Mood music

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By Ann Bryantwriter

Listen to classical music to help children tap into their emotions

mood music

When music is playing we’re either tuned into it or unaware of it. Classical music doesn’t have the immediacy of pop music because it sometimes lacks a continuous regular beat, often lacks vocals and is usually much lengthier than pop, which is why children tend to ‘tune out’ of classical music.

When we are tuned into music we respond emotionally to what we hear. This might be a feeling of happiness, elation, tranquillity, melancholy, power, strength, amusement, or a subtler, ‘tingle’ factor. It is this that makes us want to hear that music again. Hearing it more than once makes familiarity kick in, and familiarity breeds enjoyment.

Enjoying music makes us want to hear it again and it is then that we notice more about the piece, which heightens the pleasure, and so the cycle continues. To help children enjoy classical music we need firstly to choose the right piece of music, and secondly to find ways of getting children to want to listen to the piece more than once. After that, familiarity with the piece will generate enjoyment.

When you use classical music make sure you listen to short pieces, ideally under four minutes long. (See ‘Classical music’ box, right, for some ideas.) Listen actively rather than simply sitting still. Children can get the ‘feel’ of a piece of music when they are involved with a complementary activity, such as those detailed here.

ACTIVITIES Ages 7-11

1. Clapping with the music

For this activity you need to check that the piece has a regular beat and that you can count in fours to the music. Sit in a circle and tell the children they are going to pass claps round the circle in the following way. Start with four claps each in time to the most obvious beat. When everyone in the circle has done that continue, without a break, doing two claps each, then just one. If the piece hasn’t finished, go round the circle again with the following repeated sequence of claps: first child: four claps; second child: two claps; third child: two claps.

2. Actions with the music

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