Beginning Music Concepts for Children

Young child playing the violin.
... Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Getty Images

Music provides the young child with much more than the chance to sing a simple song or hum a tune. It can build fine motor skills, improve working memory, boost math abilities and help students focus and pay attention, according to the Arts Education Partnership. From identifying a rhythm and keeping a beat to understanding tempo and pitch, your students can master beginning music concepts through hands-on, creative classroom activities.

1 Make a Beat

The ability to establish and keep a steady beat bridges the arts and other content areas such as math and spatial processing, according to the journal "Young Children." Beat and rhythm are basic music concepts that you can promote using patterning. Have your students create their own patterns of beats, making a rhythm with their hands. For example, the students can sound a pattern such as clap-clap-clap, clap-clap, clap-clap. Students can also stomp their feet or drum on a table. You can add a visual arts activity to the music lesson, having the students create and decorate drums. Reuse coffee cans with plastic lids, dressing them up with sequins, a paper collage or paint.

2 Vocal Expression

Young children are able to understand and demonstrate that their voices can make different expressive sounds when they sing, chant or even talk, according to the National Association for Music Education. While it's unlikely that a beginning music student can sing a specific note or match pitch, she can explore the noises that she can make with her voice. Go a step beyond simply singing a song, and transform the classroom into a musical theater stage. Use costumes and props to create an informal "show." After reading a book, invite the students to vocalize the story by singing the words or making expressive sounds. For example, read a rhyming book such as "The Cat in the Hat." Have the students use sing-song voices to act out the tale.

3 Introducing Instruments

Aside from his hands and his voice, the young student can also learn the concept that instruments help him make music. Ask your students what they know about instruments. Have them list the names that they know to see how in-depth their knowledge is. Have a few real instruments ready to show the students. You don't need fancy or expensive violins or a piano. Bells, a triangle and a tambourine are common, inexpensive instruments that young children can experiment with. Expand on the idea that instruments make music by showing the students instruments from other cultures.

4 Tempo Goes Fast and Slow

Sometimes music speeds up, and sometimes it goes slow. Understanding tempo is a basic music concept that young children can learn through by way of making comparisons. Before you give the definition of tempo, ask your students to sing a slow song and then speed it up. As the students become more aware of the speed, or tempo, they can learn how to keep it steady. For example, have your students clap their hands at a constant rate or sing a song that doesn't change speed.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.