Music a.k.a organised sound is really just an aural manipulable. Children will gleefully use it just as they would crayons and paints to describe anything that captures their imagination.
Musical storytelling allows children to come up with creative ways to describe a scene. All we need to do is to provide the means (a space laid out with an inviting array of sound-makers) and opportunity (‘Can you use music to tell us a story about the captain’s cap?’). An attentive audience also tends to help!
It’s amazing how children will pounce on this musical pretend play. One child may use steady beats on the drum to depict a boat sailing on a calm sea, followed by faster/louder beats to show a threatening thunderstorm. Another child may choose to use single quiet notes on a xylophone to describe little waves and change it to broad sweeps of sound across the xylo blocks (‘strong winds blew the captain’s cap off his head!’)
This is musical creativity at its most basic raw form. Just the simple control and deliberate use of pure musical elements: pitch, pulse, rhythms, timbre, dynamics, tempo. Those with more advanced musical knowledge may opt for little compositions to paint the picture (repeated phrases for falling rain, arpeggios for the rocking of the boat, long rhythm/melody crescendo ending in a chordal crashes for thunder).
The beauty of it is that it will suit a wide range of personalities and ages (ahem…..’grown-up’ kids take note) . The shy kid who won’t utter a word might surprise you by coming out with a very vivid music picture. The boisterous one who won’t sit still might show his capacity for focus by keeping a steady musical pulse.
So the next time you need an engaging , non-messy activity for your kids, have a go at musical storytelling.