Max plays his cello.
Max: Mozart … Jazz! Mozart … Jazz … freight train!
Adult 1: Yeah!!!
Adult 2: Mozart … Jazz … freight train. That’s a great tune!
Max smiles, stands up, walks across the room with his cello and bow in hand, and says as he lays his cello and bow on the floor …
Max: I’ll put my cello like this and put my bow this way.
Playing the Cello
In this video clip, 3-year-old Max is seated in a chair, moving a bow back and forth across the strings of a small cello. Prior to this scene, adults have shown Max (possibly several times) how to hold the instrument and how to move the bow across the strings to produce sounds. He has been able to investigate making sounds with the bow and cello by himself. He now has some ideas about what he can make the instrument do.
Max also seems to have some ideas about what musical performers do. For example, he sits facing the “audience,” holding the instrument much as adult cellists hold their full-sized cellos. He plays by moving the bow back and forth across the strings of the cello. Moments into the piece, he speaks two phrases while looking at his listeners (“Mozart Jazz!” “Mozart Jazz Freight Train!”). When he has finished playing, he seems to wait for listener comments.
The words Max speaks while playing show several things about his knowledge of music. First, he is aware of the name of a composer: Mozart. Second, he is aware of the term jazz. The video clip does not tell us how much Max knows about Mozart or jazz, but it does indicate that he knows these words and connects them with playing music. Finally, Max shows that he is also aware that people can use musical instruments to imitate or reproduce sounds they hear around them. In this case, he creates a rhythm on the cello that sounds much like a moving freight train.
When he has finished playing, Max shows that he understands some important ways of caring for the instrument. He lays the cello down carefully and sets the bow next to it, explaining to his audience what he is doing.
Preschoolers and Musical Instruments
Teachers often find that preschoolers are interested in sounds, including how to make sounds come from real musical instruments. Instruments are basically tools or machines that people use to produce specific sounds. Preschoolers often will work at creating those musical sounds themselves. It helps if adults are willing to show them what is involved in playing “the right way.” As children experiment with using instruments, they may talk about connections between the sounds they make and sounds they have heard elsewhere.
Most preschoolers notice differences between types of music when they are given opportunities to listen to a variety of recordings and performances. As with other things in their lives, they often like knowing the names of people and terms associated with music. Children can learn a great deal when adults play recorded music and talk about it: “That music was written by Mozart. The instrument playing is a piano.” “That instrument you hear is called an electric guitar.” Children also benefit from having time to interact with real, good-quality musical instruments.
Many preschools and child care programs do not have access to complex and expensive instruments like the cello that Max plays. Still, it is possible to provide less expensive, authentic instruments that make interesting sounds for children to explore. Rainsticks, wood blocks, chimes, shakers, and a variety of drums are good choices for letting children play with rhythm. They can explore musical notes and melody with hand bells or small electronic keyboards.
Watching relatively brief live performances of music may be interesting and inspiring to preschoolers. Teachers and parents might ask a librarian for help finding videos of musicians performing to share with children.
Benchmarks & How They Were Met
1.B.ECa: Use language for a variety of purposes.
- Max announced the title of his musical piece. He explained what he was doing with the cello and bow when he was done using them.
8.A.ECb: Recognize, duplicate, extend, and create simple patterns in various formats.
- Max created a pattern in sound by sawing the bow back and forth across the cello strings.
Physical Development and Health
19.B.ECa: Coordinate movements to perform complex tasks.
- Max held the cello steady while he moved the bow back and forth across the strings. He gently lowered the cello to the floor to lay it down.
25.A.ECc: Music: Begin to appreciate and participate in music activities.
- Max used words associated with music (Mozart, jazz). He used music to imitate a familiar sound (a moving freight train). He performed a musical piece that he created. He showed awareness of how to care for the cello and bow.
26.B.ECa: Use creative arts as an avenue for self-expression.
- Max brought together his knowledge of and experience with sound and the cello to create an original work of music.
30.A.ECe: Use materials with purpose, safety, and respect.
- Max demonstrated how to place the cello and the bow carefully when he finished with them.