Saturday, 11 January 2014

Does pitch matter?

A lot of the singing that children are being exposed to is from people who have limited skills. 

What interests me most is looking at the potential long-term impacts of the education of young children and how we are setting them up for their futures in education and in life. For a long time I've been wondering about the impact of children's limited exposure to singing and particularly to skilled and on-pitch singing. I understand the emotional benefits of engaging with singing and music in any situation and from people of any level of ability, but what about the impacts on cognition and auditory perception? Could lack of exposure to skilled singing affect academic and language ability, and the ability to reach a high level of skill in playing musical instruments?

My parents didn't pull out all the stops to try to turn us into geniuses, but I remember my mum singing to us a lot - on pitch. I remember listening to lots and lots of nursery rhymes, lots of Slim Dusty (my mum won't want to take the credit for that, better credit my dad for that one) and songs from musical soundtracks. I heard hymns every week at church from (even before) birth. Unfortunately I don't have perfect pitch, but my sisters and I were all enthusiastic musical instrument learners and picked them up relatively easily. We can all sing on pitch. I had ten years of piano lessons and three amazing singing teachers, and I believe this has affected my ability to hear and reproduce sounds fairly accurately including pronunciations, accents and languages other than English. Academically I believe I'm doing okay.

I'm not sure how central music is to the lives of the current generation of young children. I only know about the children that I spend time with. Some spend a lot of their time in childcare and have to fit in time at home for TV, ipads etc. so probably music and singing has taken a back foot. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that their parents belong to a generation (my generation mostly) whose parents didn't provide them with this exposure. They therefore lack the skills and confidence in this area, and possibly don't place enough value on these skills.

I'm concerned that most of the exposure that these children have to singing is coming from well-intentioned early childhood educators who unfortunately can't sing on pitch, and sing at a pitch that is far too low for young children's immature voices. Do we need to have skilled professionals come in and do quality music programs? Studies have shown that having sung and been sung to as young children has the potential to improve children's abilities in maths, spatial skills, science and reading comprehension. Let's add auditory discrimination and its effects on pronunciation and sound reproduction, and the understanding of musical concepts in preparation for learning musical instruments. I think it's worth a thought.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think early childhood educators should be expected to be great singers (though I'm sure that would be a bonus). I think just putting on music recordings for the kids to listen and sing along to would be sufficient to develop their auditory perception. Though if there were childcare centres that did offer an early music program, that would be a good option too. :)