that sounds like someone’s vomiting. That’s a favorite. And we’ve found he can bang on a drum for…maybe hours? straight (which lent itself to the Excedrin collection in the bathroom cabinet next door). But Little Miss, once she could tolerate the sound at all, has steadily been experimenting.

At first, she’d only use the basic piano tones, but now she favors marimba and harpsichord. She’s been playing more lately, sometimes just stringing notes together, composing something in her head, apparently.

Several months ago, her dad started printing out basic nursery rhyme songs for her to learn, inscribing the letters on the keys, and she has a repertoire of four or five songs. Today, she listened to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” twice; she experimented by ear once; she asked me how to play it and I picked it out. She watched once and had it. Cold.

So, thrilled she seems to have an affinity, I’m in a quandary. Do I start teaching her piano-lesson style, where she learns notes and “the correct” way to play? My husband and I both had piano lessons, so we could do this. But you know how autistic kids tend to fixate on a certain way things have to be done, and then they evermore must be done the same way? Is it a disservice to give her the program to digest, killing her willingness to experiment? Or do we let her continue to play with the thing, learning by ear or by casual contact, making her own little tunes?

I know music and music training is good for many reasons, including improvement of math performance, improvement of mental functioning after stroke and performance generally. I’d really like to hear from folk who’ve been through this. Formal training, or laissez-faire? What’s the right note?

(See a story that grew out of this post at: Firefox News)

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7 thoughts on “Making music matter

  1. Laissez-faire, please! Nothing can take the joy out of creativity faster than being told there’s a right way and a wrong way. Let her know that there are such things as lessons that she might or might not like (can you sit in on one?) and when she wants to, she can have them. If she liked to draw, would you sign her up for art classes? That’s what my family did. I was the 12 year old in the life drawing class at the Carnegie Museum, drawing a naked, NAKED, man. Talk about being doomed to failure.

  2. You know me; always harping on about music therapy and its importance . . . consider that an answer.

    It is vitally important for the development of a young ear to have some kind of music experience BEFORE the age of 7 or possibly 8 (7’s better).

    Music therapy would be guided, but not restrictive. You make music, here’s a nudge in the right direction, but you don’t have to read THESE notes to make it all happen.

    Also, here’s an idea that you might feel like playing around with as well . . .

    http://www.finalemusic.com/notepad/

    Finale Notepad 2008 (this is the free version of finale–somewhat limited, but not by much). You can compose music on it, but you don’t exactly have to know what you’re doing to make it happen. Ultimately the result is the same; you can HEAR it.

    Besides, I could email you random compositions that I’m working on. 🙂 But that would just be a bonus. 😀

  3. can’t speak from anything other than personal experience. i’ve had both formal musical training (clarinet, 5th grade – high school), but informally trained myself to play guitar and piano (badly, but recognizably, by ear…). the phase above – “guided but not restrictive” may be a reasonable starting place… if you discern a need/interest in something more formal after letting nature proceed, then that option will still be there…

    fascinating to watch, though… some humans are simply wired for it.

  4. Hi there! Thanks for participating in Blogging for Autism Awareness this April. I added your link to the blogroll. Great blog here, adding it to my feed reader. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Energies of Creation » Carnival of Creative Growth #27

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