Listen Purposefully, Avoid Tuning OUT

We are surrounded by sounds, but how well are we listening to them?   Is there too much so that we “tune out” the sounds, ignoring it like “musak”.   Or can we hear the violins play the melody, and the horns play the ominous chords that helps us feel the building tension in an orchestral piece about a thunderstorm?  Can our children recognize the difference between different types of drums?  We are either training our brain to listen purposefully, or we are training it to “tune out”.

There are so many sounds in our busy world these days that we learn to “tune out” most of the ones that aren’t directly effecting us at the time.  The interplay between our brain and hearing mechanisms that allow us to block out certain sounds is a wonderful ability that our ear has, and is not something that can be duplicated with technology.  Ask anyone with a hearing aid how they miss the ability to choose to focus on one sound, instead of hearing everything at the same level.    This is truly an asset when we are trying to focus on something. 

Yet, if our brain makes it a habit to ignore the background sounds, it lessens our ability to be fully aware of our environment.  That is why it is important that we limit the continuous background sounds in our environment, such as the TV, or even music if played all the time.   I knew a fabulous mom whose 2 girls were involved in Suzuki violin lessons.  As part of the methods for training the ear to hear the right sounds, it is important to listen to this music regularly.  In her zeal, she had this music playing in the background of their room all day and all night… for months.  This is sensory overload, and the brain simply cannot process continuously like that.  She appreciated this new perspective, and chose times to play it that the girls would be receptive to this auditory stimulation; as they were getting ready in the morning, before practicing the violin, and while relaxing before bed.

Families can consider and CHOOSE times that will work best for music to be played in their home, or even in their car.    Play SONGS at a time when you and your child can interact with fun activities, even if singing along and talking about the music in the car.    Play instrumental music while they are coloring or doing some artwork.  OR play soothing music as a child is going to sleep.  Just don’t have sound going on all the time.  The brain needs a break so it can listen with refreshed awareness when it does get a chance.

In order to develop our ability to “tune out” the irrelevant sounds, and to focus on the important sounds, we must PRACTICE active listening.  This means engaging our brain in the active decision to reduce our own sounds and pay attention to the details of specific sounds that we hear.  In class, I suggest rubbing the ear lobes before an active listening opportunity.  This helps stimulate MANY neural connections that help us pay attention and listen.  With practice, a child, when told to listen carefully, will start to rub their earlobes and close their mouth – waiting for the sound.    Music is a wonderful venue for learning to listen with purpose.  There are many things we can listen for: 

  • We can focus on each instrument separately to hear their particular “voice”. 
  • We can try to listen to the words to determine what the song is about, or to learn the words. 
  • We can listen to hear if the music seems happy, soothing, or sad. 
  • We can listen to sounds of real creatures or objects and try to imitate the sounds. 
  • We can listen to patterns in music, anticipating, and making sounds or actions at the right place in the music.  Ex,  If your Happy and you Know It  (clap, clap)  This is the beginning of ensemble development – playing instruments with others.

Practicing active listening provides lifelong benefits. It’s necessary for following directions at home and at school. Preschoolers are developing the ability to notice subtle differences of sound, such as listening to many different styles of drums, and naming that style of drum- something he wasn’t ready to do as a toddler.   

In our Imagine That class this week, and at our Studio Free Play on Saturday, the students were able to feel and hear the sounds of a variety of REAL drums, such as a djembe (African drum), a Native American Pow Wow Drum, and even a SNARE Drum.  They got to feel the curled wires underneath the snare drum.  They made an “ooooh” sound near it, and heard the buzz, and they played with drumsticks on the top. 

This hands-on experience was delightful for all, but even more than that, it has laid a concrete foundation for them to start really HEARING the different timbres of drums.

HOME ACTIVITY with the DRUM !!!

During some of our movement activities, we are practicing active listening as we listen to how the drum is being played, and try to determine HOW it is telling us to move.  For example, the drum is played with a nice steady beat for “walking”, or a fast steady beat for “running”.   The students listen, and determine HOW to move.

After much practice, they are quite the experts at listening to the sound, and they are READY to use their creative thinking to figure out HOW to make the drum sound like we want others to move. Start with “walk” vs “run”: then explore tiptoe, march, slide, spin. We will continue to explore this in class next week.

So this week, take time together to “put on your listening ears” and discover all the wonderful sounds around you. 

What do you now HEAR that you didn’t really recognize before?  How will you “train your brain”?

Benefits of Beats for Babies and Beyond

Why do I need to spend time with my child focusing on Steady Beat?  There’s an old adage, “With age comes wisdom”.  And then there’s the comedy trailer, “… and sometimes age comes all by itself.”    The same is true for steady beat. 

Most people don’t understand its importance:  in an international study by the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, the majority of 2,000 teachers and 5,000 parents indicated steady beat was only of moderate importance, and that no teaching was necessary for it to occur.  (Weikert, 1999)

BUT, a steady beat does not develop along with the ability to walk.  Just because we have a steady heartbeat does not mean everyone can match the beat of recorded music.  There are plenty of adults who don’t have this ability.  How many of you KNOW someone with “two left feet”?   It doesn’t mean they can’t learn it.  It just means they haven’t…  yet.     

Steady Beat, at any age, must be experienced fully.   And “developing a sufficient level of competence requires support from knowledgeable adults and plenty of opportunities for active engagement in targeted learning experiences.”  (Weikert, 2003)   In other words, get with someone who knows what they are doing, who can provide a wide variety of activities that can help that skill develop.

If this worries you as a parent (if you feel you have two left feet), be comforted.  For one – please realize that parents do not have to dance with a perfect beat, or sing with a perfect pitch.  Your joyful musical interactions with your child are beneficial across so many developmental realms – the musical benefit is just one of them.  Just KEEP making music with your child, even if you can’t “carry a tune in a bucket”, or you avoid skipping rope like it’s a snake!

In Kindermusik, a licensed educator facilitates the class, providing the “knowledgeable adult” who will help both you and your child to experience and develop this skill.  Even in class, we offer a variety of options, allowing each individual to find their own “best way” for beat development.   It’s never too late to learn !

So WHY is it so important to teach it to my child NOW?

Like learning a language, steady beat, rhythms and pitch of music are best learned through immersion at a young age.  As we talk, sing, and interact with our children throughout the day, they are naturally learning and using the same skills that are somewhat more difficult to learn later in life.   With each repeated steady beat activity in childhood, the early neural networks are laying a solid foundation upon which MUCH MORE information will be connected.   As the child is developing the concepts and skills, the benefits start working right away !

The consequence of insufficient steady beat experiences in early years can result in poor physical coordination, halting speech (in some cases, stuttering), and even weakness in thought flow. 

 So, really, how important is  steady beat competency?

Of course, there is the fact that a good steady beat is required for any musician to play an instrument effectively, as a soloist, or as part of a larger group of musicians;  and the sooner they learn it, the better.   Formal music instructors on any instrument, including the voice, can guide the child’s progress so much more effectively if the student has already have mastered steady beat.  Just ask a music educator.  You will get an earful.

But if someone is not planning to become a musician, how much does it really matter? 

Steady beat is an organizer for the child, purposeful and calming.

This skill is required for many physical abilities, both large motor skills, like walking, skipping, and bouncing a ball, as well as fine motor skills, like using a pair of scissors, or chopping vegetables quickly like a master chef. 

Because beat, rhythms and pitch are also a part of language, the addition of rhythmic and music experiences in their daily routines also supports the child’s development of speech, communication, and writing skills.  Actually, we KNOW that steady beat can help those who stutter to speak more clearly.   Some Scientists believe that a poor sense of rhythm could be the cause of dyslexia.  “Researchers concluded that an awareness of beats can influence the way young children assimilate speech patterns, which may in turn affect their reading and writing abilities.” These examples underscore the importance of steady beat in helping children make sense of their world and organize their responses.”  (Education Tuesday, 23 July 2002).

Feeling and moving to steady beat develops a sense of time, and the ability to organize and coordinate movements within time.   (A sense of time… what a great gift to give your child. )

The research carried out by High/Scope Educational Research Foundation (Timing in Child Development,  Kuhlman & Schweinhart, 1999) shows a positive correlation of steady beat to many academic and school skills, as well as physical coordination. 

“Standardized testing shows that children with steady beat independence are better readers and more successful in mathematics.  Further, teachers report that children with better abilities in steady beat are more well behaved in class and have less aggressive physical contact with other students.  Steady beat seems to help in these areas because it contributes to children’s ability to concentrate, to understand space and distance, and to have better control of their actions.”  (Weikert, 2003)

Wow !  All that can come from learning to keep a steady beat !?!   How can that be?

Well, let’s take a look at which basic skills are involved in developing true competence with steady beat:

They must LISTEN – intentionally listen – well enough to feel the beat in their head and in their body.  That, in itself, takes training.

They must OBSERVE – to watch closely enough to match the actions of others;  from the early stages of learning to keep a basic beat, to when they become involved with ensembles (playing music with others in a group).

They must CONTROL their movements, not just for a moment, but over time -coordinating their actions according to what they HEAR and SEE – repeatedly and consistently.

These are a fabulous set of skills to continually practice and develop for any aspect of life (and they do not necessarily develop in the natural course of aging.) 

Fascinating, isn’t it?   Now that you know WHY, let’s move on to WHAT &  HOW:

A Parent’s Guide to Beats and Rhythms –  includes games to help clarify these topics

Developmental Progression of Steady Beat – how the skill develops over time

The best teaching methods for parents to use, with links to a wide variety of ideas specific to each age group;  babies, walkers, preschoolers.

References

Insights on the value of music and steady beat  article by Phyllis S. Weikart   This article helped me round out a lot of my thoughts on this topic, and is referred to regularly in this review.  It is well worth your time to read the whole article, which also includes other musical skills such as pitch. http://www.childcareexchange.com/library/5015386.pdf

BBC News Education. (Tuesday, 23 July,2002). “Poor Rhythm ‘at heart of dyslexia’.“ pg. 1.

www.highscope.org/Research/Timing  Paper/timing study.htm

Weikart, D. P. (1999). What Should Young Children Learn? Teacher and Parent Views in 15 Countries. Ypsilanti, MI:  High/Scope Press.

A Parent’s Guide to Beats and Rhythms

For the non-musician, sometimes musical terms can be a second language.  For many parents, some terms may be familiar, especially with the brilliant musical teachings of The Little Einsteins (Thanks Disney).   But it might not be easy to explain it to someone else, much less understand these concepts well enough to help your child develop these skills, or to know why it is important to do so.

Before we start, I need to clarify that this is for the parents.  PLEASE don’t feel compelled to try to use words with children to explain these concepts.  From birth to around 5 – 6 years old, they must simply feel each of the concepts in their bodies.

 

What is Steady Beat?  

 Steady Beat is the most fundamental property of music

and life.

It is the underlying, unchanging, repeating pulse. 

We each have our own internal steady beat, our heartbeat.

“… it starts as a heartbeat, and sprouted a rhyme”    – Village Do-Si-Do

 

You may feel this as you tap your foot or dance to a piece of music.

To illustrate a steady beat, tap with each underlined syllable as you sing the song.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,

How I wonder what you are.

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,

How I wonder what you are.

The taps should have continued at an even pace throughout the song.

 

Make it a GAME:  Let the child choose a favorite song.  The adults clap the steady beat while the child sings the song, or as you sing it together.  Once it becomes easy, try tapping the beat on your child’s back, or on the bottom of their feet.

There are LOTS of ways to experience and practice steady beat:  See my blog posting:  “Catching a Beat” with very young Children.

 

TEMPO

The steady beat of a particular song may be fast, or slow; this is called Tempo.

The tempo of the steady beat may even change during a song.

Physiologically, beats that are slower than the heartbeat calm the body, allowing it to slow down and relax.  Beats that are faster than the heartbeat engage the brain, getting it ready to learn, and engage the body, getting it ready to move.

Make it a GAME:  First, the child and adult should FEEL each other’s heartbeat.  Choose a favorite lullaby song, sing it together several times, or listen to the recording while rocking to the beat.   Then feel the heartbeat again. 

Do the same with a favorite upbeat song while “dancing” the way it makes you feel – sung or recorded.  Feel the heartbeat.  Wow ! 

 

How does Steady Beat relate to Rhythm Patterns & Melodic Rhythms?

Rhythm Patterns

Within the steady beat of most ALL music, there is steady underlying pattern of a stronger beat followed by less strong beats.  In music, these are often carried by the percussion instruments, and help to keep the rest of the musicians playing together.

 At the most basic level, our human perceptions often “recognize” rhythms in a series of identical sounds, such as dividing clock-ticks into “tick-tock-tick-tock”. 

That is a basic 2 beat pattern.

 

MOST popular music from the Western side of the world has a 4 beat pattern, including marching songs, and folk songs like 

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,           How I wonder what you are

    1             2              3          4                  1           2              3                4

 

Make it a GAME:  Holding your child, or holding their hand, step forward 4 steps with the beat of “Twinkle Twinkle”.  Then walk backwards on the next 4 beats.  Continue forward and back throughout the song.  Make it more fun by standing in front of a mirror watching yourselves.  Or march toward and away from another favorite adult who is making funny faces when you get close.  Got it?  Try it with another song.

 

Waltzes and many lullabies contain 3 beat patterns, and have more of a swooping feel, such as:

 “Rock -a-  Bye    Ba—- by,  In the tree    top———”

      1  –  2  –  3      1 – 2 – 3      1 – 2  –  3       1  –  2  –  3

Make it a GAME:  Standing and holding your child, sing “Rock-a-Bye Baby” while swaying side to side.  Start moving the opposite direction on each count of ONE.  Feel the swinging motion.  Once that feels natural, change the way you are moving.  Try swooping the baby up to one side, then down and up on the other side.

 

Musicians around the world have enjoyed working with these familiar rhythm patterns in new and different ways, as well as exploring unique patterns of strong and weak beats.   Cultural music from Africa often includes a variety of beat patterns even within the same song. 

 

Melodic Rhythms

follow the melody of the music,

it is the beat of the words in the song

that are unique within each measure of that underlying rhythm pattern.

To illustrate this, clap along with each syllable in these songs  (with the X): 

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

    1         2          3          4  

   X     x     x     x    x   x   x

 

Notice that sometimes you clap TWICE for each beat (twink-le)

 

“Rock -a-  Bye    Ba—- by,  In the tree    top———”

      1  –  2  –  3      1 – 2 – 3    1 – 2  –  3       1  –  2  –  3

      x  –  x  –  x       x – — – x    x – x  –  x        x ———–

Sometimes you DON’T clap along with the steady beat (top).

 

These rhythms are unique within each set of beats.

A melody is a combination of pitch and rhythm, and is sung with the voice,

or played with a melodic instrument.

Nursery rhymes are basically melodic rhythms without pitch.

 Make it a GAME:  Find a book full of nursery rhymes.   Tap along with each syllable as you chant the rhyme.  The fun is to find new ways to tap.  Tap on different parts of the child’s body.  Tap on an upside down cooking pot.  Use a stick to tap on a tambourine as the child holds onto it.  Tap on the table of the high chair they are sitting in.        

For older children, play “Name That Rhyme” using just the beats of the words.  To make it easier for preschoolers, just make it a choice between TWO familiar rhymes that are in the book.  This makes it more concrete.

Experiencing beats and rhythms, repeatedly, in new and different ways,

is the best way to build a foundation for these skills.

 

Every class of Kindermusik is filled with beats and rhythms: in the rich recorded music, in the songs we sing together, in the Hello song we sing for each child, in the lap bounces that make us giggle, with the instruments we play, in the circle dances we share… in so many ways.

Kindermusik makes it easy and fun.  Come join us.

 

Find out WHY this is important for a child to learn at such a young age.

Learn about the developmental progression of steady beat.

Learn about the best teaching methods to help your child progress

Explore LOTS of ideas for each of these age group:  babies, walkers, preschoolers.

 

How do you share beat and rhythm experiences with your child?

Developmental progression of Steady Beat

Help your child develop a Steady Beat

Learning to keep a steady beat is more about ability than age, because you can improve this ability at any age.  And it always starts with experiencing it fully FIRST.  But during the earliest years, there are developmental milestones that must be met in order to progress to the next level.  It is important to understand the basic progression that a child goes through to develop a steady beat during the first 7 years of life

The ability to react to the beat in music is an important learning process.  This beat is basically a walking pulse.  Many young children are able to steadily tap to an “inner beat”.   Yet they may have difficulty changing their “inner beat” to correspond to the pulse of music or a drumbeat.  Encourage, but don’t impose an external beat too early, it may result in tension, resistance, or loss of confidence in their abilities.  Experience it, and Encourage practicing a beat in a variety of ways (see the linked posts for each specific age group).  Realize that children will progress through these developmentally appropriate stages as they grow and develop their abilities: 

#1        First a child must  experience a steady beat.  They can feel the steady beat by having someone tapping on their knees (or a variety of body parts).  Sing, play music with a strong beat.  “Catch” the beat with their hands on yours while you sing.  This is pretty much what is appropriate for a baby before they are comfortable with walking.  Even as they begin to gain abilities, it is good to continue to just EXPERIENCE it repetitively.  There are plenty of ways to continue experiencing this all the way through their elementary years.

#2  Watch for Repetitive Movements, like hand clapping, tapping a chair like a drum, tapping Dad’s head like a drum.  Sing or dance along AS IF they have the best steady beat that makes you move.  For babies, the focus is the joy of making the sound, as they are not able to keep a steady beat yet.  But they can still experience it through your interactions.

#3  Around 1 ½ to 2 years old, start your own beat and verbally encourage them to imitate different ways to keep a beat. With your hands over theirs, start the beat… but remove hands after a few beats.   Encourage them to continue throughout a short song or piece of music with a good steady beat.  We are only encouraging continued movement, and looking for signs of the next step.

#4  –  Have them walk or march (without recorded music), and watch carefully for their “inner beat”.  It usually is more apt to occur first with these large motor movements.  Then will progress to using their hands.  Imitate their beat with your own hand movements, drum, sticks, or tongue clicks, and keep the same pace while singing a familiar rhyme or song to their own “inner” beat.  

Expand on this by practicing with variety of hand movements and body movements.  Take enough time to process even just one movement for a whole “short” song.  This repetition is necessary for their development.

#5  While singing, practice with percussion instruments – continuing to match their inner beat.   AFTER they have mastered a steady “inner” beat with their hands and body, is a great time to start working on steady beat with an instrument.  Until then, when they play an instrument, the focus is to explore how to make sounds with that object.

#6 –  Once they feel confident with their “inner” beat, encourage them to slow down their beat, or speed up their beat.  Then finally, encourage them to Match YOUR steady beat.  “Watch my hands and try to tap your knees at the same time as my hands”.  Praise any effort on their part to watch your hands, or if they try to adjust what they are doing.  They don’t have to be perfect to make progress. 

#7 – Eventually, they will be able to keep a beat with recorded music, and practice the beat with movements and non-pitched instruments.  Just so you know, that doesn’t usually happen until around 3 – 4 years old.  But those children with more guidance and experience in their life are likely to develop it sooner.    It is a major focus of our Kindermusik Imagine That program for preschoolers.

#8  And finally, they will be able to keep a steady beat to play simple accompaniments on melodic (pitched)  instruments, ie. xylophones.  These are skills we work on with the 5 – 7 year olds in the Kindermusik for the Young Child program.

One of the most popular postings on this blog offers some of the best teaching techniques for parents while “Catching A Steady Beat with very Young Children”.

For a wide variety of ideas of steady beat activities for a specific age, see the following posts:  Any of the ideas for the younger children can also be used for older children (if it captures and engages them).

Ways to Catch a Beat with Babies

Ways to Catch a Beat with Walkers

Ways to Catch a Beat with Preschoolers

Active listening to bells, bells, bells

In this series of blog postings, we’re having fun with bells.  For the next few postings, we’ll focus on LISTENING !   Intentional listening helps us focus our attention on the aspects of the sounds we hear, and be able to tell the difference between sounds, much like we recognize our own child’s voice from any others.  This is an incredibly important skill in all areas of life, and must be developed through practice.  Of course, music makes it engaging and fun. 

For young children it is often helpful to listen with your whole body. 

  • Listen to the sound of a specific type of bell.   We will start with bells you may have at home.  Starting with sound that are familiar allows the child to review what they already know so they can connect their current understanding to the new shapes and sounds that will be presented. 
  • Creating the sound and feeling the real instrument while it vibrates is the best choice for building a foundation of discriminating sounds.   Let the child HOLD it, and CREATE.
  • Using our bodies to move like the bell, or our mouths to sound like the bell is an important part of intentional listening, since we have to attend well enough to copy the sound and movement.

DOOR BELL

Ding Dong – Let your child RING your doorbell, then both of you try to recreate the sound verbally.  If you are up to the task, take the cover off the door bell, and show them how it works – that is if your doorbell actually uses a bell.  Many these days are a digital sound, which may be good to hear – but not to see.

BIKE BELL

Does your child have a bike bell?  Well, then they most likely have a lot of experience ringing it.  If not, take a trip to your local bike shop to check out all the bike bells that are available ! 

Fun, Fun !!!

JINGLE BELLS

Most children love the bright shiny ring-a-ling sound of the jingle bells.  If you have some jingle bells, bring them out for your child to explore. 

If you don’t, they are easy to find at Walmart or a craft store.  For now, just buy the larger bells (they make a better sound) and enjoy listening to them in the bag.  Then let the child explore it in their hands.  In another posting, we’ll explore ways to make jingle bell instruments, and have a lot more jingle bell fun !

WIND BELLS

Most children are also familiar with this type of bell, typically called wind chimes.  This video shows a large assortment of styles, and simply the sound of all of them together.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygjlM5dutzU

Do you have a wind chime at home your child can try?  If not, head over to a store near you to listen to the wonderful chime sounds.  Here in Lakeland, I would recommend Brooke Pottery.  But many times you can find them in most hardware stores.  Wind chimes are also a simple craft to make with your child.

Different types of bells will be presented in each of the following postings in this series, and some videos will be available to hear the sounds, and/or how these bells are used.  For our purpose here, we will focus on the classic bell shapes with ringers on the inside or out.  And I have organized them from the smallest to the largest bells.  After all my research, I believe I must divide it up into separate blog postings.  Although I am presenting them all in one day, take it at a pace that is right for you and your child, perhaps one type of bell a day.  With your older child, you might look at all of them as an overview, then explore them all more personally throughout the next few weeks.

In our Kindermusik classes, we explore many types of bells and compare the sounds, and use appropriate bells for different songs and activities.  Come join the fun and learning by checking out the types of classes offered on my website, then contact me to learn more.

I’d LOVE to hear how you and your child are exploring these sounds.  PLEASE SHARE !   Is your child starting to recognize the difference between the sounds of the bells?

Listening to bells LIVE – Small bells

Small bells of many sizes are unique in their ability to show how size and shape effect the pitch of an instrument.  In this posting, we focus on train bells, handbells, and bells you might find on playgrounds.  The videos will provide a good start in recognizing the different bells and their sounds.

I also recommend going on an outing to see many of the bells you DON’T have at home.  These small bells may be easily available to you in your community  Real and live experiences offer so much MORE than recorded music.  Here are just a few of the benefits. 

  • Young children, even infants, are establishing a base of knowledge and only learn from REAL experiences that engage their minds and bodies. 
  • REAL instruments resonate (vibrate) through the body in a way that recorded music cannot match, no matter how old a person is. 
  • REAL experiences lay a foundation for recognizing the many different timbres of sound, and strengthens their abilities to hear differences in all sounds.

                                                               TRAIN BELL

Most young children will like and relate to the train bell.  This is a homemade video, but was the best to show how the bell on the train works.  You can see the string that goes to the cab.

There is a wonderful train station in Parrish, FL if you’d like to take a old time train ride with your child.  Get the details on the website for the Florida Railroad Museum.   My family really enjoyed an Easter train ride that took us to an open field where the children could hunt for Easter Eggs, meet the Easter bunny, and more fun activities.

HAND BELLS

Joshua's homemade hand bell

Hand bells are simply bells that have a handle attached to the top, and a striker on the inside that makes the sound when shaken.  Here is a picture of one of my students and the hand bell that he made to complete an assignment from an Imagine That! Class.

Of course, handbells have been an amazing way to make music for centuries.  Each bell is designed to sound a certain pitch, and it takes a full set of bells to play songs – and a lot of hands.

This video features an amazing SOLOist will allow children to hear the bells and see how the bells work.  Help point out that the larger bells have a lower pitch, and the smaller bells have a higher pitch.

This video features a large GROUP playing the whole range of handbells in the classic music of “Carol of the Bells”.  Your child can see how these people have to work together as a team and follow the director.

During the holiday season, there are often local groups that perform with hand bells.  Check online or in your paper to see if there is an appropriate recital for you and your child.  It may be a bit of a hassle to arrange, but the experience will be memorable.  The real sound of these bells makes music that resonates in your mind and heart.

You can even buy colorful handbells for your child to enjoy at home.

In Lakeland, at Common Grounds playground, I recently discovered a set of pitched bells with nice long sounds.  They are dark green and are located on the South side of the park under the large playset nearest the wall.  Most of them are pitched to harmonize with each other, but there is one bell that causes a dissonant sound.  That means that it sounds great by itself, but when played with another bell there, it sounds out of balance.  This was a specific choice made by the designer to allow children to hear BOTH harmonizing and dissonant sounds.  One of the bells has actually come loose, so it has a short muffled sound.  Have your child find the “broken” bell, and the bell that sounds “off”.

What kind of bells can you find in your community?  Please Share !!!

Steeple Bells and Tower Bells

Now in our active listening series, we’ll focus on larger bells in a tower.  This includes bells in a steeple that are played by people pulling on ropes, as well as carrillon bells played by a keyboard device.

A tower bell is a LARGE metal bell which is hung in a tall tower, often a church steeple, attached to a large gear  which has a rope around it.  This rope hangs down to another floor where the bell ringer pulls the rope to sound the bell at specific times.  These are VERY LOUD, and the vibrations can be felt even outside the building.

Children may have seen the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in which the main character pushes the bells around himself (a purely fictional scene).

This could be as simple as ONE bell in a tower, typically in the heart of a village or city, to signify the hour, such as Big Ben in London.  This was how people used to keep track of time, to gather the village, or to sound an alarm. 

These tower bells were also used in churches to signal the time for worshippers to go to church, perhaps to attend a wedding or other service.

In many towers there are several bells of different sizes, and the bell ringing has developed into an art, called Campanology.  Because of the huge swing of the bells, the composer who writes the music must also be an excellent mathematician in order to time the bells correctly.

In this video, Julie Andrews sings “Ding Dong, Merrily On High” in the background while we watch the ART of bellringing.

There is a Catholic church near my home, and I hear the bells played every Sunday morning, as well as other times during the week.  In Lakeland, the Episcopal church downtown plays their bells almost daily, and they have wonderful concerts.  Take a Sunday morning drive with your child to hear the sounds of bells in your local churches (they get up early anyways).  If your church has bells, perhaps you can find a person that can give a tour.  And during the holiday season, you may be able to find a performance that fits into your schedule.

                                                 CARILLON BELLS

The Carillon is like tower bells DELUXE !  The tower houses at LEAST 23 bells.  Instead of gears and ropes, the bells are connected to a mechanical device that allows one person, the carillonneur, to play all of the bells from a device that looks like a keyboard (similar to a piano).

This video features the carillon bells at our own Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, FL.  It is an introductory video by the Associated Press, so it discussed the whole concept of Bok Tower Gardens.  The part that shows the bells and how they are played is between, 1:00 and 1:45, but you can hear the bells being played throughout the video.

If you live nearby, or plan to visit nearby, Bok Tower Gardens is worth your trip – Even WITH children.  The gardens, and the music from the bells, is a bit of peace for the soul in this crazy world.  If not here, look around, there may be a carillon closer to your family.