Resting in Music (and in Life)

One of my favorite musical things to teach kids about is how sneakily often a song can be composed of silences among the sounds. Well-placed silences. Just as a portrait of a lady can be mostly made up of the parts that are NOT the lady, so a song can be made up of lots of NOT song. This is especially apparent when you sing the song a capella. And when a child is young, notice how when they sing a song, or play a piece, they often will not want to wait for the rests, for the spaces between the words and phrases. This may be part of the reason why so many songs for children don’t have a lot of pauses; they run straight through, with verses that run into choruses and back again to the verse with nary a rest. But ask your child to sing “Hop Up Ladies,” without the accompaniment, and chances are they won’t wait the eight bars between verses. Waiting is something that comes with maturity. Some of us never quite master the art of it.

An easy way to teach your kids about musical rests is to choose a song, like Hop Up Ladies, and sing it a cappella while gently slapping your palms to your knees. When you get to the end of the chorus, you can show your child how you can start right up again, with no rest:

Don’t mind the weather so the wind don’t blow. Does your horse carry double, Uncle Joe….

Or give the song a margin of four beats, four gentle slaps on the knees (start the first slap on the word “blow”):

Don’t mind the weather so the wind don’t blow. (Two.Three.four) Does your horse carry double, Uncle Joe…

See what happens either way. Which way do you like it better? Is something gained when you give the song a margin?


About nields

musician, writer, mom
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