Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Music in the home...

"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!"

"Sing to Him a new song, play skillfully with a shout of joy."

"Let them sing for joy on their beds."

Music has always been an integral part of our family life. Chickens aren't known for their beautiful singing voices, but they still have their own sweet clucking sounds that bring communicate perfectly to their chicks. Children naturally love to sing and love being sung to, even if Mother is a bit off-key. I brought my chicks up singing nursery rhymes, Jesus Loves Me, and Shortnin' Bread, and together we've learned a lot about music. Mainly, we've learned to love all kinds of music. We've learned bits of music history, spent time listening to a few of the great composers, and we learned to play simple instruments as we sang our favorite songs together. By no means have we become music connoisseurs, but we have enjoyed it in our own simple ways.


In our home, we have sung everything from old folk songs, patriotic songs and songs in round, to cowboy songs and hymns. I usually played guitar to accompany the children, but we also sang a capella (no instruments) and we sang with tape and CD recordings. We especially liked the Lester Family tapes of a capella music in rounds, cannons and hymns. As the kids became piano players, they took turns accompanying our sining sessions. Below are a few samples of the genres of music we sang together.


Shortnin' Bread - Skip to My Lou - Git Along Little Dogies - Dinah - Oh Susanna! -

Camptown Races - Wait for the Wagon - Down in the Valley - Erie Canal


Yankee Doodle - You're a Grand Old Flag - When Johnny Comes Marching Home - Dixie Land - Battle Hymn of the Republic - America the Beautiful - Battle Cry of Freedom


Row Row Row Your Boat - Are You Sleeping/Fr-ere Jacques - Canoe Song - Horsie, Horsie! - Upward Trail - The Merry Lark


This is My Father's World - Fairest Lord Jesus - Great is Thy Faithfulness - Doxology -

A Mighty Fortress is Our God - What a Friend We Have in Jesus


Although these are classified as Christmas songs, they were often sung at any time of the year in our home because they were favorites.

Jingle Bells - Silent Night - The Holly and the Ivy - Hark! The Herald Angels Sing! - I Heard the Bells - Up On the Housetop - Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer - Away in a Manger


One of the best sources I found for these old timey songs are the old school music books, circa 1950-70. Often you will find them on the discard table at your public library or at public school book sales. You may also find them on for rare and out of print books. The book I used for years is called Together We Sing by Irving Wolfe and is considered an "all grades edition". Mine was published in 1952. I found it at a country school which was closing down. It's truly a treasure that I will use with my grandchildren one day.

Another good source is church hymnals. I have three old hymnals which I love to sing from.

I have found a few Golden Book song books. We have a very good Christmas songbook which works nicely for caroling. Another book is called the Reader's Digest Family Songbook of Faith and Joy . It includes simple piano accompaniment for favorite hymns, spirituals, cradle songs, folk songs patriotic song. It's out of print now, but still available if you look for it. You can always check your mother's or grandmother's piano bench for a copy.


We've been known to use a variety of instruments during our family singing which most folks have around their house.

Spoons: two held between thumb, index finger and middle finger. Clap against the other hand or the leg while sitting.

Wooden Spoons: one in each hand and hitting together to the beat of the music.

Pan Lids: either clanging together as a cymbals or one lid played with a wooden spoon tapping to the beat of the music.

Sandpaper Blocks: two wooden blocks with rough sandpaper stapled to edges and rubbing together to the beat or on the off beat.

Drinking Glasses: filled with water to different heights, they make a nice ringing sound when gently tapped with a utensil or wooden spoon handle.

Cheeks: mouth opened, tightened cheeks and tapping gently with the hands. Open and close mouth to make different pitches of sound.

Lips and Teeth: practice whistling a tune through the lips or teeth.

Hands: practice clapping to different beats and times (4/4 and 3/4), snapping of fingers.

Voice: singing or making your joyful noise!


We enjoy listening to a good variety of music in our home. We like anything from classical to country-western, folk songs to 50's and jazz to pop. If it's good music, we'll listen. I did not grow up listening to classical music and so I learned to appreciate it while teaching my children, as I did with many other subjects along the way. It is amazing how easily a child (or a mom) can pick up on a particular composer's music as they casually listen to CDs throughout the day. I did not demand deep study into the lives of the composers or their styles, but chose to gently expose the kids to the great composers by simply playing them in our home. Soon the children found their favorites and even asked for one by name. "Mother, please play Brahms at Bedtime while we fall asleep," was a common request. Classical Kids has some nice CDs for younger children. They include a sampling of the chosen composer's classical music along with an adventure story about the composer. We listened to these over and over again. You can purchase a whole collection or individual CDs about the composers. Sometimes the public library carries these in their audio section. Our favorites were: Mr. Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Mr. Bach Comes to Call, and Tchaikovsky Discovers America.

We have studied composers at various times and tried to learn a few of the most interesting things about them. One book we found quite amusing is called Bach, Beethoven and the Boys by David W. Barber. It is a trivia book, of sorts, showing the great composers as "real people," relating some funny or odd things that they did or unusual events that happened to them. Barber has written some other books on the opera and baroque music. Check for these books at your library. As I recall, you may want to preread the chapters first before reading them aloud to your children.

I have learned to see the importance of giving my children the knowledge of all styles of music, always looking for the best in each genre. We live in the Mid-west where country-western music is popular. We do enjoy it, but realize that it isn't all good. I enjoy some of the "oldies" and the children have learned to like them too. In fact, three of our younger boys worked at a golf course where all that was played in the club house was Classic Country-Western, so Johnny Cash became a favorite of theirs that summer. It was funny to hear them rattle off names like Patsy Cline, Hank Williams and Tammy Wynette. There will always be pop music and so we try to find the best artists to listen to. Do you remember when the Beatles were considered a long haired fringe rock band? Nowadays they are considered "classic rock" and hold their place in our music collection. I enjoy folk music and some blue grass with fiddle, dulcimer, guitar, banjo, and bass so the children were exposed to this style just because I played it and listen to it myself. In my mind, being exposed to a smorgasbord of music builds an appreciation and ear for music.


Some of our children have taken formal music lessons from trained instructors. Four of five children took piano and two still play as adults. One of them wished to learn guitar and I taught him the basics of what I knew and then he searched for an online program and learned far more finger picking than I could do. We found a neat way of taking music lessons at home. We purchased cassettes and CDs from Homespun Music Instruction and have found them to be invaluable. The student can listen to lessons over and over again and take his lessons at any time and learn at his own pace. The cost is very reasonable, especially when compared to weekly lessons from an instructor. These music instruction CDs and DVDs are made by the best instructors in their fields and they are guaranteed! How can you beat that?

As the children have grown into adults, I find it interesting to notice their tastes in music. My daughter and her husband walked out in procession from their wedding to Tchiavkowsky's 1812 Overture. This same daughter called me the other day to say she was listening to favorite childhood classical CD that we always listened to at home. My sons have told me that they prefer singing hymns over contemporary Christian music because the lyrics are so rich and thoughtful. I'm just grateful that they have had such a diverse and deliberate music experience growing up in our home.

He who sings scares away his woes. ~Cervantes

1 comment:

ellen b. said...

Blessings on your new blog! Love the header!!