Tuesday, November 17, 2009

UE #13 Getting Kids Interested in Music

As a father and a ukulele teacher I have learned a thing or two about child psychology. This week I have 10 ideas to help make your child choose to pursue a life of music.

Music has been shown over and over again to be the most beneficial thing for a child to learn. Forget math, languages, sport and science. If you really want to develop your child's brain you need to get them hooked on music.

The understanding and presentation of the musical art develops the brain/body connection in ways that no other school subject can. There is the mathematical understanding of the musical rules as they pertain to melody, harmony and rhythm. Then learning to superimpose on this the artistic nuances of dynamics and feeling adds a multi-dimensional aspect to the skill.

At the same time all this mental work is going on the body is also performing astounding feats. Fingers, arms and even feet move independently of one another to make the necessary sounds. Playing music is a full mind/body workout leading to tremendous and satisfying rewards which, if not financial, may be spiritual or personal in nature.

Musical people generally live longer, are less stressed and live healthier lives than any other kind of people. I can also personally attest that musicians as a whole tend to be kind, warm, intelligent and inclusive people.

Now that I have established how vital the study of music is for your child/ren I want to offer help that will make certain that they lead a full and happy life in the glorious pursuit of music!

This is most important. As soon as your child gets the merest whiff that music might be good for them nothing will turn them off faster. Trying to convince your child that because mom and dad think its cool they should find it cool too WON'T WORK!

Tip #2 Find ways to punish them if they appear to be enjoying anything remotely musical.
For example. Put on some classic 60s rock music with a good beat. If you notice them tapping their feet in time to the music you should get angry and send them to bed without dinner. Let them figure out for themselves what they did wrong.
Another example: Johnny comes running in saying that he tried Timmy's trumpet. Even if he says he successfully played a tune resist the temptation to look up. Instead just sneer and say, "Whatever."

Tip #3 Take time to expose your children to live music.
While doing so make derisive comments about the musicians on stage. Remember to exaggerate the poverty, loneliness, substance abuse and other miseries that belie their apparently carefree and joyful stage demeanor.

Tip #4 Get a good ukulele. Then remove the strings and use it as a plant pot.

Tip #5 Cut down their allowance any time you catch them humming, whistling or table-top drumming.

Tip #6 Positive reinforcement of miserable and soul-destroying jobs is an excellent idea.
But be careful with this one. It can backfire. For example your lawyer daughter may get interested in musical copyright law. Your politician son might decide to use the saxophone to help his political career. And we all know what happened to Bill Clinton...

Tip #7 Sit down and instruct them in the many drawbacks of a musical life.
These include all the things kids hate most:
Late nights, the attention of many admirers, nutrient poor meals eaten in fast food joints and the vague eventual possibility of great financial reward.

Tip #8 If they do take up a musical instrument be sure to maintain a constant stream of negativity any time the subject comes up.
You want your child to rebel. So it is very important to give them something to rebel against. Make sure they see you visibly groan every time the instrument comes out of its case.

Tip #9 Make fun of them in conversation and make sure that they hear you.
In your best Homer Simpson voice say, "My son is learning the uku-ma-lele. He thinks he's gonna be a BIG star someday Haw haw"!

Tip #10 Buy The Complete Ukulele Course for Kids DVD by Ralph Shaw and leave it next to the garbage.
Chances are they will sneak the DVD into the house and secretly teach themselves whenever you are out!

On the other hand... If you are fortunate enough to still have a reasonably sane relationship with your child - then give them a ukulele and one of my instructional DVDs this holiday season and learn to play joyful music together. Now that's more like it!!

I hate to talk Christmas so soon. Its still only November aargh. But I have learned that shipping can take a while. If you do want to order any of my instructional DVDs or CDs now is the time to do it!
Visit: www.RalphShaw.ca for more info.

(PS. For those of you wanting more realistic tips to encourage your young prodigy - help is on the way. I'll have some (sensible) ideas for you next time!)

copyright Ralph Shaw 2009


  1. That was the approach my mum took with me. I regret it and it sucked the fun out of even trying. What was the point if I couldn't entertain her, I thought. I quit music because of it and frankly I'd rather be very encouraging with my kids than use your style.

  2. I'm sure it was meant to be satirical. :) I'm a music teacher so I'm sure implementing this idea would be kind of hypocritical of me.