Drumming comes naturally to children. They are drawn to sound and rhythm as a natural and immediate means of expression. Often a baby's first toy is a rattle, and sonic exploration is an important part of development. This inborn connection to sound and vibration is mostly drowned out by our culture, and often as a child matures, she loses that powerful connection to her own rhythmic spirit. Drumming nurtures a love of rhythm and music. It encourages the development of the whole child, enhancing a range of social, physical and cognitive skills.
My lessons with younger children are somewhat different than lessons with adults and teens. Concepts are presented in the form of games and play - an approach strongly influenced by Orff Schulwerk. I often begin with simple vocalizations and body percussion, adding instruments and sticks as basic skills are mastered. We spend time listening to music, developing the ear and describing various aspects of form, tempo and feel. I always encourage creativity and improvisation and try to incorporate as much movement as possible. My goal is to help children think about and express themselves through music, hopefully providing a powerful outlet for expression.
What age is appropriate to start fostering rhythmic understanding? Below is a link to a fascinating article on beat induction. The research indicates that newborn infants as young as three days old are able to detect the beat in music! That said, the drum set presents certain physical hurdles that can be troublesome for children younger than five or six. You might consider Orff-based group lessons for younger children. The variety and social interaction in this type of work can be enticing.
Music lessons are known to improve a child’s performance in school. Studies show that preschoolers who received regular music lessons for several months showed marked advantages compared to their playmates who did not. These children dramatically improved their ability to work mazes, copy patterns of color, and draw geometric figures. These skills reflect spatial intelligence, the foundation for more complex types of reasoning, like those used in math and science.
Studies with children in grades K - 6 link early musical exposure to superior motor skills and even improved social abilities. Hands-on participation in music between the ages of three and ten seems to train the brain for higher thinking and social interaction.
Music stimulates every area of the developing brain. The U.S. Department of Education reports that learning to read and interpret music enhances a student’s abilities in reading, listening, analyzing, anticipating, forecasting, concentration and recall. Other studies show that high school music students maintain higher grade point averages than non-music students in the same schools, and young musicians perform consistently well on achievement tests, representing the highest SAT scores in all areas.
The fact that DRUMMING IS FUN should not be underestimated. It will capture and hold a child’s interest and satisfy his craving for fun, while providing lessons that extend far beyond the instrument itself.