I have been working on a challenging piece with my son and surprisingly, he is doing most of the working (there is a prize after this one). We spent most of our time working on the notes in the song arranged from low pitch to high pitch so that he would become acquainted with the way the song was built. This was his first foray into scales. We learned a fragment of a scale and by the time we sat down the second day, he could play it well. The first part of the song had most of the scale that we had practiced while the end of the first musical idea had the same scale in reverse. Instead of going over each note for him to piece it together, I told him where the scale reversed course (started moving from high pitch to low pitch). This little instruction was clear enough. He knew the scale from low pitch to high pitch so well that he simply manipulated the group of notes to reverse and was able to not only play the difficult phrase but at some level now understands how the phrase was built and he has correlated the musical change to a physical movement.

In addition to working on songs with your child one note at a time, find fragments that are three or four notes long and play them until they are clear, fluid, and beautiful. What is the composer trying to communicate through these notes? Have your child manipulate the different notes in the fragment by changing the volume on certain notes, by omitting certain notes, by repeating certain notes to ultimately experience experimentation, etc… After each reconstruction or deconstruction, ask your child whether or not he/she likes what they’ve done. Your child’s understanding of the musical content will increase dramatically, awareness of likes and dislikes will become more focused, and musical memory will improve.