It’s a beautiful Saturday morning and once again my little three year old is serenading us with her joyous singing. She appears to be singing a combination of several songs at once with lyrics covering everything from knocking on doors and having haircuts to the events of last week (audio example at bottom of post).
It’s not the first time that I’ve made this observation but it’s now clearer than ever; children are natural born songwriters. They don’t need formal training, they don’t need writing skills and they don’t even need to know how to play an instrument. As a matter of fact, they write songs in the same way that most professionals do; they copy most of their ideas from other songs and change enough to make it sound original.
The Magic 7
Songwriting is one of my passions and it is something that more people should take part in. After all, it’s loads of fun!
So how do you take advantage of the fact that children are natural born songwriters? Well I’ve compiled a short list of ideas that you can use to encourage the natural songwriting skills of your child (or yourself if you like!)
1. Space and Time
Life is busy and too cluttered for most of us. We live organised and structured lives that can all too often squeeze out all the opportunity to just sit around, get bored and be driven to use our imagination instead of staring at a screen.
Turn off devices! Turn off the TV! Let your kids absorb the silence and then watch as they create. If the stimulus is not forced in front of them then there is a high chance that they will create their own stimuli. Give it a try!
Monkey hear, monkey do. Or something like that. Kids are brilliant at imitating and copying what they hear and see. They’ll take what they’ve heard and mix it all up. That’s songwriting!
Read books with your child, play them music, learn an instrument with them or just have a bit of a play around with an instrument while they’re with you. They’ll be drawn to it and want to take over.
3. Record it
This has to be my favourite part. Children absolutely love hearing themselves on a recording. It doesn’t have to be video. Just audio will suffice.
If your child has broken out into some impromptu singing, get out your phone and use it to discreetly record your child. Show them once they’ve finished and chances are that they’ll want to hear it again and then go for another round of improvised songwriting.
4. Write it down
Write down what your child has sung and show them what they’ve created or if they’re able, they can write it down themselves. I’d recommend recording their ideas first so that the writing process doesn’t interfere with the creation process. After all, writing is primarily for recording keeping. The creating happens within the mind, not on the paper.
It's good to keep a record of their creations (written or recorded) and look back over them in a few years time. It’s important that they realise that they have natural songwriting abilities. If you don’t have a record of this then they may forget they ever possessed these abilities.
5. Use Technology
As mentioned in step number 3, you can use simple technology to record your child (or yourself) singing. If you want you can take things a step further with these helpful programs.
Finale Notepad – Not quite for young kids but if you want to mess around with notes on a stave then this is a great way to do just that. The software is free and is an excellent stepping stone to some much more powerful (and expensive) notation systems.
You can also check out some these music games in a previous post. Most of these games have elements of song writing/composing.
6. Learn an Instrument
You don’t have to be good. You just have to try. The mere fact that you are trying will spark the interest of your child and you’ll find it hard to get some practice without them wanting to join in. It can be slightly annoying but relish the moment! One day it will pass.
7. Learn some chords
Having some basic skills on guitar or piano can work wonders for songwriting. Most pop songs only use three chords so if you can master the chords C, F and G on piano or D, G and A on guitar, then you’ll popping out songs in no time. If you need help figuring out how to play chords then you can easily find some instructional videos on Youtube.
With these 7 helpful hints I’m hoping to see a surge in tiny little songwriters in the not too distant future. It's time to get song writing!
Let us know if you have a little song writer at home. What creations does your child come up with?
Here's a little audio sample of the beautiful creations of my 3 year old.
Fun Stuff for Kids (The Blog) is all about providing parents, teachers and child carers with helpful hints, educational articles and fun ideas that children will love.
David Thurlow is an educator, entertainer, musician, husband, father and casual blogger