Raising musical kids

I’ve got a six year old son and a four year old daughter.

Time for music education.

Yeeks – that sounds dull! Just by thinking about the words “music education” I’m already having visions of crotchets on blackboards, and deadly dull narrations by Ustinov of “Peter and the Wolf” running through my head and killing my brain cells in primary school already…aughhhh!

Mummy! Save me!

Seriously though, a lot of people would start with boring the pants off the kids by dumping lots of symphonies and opera at them, and hoping some of it sticks.

Or they throw “Peter and the Wolf” at their long-suffering kids, and somehow expect that it won’t bore their kids half as much as it bored them.

Because they really wanted to listen to screeching violins, twittery flutes, and six hours of Wagner – or a boring old fat guy talking about musical ducks – when they were at school too.

Teaching kids to love, enjoy and relishhhhhh music!

What I’ve done, instead, is put together playlists of what I consider to be great mixes of the best of popular music from across nearly a century of popular music.

We sing along, dance along, head bang along, air guitar along, and generally groove. And we’re embarrassing, and we have heaps of fun.

And the music sticks! And they ask for more!

I don’t bother with the classical stuff much at all. I reckon that the first step to success in education is getting kids interested, and loving the subject – whether it is music, english, maths or medieval basket weaving.

Then you worry about whether what you’re introducing is “culturally approved”, once the kids are suckered in and in love with the subject area.

And I think that kids deal better with shorter songs that tell a definite story, have melodic themes that are easy to identify, and have a solid beat that is fun to groove to. I hope that doesn’t make me a heretic.

So what’s on the listening list?

My kids are listening to:

  • The B-52s: Rock Lobster, Love Shack and Roam
  • Lady Gaga: Born This Way, The Edge of Glory and Bad Romance
  • The Beatles: Revolution, Octopuses Garden and Here Comes the Sun
  • The Beach Boys: Wouldn’t it be Nice and Do it Again
  • The Monkees: Daydream Believer
  • The Cure:The Lovecats


    The ultimate sing-a-long dance track for 80s leftovers – The Lovecats! (and my kids love it!)

  • Green Day: American Idiot
  • The Hollies: He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother
  • John Lennon: Imagine and Happy Christmas
  • Madonna: Like a Prayer and Express Yourself
  • The Mammas and the Papas: California Dreaming
  • Midnight Oil: King of the Mountain
  • Rolling Stones: Start Me Up
  • Prince: 7
  • Hair soundtrack: Good morning, Starshine
  • The Verve: Bittersweet Symphony
  • Hunters and Collectors: Throw your arms around me
  • Goanna: Solid Rock
  • Elvis: Jailhouse Rock and A Big Hunk O’ Love, plus A Little Less Conversation (JXL Radio Edit Remix)
  • Three Dog Night: Joy to the World
  • Genghis Khan: Moscow
  • Martha and the Muffins: Echo Beach
  • Cristina Aguilera, L’il Kim, Mya and Pink: Lady Marmalade
  • Pink: Feel Good Time
  • Icehouse: Electric Blue


    OMG – it’s Iva Davies! That mullet! Be still my heart!

  • M C Hammer: U Can’t Touch This
  • Adele: Rolling in the Deep
  • Katy Perry: Last Friday Night (TGIF)
  • The Tokens: The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Great music doesn’t date. Ever. I just let my kids listen to stuff I like listening to, and make sure I update the list with some good stuff regularly.

I’d call most of the stuff above “easy listening”. It’s approachable, the kids can hear the lyrics easily enough, and most of the songs have a definite theme I can discuss with them.

Naturally, I’ve put in some fun stuff that is just plain embarrassing, but that the kids love anyway. “Moscow” fits in this category, as does “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.

And if you’re not ashamed to howl out the songs in the car with your kids, its a huge amount of fun.

The mix list also includes some classics from bands and artists that pretty much belong in the “must have” sack of music. Like, you have to listen to Elvis and John Lennon! πŸ˜‰

So – if you have kids, what are yours listening to?

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7 thoughts on “Raising musical kids

  1. My four year old daughter really loves OCMS’s Wagon Wheel (chorus is written by Bob Dylan) and Xavier Rudd’s Time to Smile. I totally agree with just enjoying music with them.

  2. Hi ClaireEmily – I agree. There’s some really excellent music around, and these days, with online purchase, you don’t have to buy a whole CD, which makes everything a lot easier and cheaper too.

    I like to let my kids listen to a song on Youtube a couple of times first, and then, if they realy love it, we buy it and add it to our collection. And I’m amazed at what excellent taste they have! πŸ™‚

  3. I’m officially a fan. My daughter is three and my son is one. I know I’m “supposed” to overflow them with children’s tunes about spiders, stars, and animals….. and they do *sigh* get them because they are fun–for them. But I LOVE real music, good music. My daughter KNOWS the Beatles (she will even ask for them–I sing Golden Slumbers and While my Guitar Gently Weeps as her nighttime music). We also enjoy some good headbanging to classic Nirvana. We are all about some Led Zeppelin air guitar too! We rock out to Journey & Queen, chill with Jack Johnson, and dance around singing musical theater all day long (I stay home with them). My daughter already sees me playing the guitar and violin and she requests music time frequently. If she wants to listen, sing, or dance…. it’s all education and good fun!!

  4. Hi Tiffany – Have you tried your kids with my four year old daughter’s favourite song – “We Will Rock You” – by Queen?

    She loves it, plays it on the CD player (which she’s known how to work for a couple of years) incessantly, and does the knee / hand clap combo while she sings. So cute!

    Give them the good stuff, and they’ll NEVER request “Play School’s Greatest Hits”, I reckon!

    1. Haha, funny you should mention that! My most awesome brother thought it would be hilarious to give my daughter a full children’s drum set for Christmas this past year. (I don’t think he expected me to be so excited about it) Having only played the violin and guitar, I was at a loss on how to “teach” this instrument.
      All I could do was “We Will Rock You” She loves that song now!

  5. Surprisingly for an old goth married to an ex-punk/skater, we seem to have raised a sprog that loves classical and country πŸ™‚ He’s also a fan of the Beatles, dub and Crazy Frog. I’m going to play him Lovecats tonight and see how that goes…

    Leanne, you mentioned in a previous blog post (which I can’t find now) some composing software that your kids were using – what was its name again? We’ve discovered that D has a real ear for picking out the right notes on his keyboard and I’d love to let him loose with something like that, and his dad would probably like to have a go as well!

  6. Hi Lhizz – The software I use is really easy – it’s Sibelius First, and there’s a free demo from Avid (the people who make it) at http://www.sibelius.com/products/sibelius_first/index.html I think I paid about $180 to buy it, which is comparable to those games machines thingies, where all your kid will learn is how to blow people up!

    Another great alternative is Noteworthy Composer, which is what I used to use. It has a free version that is excellent: http://www.noteworthysoftware.com/ and the licensed version is US$49. The downside is Noteworthy doesn’t have a Mac version, which is why I moved to Sibelius years ago, when I bought my Mac.

    I’m sure there are other products out there, but these are both easy products to use. I’m pretty sure LilyPond is also free, but from memory I don’t think it is kid-friendly: http://lilypond.org/ whereas the other two programs you can literally plonk notes in and play them back right away.

    Apart from that, all I can say is – get them an instrument! And get lessons! You can buy a student guitar at Beggs for about $120, and they come on special, and there are heaps of Uni students who advertise as teachers – ask around. Or piano is an excellent instrument to learn if you have access to one. Or even a recorder πŸ™‚

    All I can say is I wish I’d had the opportunity to learn. I started violin when I was about 7, but when I changed schools a few months later my parents didn’t want me to continue – I suppose hearing someone learning violin is a bit rough! But one of the best gifts we can give our kids is music.

    I hope this is useful.

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